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Top 5 air gifts for Valentine’s Day moving by air cargo

Miami airport handling double-digit increase in flower imports

Many airlines and airports are busy with flower shipments. (Photo: Miami International Airport)

 (Updated Feb. 14, 9:30 a.m. ET with details on Qatar Airways and IAG)

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and it’s likely the gift you got your loved one was delivered to your store or front door with the help of airfreight transportation.

Many passenger airlines and all-cargo carriers see a surge in flower volumes in the weeks leading up to Cupid Day, but other popular gifts also move by air. 

Dubai-based Emirates, the fourth-largest cargo airline in the world by throughput, has released its Top Five list of Valentine’s Day products transported by its cargo division. They are:

Flowers: In January, Emirates SkyCargo flew more than 3,300 tons of flowers from farms in Kenya, Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia and other countries. A majority of the flowers are first flown to the Netherlands, home to the world’s largest flower auction market, and then redistributed to other global markets. 

Chocolates: In 2021, Emirates SkyCargo transported more than 165 tons of premium chocolate around the world during the months of January and February with a sharp surge during the week before Valentine’s Day. Brussels, Zurich and Duesseldorf, Germany, are the main European points where chocolates are loaded on Emirates’ flights ahead of Valentine’s Day. Beirut is also a major exporter of chocolates catering to markets in the Middle East.

High-end perfumes: Perfumes are also in high demand as gifts in the weeks leading up to the big day. Over the last week of January alone, Emirates SkyCargo moved more than 220 tons of high-end perfumes from cities in France, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands to the rest of the world, in time to stock retail shelves ahead of Valentine’s Day. 


Watches, jewelry: Between mid-January and early February there is a marked increase in the volume of high-end watches, jewelry and other accessories shipped on Emirates’ flights. Zurich, Geneva and Hong Kong are the main points of origin for watches that are then distributed to the rest of the world. Last year, Emirates SkyCargo transported more than 1,323 tons of high-end watches in January and February. 

Electronic gadgets: Emirates said it sees increased shipment levels for electronics such as mobile phones in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. In the two-week period leading up to Valentine’s Day, Emirates SkyCargo flew more than 1,650 tons of electronic gadgets from manufacturing destinations in Asia to consumer markets worldwide.

Miami — Flower Central

Another major transshipment point for flowers is Miami.

Ninety-one percent of all U.S. flower imports for Valentine’s Day arrive at Miami International Airport. The airport authority says it expects an average of 300,000 flower stems to arrive daily before Valentine’s Day. From Jan. 1 to next Tuesday, the airport projects it will handle 1.4 billion flower stems — a 17% increase over the same period in 2021. 

The surge in flower shipments follows a 6% increase in imports at MIA during the year-end peak season versus 2020. The airport’s blossoming flower trade helped the airport set a record of 2.7 million tons of total freight in 2021. 

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways said it transported 60 million roses from Ecuador, Colombia and Kenya on special charter flights and its regular scheduled network ahead of Valentine’s Day. Months of advance planning determine whether to additional flights are needed to supplement the scheduled freighters during the peak flower transportation period, which begins about Jan. 17 and runs to Feb. 7.

The main destinations out of Quito, Ecuador, and Bogotá, Colombia, are in the U.S., Europe, Russia, and Australia.

Qatar Airways said added seven extra freighter flights in response to 24% less market capacity this season out of Ecuador to Europe and about 16% less than into the U.S.

International Airlines Group said it transported 593 tons of flowers this season and 8.8 tons of champagne from London to the Maldives in a special shipment. Greater capacity has supported the uptick in flower shipments, which are up 23% by tons sold from 2021, with tulips, roses, carnations and chrysanthemums proving most in demand.

Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Eric Kulisch.

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]