IAG Cargo’s warehouses are smelling of roses

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With events such as Valentine’s Day approaching, you wouldn’t want to present someone you love with a shrivelled flower. Daniel Johnson spoke to Air Cargo Week about what IAG Cargo is doing to ensure they arrive in perfect condition.

With around 2,500 tonnes of flowers being transported across its network every year, IAG Cargo has the right facilities and infrastructure to ensure these important products do not spoil in transit.

Daniel Johnson, manager – global products tells Air Cargo Week flowers are primarily moved on IAG Cargo’s Constant Fresh product, which is specifically designed for products including flowers, and is available across the entire IAG Cargo network. Predominantly, the flowers come from Africa including South Africa and eastern nations including Kenya, or from Latin America, mainly Columbia and Ecuador.

He says: “There was big growth in Columbia, up 40% in volumes to Spain, particularly roses and carnations. Kenya has also been a big mover, numbers from Nairobi to London are up five fold.”

Extensive network

Customers are taking advantage of IAG Cargo’s extensive network, with Johnson saying: “Transhipments connect to the Americas and Far East. A lot of cool chain cargo terminates in London, but transhipments use the full network. Last year we had a notable shipment of 66 tonnes from Nairobi to Tokyo.”

Daniel Johnson, manager – global products, IAG Cargo

Something that has been noticeable is that buyers who would have traditionally gone to the flower auction houses in Amsterdam are going direct to the shippers.

Johnson says: “We have an experienced team of cargo agents who work closely with the flower shippers and have built up relationships.”

Flowers travelling with IAG Cargo usually use the Constant Fresh product, but the Prioritise express service is also popular. Johnson says: “It has quick turnaround times therefore they can make same day connections to the Americas and Far East.”

He adds: “Many flower shippers look for quality and speed, getting products as quickly to market as possible.”

IAG Cargo is getting ready for an increase in demand due to Valentine’s Day, with the other popular times being Mother’s Day and the summer in general, which is wedding season.

Johnson says: “We have to manage capacity in an efficient way and need to be able to work with our local agents. We need to remain flexible and some shippers have capacity agreements in place. We know in advance that certain events are in the calendar, we have to have measures in place to be able to handle the growth in demand.”

Making sure produce is not damaged during the journey is very important, whether it is in the aircraft or being handled on the ground. IAG Cargo has equipment including refrigerated trucks to carry flowers between the warehouse and the aircraft in Madrid while at London Heathrow, customers can collect their shipment within 90 minutes.

Modern aircraft

Newer aircraft such as Boeing 787s, Airbus A350s and A380s have advanced temperature management in the hold, with Johnson commenting: “Specific instructions can be given to the flight deck to set a required temperature. More new aircraft improves our ability to do that.”

IAG Cargo is also looking at ways to improve products and the local teams remain in contact with the customers and the growers. Johnson says: “We have spent time talking to a rose farmer in Kenya to find out what they want and need. It provides us with a real insight into what is actually required.”

As customers demand higher levels of service and better use of data, carriers have to up their game and give the customers what they want. Johnson says advances from the pharmaceutical sector such as active containers are now being used for perishables to maintain temperatures in transit. 

Data loggers are another big area, with Johnson saying: “Customers are using them not to track GPS but measure temperature and humidity levels. Across the supply chain it is important to put the right infrastructure around it.”