This year, 85 percent of the flowers that millions of women across the United States receive for Valentine’s Day are courtesy of Miami International Airport, which receives the precious cargo and delivers it in time for the romantic occasion. This celebration is outshined only by Mother’s Day in terms of flowers, but this airport unites all the hydrangea, roses, carnations and many more varieties of flowers that travel by plane and reach Miami, the halfway shelter which keeps the plants safe until they arrive at the final destination.
Valentine’s Day may be a romantic celebration, but for the workers of Miami International Airport, it begins before people start choosing their gifts and ends after the flowers have drooped, since almost all chlorophyll-bearing presents have to be delivered in time for February 14. Although people don’t usually know it, the bellies of the airplanes that carry them around the world are filled with perishable goods, high-end luxury items and the occasional live lions or cheetahs. As the president of cargo operations at American Airlines, Jim Butler said, the staff always jokes about the fact that “a passenger gets themselves to the next flight while a bit of cargo does not.”
Valentine’s Day is special not only for couples. but also for Miami International Airport, which must be ready to receive plenty of flowers to satisfy the tastes of almost all the women in the United States. However, irrespective of the extra work, February 14 is a happy day for workers because “there’s a spark in the air while loading these,” as Andy Kirschner, director of cargo sales for Delta Air Lines said.
“You know this is going to loved ones,” Kirschner said of the flowers which reach the airport in time for Valentine’s Day.
According to the International Air Transport Association, 52 million tons of goods worth $6 trillion were shipped by plane last year and although this transportation method costs ten times more than by sea, flowers represent a category of perishable goods that can only be sent by air.
The Flowers’ Route
Before reaching the flower shops and eventually a loving home, flowers that are sent in time for Valentine’s Day courtesy of Miami International Airport are rushed to a close-by warehouse that keep them locked in giant coolers. Nathaniel R. Miller, supervisor with Perishable Handling Specialists stated that the process resembles the cryogenic operation which is used to extend life.
After the flowers are brought back to life and ready to be sent across the country, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection must give their consent with regard to the flowers’ state. All plants must be perfect in time for Valentine’s Day, reason why the agents check tax documentation and inspect stems and petals for pests.
Although the job of taking care of the flowers and preparing them for the next destination is, more often than not hard, agriculture specialists like Michael DiBlasi mention that loving this job is a must for those who work in a cooler. Nonetheless, if the end result satisfies the couples that celebrate Valentine’s Day and the flowers courtesy of Miami International Airport reach their final destination in perfect shape, it must be worth the trouble.
By Gabriela Motroc
The Detroit News