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Getting married? Your flowers probably flew Emirates

dnata flowers Schipol Dnata
Flowers arriving at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, where they are handled by Dubai logistics firm Dnata
  • Dubai emerges as hub for time-sensitive global flower trade
  • Airport’s advanced cold chain logistics infrastructure ‘crucial’
  • Emirates carried 3,590 tonnes of flowers in May, up 20% from 2022

With the global wedding season in full bloom and demand for fresh-cut flowers blossoming, Emirates’ advanced logistics capabilities and strategic location are helping it capitalise on this market.

The Dubai airline’s commercial freight division Emirates SkyCargo transported 3,590 tonnes of time- and temperature-sensitive fresh-cut flowers in May this year alone – a 20 percent year-on-year rise.

The global cut flower sector was worth $36.4 billion last year. It is forecast to grow 4 percent per annum to $45.5 billion in 2027, according to research by MarketsandMarkets.com.

“We are seeing an increased demand for fresh flowers as the wedding season in the Northern Hemisphere reaches its peak, and a corresponding spike in demand for logistics capabilities to protect perishables,” says Dennis Lister, senior vice president of product and innovation at Emirates SkyCargo.

Emirates SkyCargo transports between 500 and 600 tonnes of perishables every day, Lister adds — a total of 22,500 tonnes every month.

The Emirates Fresh division is dedicated to perishables like food and flowers, but running this kind of operation is not easy. According to 2019 data from the International Air Transport Association, 20 percent of perishable shipments are damaged in transit due to cold chain disruptions.

Most of the flowers that Emirates transports come from Ecuador and Kenya. They typically end up in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Dubai logistics firm Dnata employs 1,000 staff there to handle 10,000 flights and move 540,000 tonnes of cargo every year.

Emirates says that its dual airport hub in Dubai is the world’s largest and most technologically advanced cargo handling facility. It offers a three hour air-to-air transfer service and handles over 8,000 shipments a day.

The emirate’s strategic location and modern infrastructure already make it a key global transport hub — and for perishables like flowers those advantages are amplified, explains Linus Bauer, founder of Bauer Aviation Advisory.

“Dubai’s advanced cold-chain logistics infrastructure is crucial here. It allows for temperature-controlled storage and transportation, ensuring that flowers stay fresh during transit.

“In addition, the connection times are usually minimal, further reducing the transit time. This ensures time-sensitive goods reach their destination as quickly as possible.”

Terminal, Airport, Aircraft EmiratesEmirates
Emirates uses cool dollies to keep flowers fresh

The cut flower industry in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey is now worth over $1.1 billion. Companies like Floranow, an online florist based in the UAE, are consolidating their position and targeting the next big market – Saudi Arabia.  

Producers in Turkey, which exported $145 million worth of flowers in 2022, are also expanding. New markets such as Israel are emerging.

These players stand to gain from their proximity to Dubai, says Rajesh Kumar, CEO of the UAE office of New Delhi flower delivery firm FNP. 

“The city’s strategic location between major flower-producing regions like East Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe allows for efficient and timely transportation of freshly cut flowers,” Kumar says.

This allows his company, which launched in the UAE in 2014, to tap into the European wedding market “seamlessly”.

Potential challenges ahead

This year, Emirates’ expertise may be put to the test in Europe. Air traffic controllers are threatening strike action and the continent’s already-congested airspace is being squeezed further by the inaccessibility of Russian and Ukrainian airspace.

“When air traffic controllers strike, it disrupts the scheduled movement of aircraft, and this dominoes into all connected flight operations,” Bauer says.

“The specific challenges of shipping perishable goods like flowers exacerbate the potential impact of air traffic control strikes.”

However he believes that Emirates is unlikely to be caught off guard. Logistics companies usually have contingency plans for such situations and use alternative routes. 

“But even with such measures, there’s still a risk of some level of disruption,” he said.

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