Valentine’s Day is over. However, for many in the floral industry, there is just a little time to breath as the next important floral holiday is around the corner; International Women’s Day. Also for airlines. From January 16th till the day before Valentine’s Day, February 13, they have been busy shipping flowers. Right after, from February 15 till February 26, they will be shipping the Women’s Day flowers. But how was Valentine’s Day this year? With Guillaume Halleux, Chief Officer Cargo, Qatar Airways, we reflect on this holiday as well as 2020.
High demand for Valentine’s Day
According to Halleux, the demand was high this year. They ship flowers all over the world, but mainly from South America to Europe and Australia and from Kenya to the Netherlands. For the season, they also uplift flowers from The Netherlands, India, South Africa, Uganda, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia. This Valentine’s season, they uplifted close to 5,000 tonnes of flowers from these countries and some others around the world.
In order to meet the high demand, they had to add flights. “Every year, the required capacity changes and carriers are able to introduce capacity and additional flights to cater to the demand. This year, due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, there was a shortage of capacity as many carriers either had withdrawn services from the market or reduced flights to these markets. On the contrary, given our flexibility and strategy around supporting our customers’ business, we have introduced more capacity to uplift the flower shipments.”
Looking back at 2020
According to Halleux, 2020 started very well, but unfortunately, as COVID-19 spread around the world, it gave rise to many challenges. “We had the responsibility to support impacted regions and governments with the massive uplift of PPE and vital aid, while at the same time, support our customers with their cargo requirements. Thankfully, given our agility and resiliency, we were one of the few carriers that continued our operations and even did the most flying. We introduced passenger freighters and mini freighters to complement our scheduled belly-hold and freighter services so we can cater to the huge demand. “
Looking back at Valentine's Day 2020
Last year, they uplifted more than 3,000 tonnes of flowers for Valentine’s Day from Ecuador, Colombia and Kenya. “We continued our freighter operations in South America and Africa, serving the flower markets of Ecuador, Colombia and Kenya. The main challenge was that due to the reduction of capacity from other carriers, we were faced with a shortage of capacity to cater to the high demand especially since we had to allocate our freighters and flights to support COVID-19 supplies.”
Why choose Qatar Airways?
Halleux: “Flowers are delicate and require special handling and care. Given our years of expertise and experience handling climate control shipments, we go the extra mile to ensure the flowers are in their freshest condition from origin to the final destination. We have special processes implemented for handling flowers at all stages, on the ground and in flight.”
“Through our QR Fresh product, we provide seamless cool chain for delicate temperature-sensitive cargo like flowers. Our hub is compliant with IATA Perishable Cargo Regulations, we offer high loading priority and Quick Ramp Transfer at the hub. The use of temperature-controlled reefer trucks at our hub eliminates temperature exposure. Our dedicated Climate Control Team caters to proactively monitor all shipments from origin to destination, identifying and anticipating any potential issues, ensuring a seamless transfer.”
On top of that, Halleux stresses that they have a clear customer experience vision and are 100% committed to delivering a positive experience for their clients at every touchpoint. “If you take the top ten carriers in the world and step back a bit, what is apparent right away is that we all fly similar routes, utilizing mostly the same aircraft and even schedules. So, the difference really is the people, and when you call Qatar Airways Cargo, you discover that the person who serves you is motivated to do good from the bottom of their heart. We are in the people industry and this is something we always remember.”
International Women’s Day and other important holidays
Also, International Women’s Day is an important day for Qatar Airways. “We are operating 6 additional flights from Ecuador; from where we uplift the most flowers for Russia. We uplift roses in all colours and lengths from Ecuador and Kenya while roses and carnations are mainly exported from Colombia.”
Other important events for this carrier during the year are Mother’s Day, International Student Day and All Saints Day. “Then, the demand for our freight services is high. Having said that, we have a year-round requirement for air freight of flowers but it peaks during these times.”
Give back to the communities
Halleux explains that the pandemic has inspired them to further expand their horizons in areas that bring a sense of fulfilment and enables them to give back to their communities, “because we care.” Supported by all their employees, the programme We Qare consists of a series of actions built on the four fundamental pillars of sustainability: economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions. “Through We Qare’s Chapter One – 1 million kilos, we donated freight to select customers around the world to give to the charities of their choice. Recently, Chapter Two – Rewild the Planet was launched with the aim of providing free transport to bring back wild animals to their natural habitat.”
In closing, he wants to pay tribute to all their colleagues and professionals in the industry. “During this crisis, our industry was the lifeline of the world. We delivered essential and critical medical goods to the frontline people who fought the virus in extremely hard conditions while also ensuring the business of our customers is not affected. I am proud of being part of it and I think we all, as an industry, should be proud of our contribution.“
For more information:
Qatar Airways Cargo