Meridian Star

New Today

February 14, 2014

Hey Romeo, thank these guys for bringing the roses

MIAMI — MIAMI (AP) — If Cupid were to have a home, it would be Miami International Airport.

It's there that 85 percent of imported flowers -- including most Valentine's Day roses -- arrive in the United States, many in the bellies of passenger planes. The roses, carnations, hydrangeas, sunflowers and other varieties are rushed by forklift from planes to chilled warehouses and then onto refrigerated trucks or other planes and eventually delivered to florists, gas stations and grocery stores across the country.

Most airline passengers focus on what's visible to them, like the amount of legroom and the space in the overhead bins. Few think about what's beneath the cabin floor. There's fresh Alaskan salmon, this season's latest luxury clothing from Milan and plenty of Peruvian asparagus heading to London. Then there are the more unusual items like human corneas, the occasional live cheetah or lion and large shipments of gold and diamonds.

"We always joke that a passenger gets themselves to the next flight while a bit of cargo does not," says Jim Butler, president of cargo operations at American Airlines.

The biggest problem this Valentine's Day might be the final few miles of the journey. A massive snowstorm that blanketed the east coast has made some suburban roads difficult for local delivery drivers.

For U.S. passenger airlines such as American, cargo is a small, but increasingly important part of their business. New jets are built with more freight space and the airlines are adding new non-stop international routes popular with shippers.

That provides plenty of room for flowers.

Valentine's Day is a big day for flowers, topped only by Mother's Day, and cargo teams work extra hours ahead of both to ensure on-time deliveries.

"There's a spark in the air while loading these," says Andy Kirschner, director of cargo sales for Delta Air Lines. "You know this is going to loved ones."

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