New 12,700 Square-Foot Refigeration Unit Opens at LAX

New 12,700 Square-Foot Refigeration Unit Opens at LAX

Los Angeles is Becoming New Hub for Flower Industry Supply Chain

LA World Airports

Joe Czyzyk

This refrigeration unit, the largest on-airport unit on the west coast, will handle huge volumes of flowers from South America.

(Los Angeles, California—April 2, 2009) Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa was joined by officials from Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and Mercury Air Group, Inc., to announce today the opening of a 12,700-square-foot refrigeration facility at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The refrigeration unit is the largest at any West Coast airport and is expected to facilitate the expansion of the local flower trade and reduce local consumer costs for flowers.

The $1.1-million refrigeration unit was built by Mercury Air Cargo, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Mercury Air Group, Inc. The facility is located at Mercury’s Avion Drive Cargo Facility on LAX property.

"Mercury Air Group has made an important and smart investment that will open Los Angeles to new markets and new trade," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "It’s good for business, it’s good for the environment, and it pushes Los Angeles closer towards a sustainable model of environmentally-conscious growth."

The new refrigeration unit was designed to accommodate a projected 8,500 tons of new perishable product annually arriving on LAN Cargo freighters from South America. Currently, the perishable traffic flown to LAX by LAN Cargo is one quarter to one half of the projected quantity because of lack of sufficient refrigeration at LAX to accommodate the flowers and provide a continuing “cold chain.” Currently, the largest refrigeration units at LAX are approximately 4,000 square feet. The additional volume of flowers will come from Bogotá, Colombia, and Quito, Ecuador, and will now be shipped to LAX instead of previously entering the U.S. at Miami International Airport.

Direct air shipment to LAX is expected to create a shift in the U.S. flower supply chain and establish LAX as a new West Coast hub for the flower trade by saving considerable time and making flowers available to consumers on a faster, fresher and less-expensive basis.

According to local flower distributors, when shipping flowers from Bogota to Carlsbad, California, a major floral distribution point for the West Coast, the trip takes 59.5 hours total travel time via Miami. When shipping via LAX, total travel time is 15 hours – a time savings of 75 percent.

The new refrigeration facility will not only accommodate the storage of large amounts of flowers, but soon, workers also will be able to separate the flower shipments within the 35- degree Fahrenheit storage environment and prepare them for direct distribution from LAX to flower shops and supermarkets throughout California and the western U.S.

Checking local flower retailers, airport officials report that the local cost of a single rose shipped to LAX can drop to as low as $2, compared to $6 when shipped via Miami and then transported by truck to Los Angeles.

“LAX is the ideal timesaving location for flower distribution sourced from South America to San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland and other West Coast cities,” said LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey. “This direct-to-market air service means lower shipping costs that are certain to bring down the cost of flowers to the consumer. We welcome the investment Mercury Air Cargo is making to improve air cargo services and attract new, larger volumes of cargo to LAX. LAX now has true flower power.”

“We have built a refrigeration unit the size of a small office building because we are bullish on the future of air cargo commerce in the region,” said Joseph A. Czyzyk, chairman and chief executive officer of Mercury Air Group, Inc., adding, “While we are seeing short term impacts given the worldwide economic downturn, I believe air cargo remains a strong business segment and our investment will improve LAX’s position to handle large perishable volumes on the West Coast for years to come.”

LAX is the nation’s busiest origin-and-destination passenger airport and ranks 13th worldwide in air cargo volume. Last year, the airport handled 1.8 million tons of freight and mail, nearly 75 percent of the air cargo volume in the five-county Southern California region. More than 50 percent of LAX’s air cargo is international in origin or destination. LAN Cargo has 24 weekly flights at LAX and handles approximately 75,000 tons of cargo annually.

Editor's Note:

The drive-in refrigeration unit was built by Kol-Temp of Escondido, California, and includes a 24-foot-high suspended ceiling, three 40-horsepower condensing units, 12 evaporator coils, three 16-foot-wide access doors and 36 400-watt light fixtures. The unit maintains a 35-degree Fahrenheit environment and has an advanced 24-hour, daily monitoring and control system designed to be environmentally sensitive and provide energy savings. The refrigerant system uses R404, an environmentally-sensitive refrigerant.

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