In what has become an annual early-summer ritual at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, air cargo operators serving Asian ports have increased operations in Seattle for the duration of the roughly two-month long Washington state cherry harvest.
Carriers making stops in Seattle to pick up pallets of Washington cherries include EVA Air Cargo, NCA, China Airlines Cargo, and Singapore Airlines Cargo. Freighter loads vary, but seldom are the large jets filled solely with cherries; mixed loads are far more common, especially as routes can include stops in one or more U.S. cities before crossing the Pacific.
Exports to Asia in July, primarily cherries, can be five times the amount of tonnage shipped on the most active airline at Sea-Tac, according to the Port of Seattle’s Brian DeRoy. Other Asian airlines usually see volume increases of two to three times their normal monthly tonnage.
Approximately 20 percent of the total Washington cherry crop is exported outside of North America, and 98 percent of those exports are shipped via air. Next time you are enjoying some cherries (or any other fruit) stop and think about the flying adventures it might have had.