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JAL employees blossom on flower farm secondments

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan Airlines employees prepare pots of carnations at a flower farm in Sosa, Chiba Prefecture, on Sunday.

SOSA, Chiba — Japan Airlines ground crew members were hard at work on Sunday, preparing pots of carnations for shipment at a flower farm in Sosa, Chiba Prefecture.

Ten JAL employees based at Narita Airport in the prefecture were dispatched to help out temporarily at Uzawa Engei, with a team of six working every day through Thursday.

“The scenery here is completely different to the one at the airport,” said one of the seconded employees. “It’s refreshing to be involved in the process of preparing flowers before they arrive on store shelves. I wrapped them carefully to make sure they look pretty.”

The number of international JAL passenger flights during the Golden Week holidays was less than 30% of the amount forecast by the airline. By seconding staff to local farms, the airline hopes to make up for the loss of income in its main business to some extent.

The farms are also more than happy to receive extra help.

There has been a rise in the number of people ordering flowers to send as gifts because they have not been able to return to their hometowns, according to Uzawa Engei, which has seen strong online sales of carnations. The farm has seen shipments increase from about 12,000 pots in 2019 to about 17,000 last year, and about 20,000 this year.

“I’m grateful that we’ve able to keep ourselves busy with work during a period when so many people are struggling due to the virus crisis,” said Takayoshi Uzawa, president of the farm. “We were pretty short-staffed, so having the JAL employees here has been a huge help.”