Read this before buying a hot air balloon ride from anyone.
What to Ask your pilot.
No matter if you want to fly the spectacular landscape of Clinton New Jersey, the wine country of California or over the city of Manhattan New York, make sure you ask the right questions !
Hot Air Balloons will only fly once at sunrise or about two hours before sunset (approx). This is due to the mid-day wind that arises. As the sun gets high in the sky, the more direct light rays will heat the ground causing rising air currents and windy conditions that prevent hot air balloons from flying.
Hot Air Balloons are also wind and rain sensitive. This limits the times that hot air balloons can fly. Balloons will need a day with no rain, in addition to winds of less than about ten miles per hour.
Most companies are operated by reputable pilots looking to be in business for the long term. The person answering the phone is typically the pilot who can answer all your questions accurately. Ask any and all questions that come to mind so you can get to know your pilot. After all, a good pilot will not only keep you safe, but will be your tour guide and entertainment from start to finish. So interview a number of pilots and choose the one that is right for you.
Make sure your flight will be an hour (approx.) in length with only one set of passengers for that flight window. Some companies will offer short flight or transfer flight at discount pricing, in which the pilot will fly with a first set of passengers, then at some point during the flight they will switch passengers. After you get out of the balloon then you will get in the chase vehicle and follow the balloon while the other passengers fly away. Sometimes the second or third set of passengers will not get to fly due to changing weather conditions. Make sure you will be in the balloon from start (inflation) to finish (deflation) being the only passengers for the flight. I feel being asked to get out of the balloon part way through your flight takes away from the Ďromanticí nature of ballooning and makes it a less personal experience. This is the time to celebrate your flight with pilot and crew !
Some companies however, are just flight certificate resellers or Ďbooking agenciesí who may not even own a balloon. They just sell balloon ride gift certificates, then they tell you who to call in your area to schedule your flight. Some of these companies are good, but others are selling what they cannot fulfill.
Choose a company local to you, book directly with the pilot who will be flying you. After all, you will be sharing this amazing experience with them so choose the pilot you like after interviewing all of them. Your pilot should have experience, a personality you want to be with, and be as excited as you are to take you on your journey of flight. You may want to check whois.com to make sure that your pilotís name is registered as the web site owner.
Check for local phone number. Most of the certificate resellers will have a toll free phone number, or one that is not local to the area that you will be flying. If you have any concerns about any company you are booking a flight with, I will be glad to assist you. If you donít feel it, donít book it.
Upon scheduling your flight date, you may be asked for a deposit. This is by even the reputable pilots because if riders cancel last minute, that is usually not enough time to fill the empty space, especially after turn people away because you were scheduled. I feel 48 hours notice if you need to cancel is acceptable with me. Personally, I do not charge a deposit, just a cc on file is fine with me. However, I do have a cancellation charge if you give less than 48 hours notice of cancelation. If the weather is bad and the hot air balloon cannot fly, you should not have to pay anything. Some pilots will make you pay in full up front with a no refund policy and you will have to fly on another day. If you have scheduled with me and the weather is bad, you may cancel without cost to you. I do not charge anything until after we fly.
Buying a gift certificate makes a great gift. You donít have to schedule the date of the flight. The recipient will call and set up when to fly. (check refund/cancellation policy).
If you have any questions about booking a Balloon Flight with any other company or pilot, give me a call and I will help you get the best experience !
Tom Robins 'the balloon man'