In recent months,
many nearly-identical websites have materialized offering
ballooning gift certificates and attempting to book reservations
for Hot Air Balloon rides and Skydiving and Soaring Adventures.
to be a local balloon company in your local area and make
claims that they have the highest safety record, use the
best equipment, have been serving the local area for a long
time, offer the least expensive balloon ride, and have the
closest flying location to major metropolitan areas.
websites are actually nothing more than a middle man or
reservation agency which costs you money. Be leery of their
To help you
determine if a website represents an actual balloon company:
website provide a business address for the company?
website include specific information about their pilots,
crew, staff and/or balloons?
website include specific information about their launch
facilities such as location and driving directions?
still not sure if they're legitimate, call the 800-number
and ask where they are located. If they cannot answer
immediately without asking where you are calling from, then
you have reached the middle man! In fact, they even
have local phone numbers listed in the phone book that ring
into their boiler rooms in Connecticut and Atlanta.
This is very misleading. Ask them if you can drop
a check by their office. :)
You might be
asking, "Why not go through one of these agencies?"
Deceptive business practices:
They employ a series of cookie-cutter websites which
offer the exact same
facts and pictures across the country, but claim to
represent a local balloon company. In most instances,
the images featured on their websites are used without
permission of the original author. This is copyright
infringement! There are many victims of this
illegal practice. Many copyrighted photos can be found
on their template websites -
without permission from the content creators.
Location and distance: The
agent will only book you with a participating balloon
company. Sometimes the nearest participating flying
location in their network is several
states away! They certainly don't want you
as a customer to be aware that there are other balloon
companies outside of their network that are much closer
3. Bogus fees: "Convenience
Fee," "Poor Weather / Re-Schedule Fee,"
"Return Transportation Fee," "Pilot Fee"
(gratuity), "Champagne Fee," etc. are all
tacked on after you have already paid over the internet
and arrive for your appointment. You may initially only
over the internet, which is often slightly cheaper than
the flight fares respectable companies charge. However,
after you arrive and add up the fees, your bill can
quickly exceed $250
for the flight alone. This is most commonly-known as
the classic "bait and switch" scheme. All
of these fees go directly to the booking agency and
in most cases, the pilot never even knows this is going
on. These fees are all redundant - the ride back to
the launch site, champagne, and everything else is included
standard in the price of a normal balloon ride - but
these companies prey on the general ignorance of consumers.
Low budget operations: Usually,
the balloon company in the area who is participating
with these booking agencies is so a part-time pilot
and flying older budget equipment with minimal insurance
if any insurance at all. They are usually unable to
advertise for themselves. And if they can't afford
marketing, how can they
afford a good pilot, quality equipment, or have properly
maintained aircraft? There is never a real guarantee
of pilot experience, safety record, or aircraft airworthiness.
- 5. Transportation
Be aware that if the booking agency is able to
find someone to fly you, they will usually show up in
a pickup truck and you will be asked to ride in the back!
No kidding. We have seen this done. We use
nice 15 passenger vans that allow the passengers plenty
of space and is climate controlled to maintain passenger
comfort. Is this how you want to be treated?
of a balloon flight is one you will remember and cherish
forever. It is important that this experience be performed
by a competent, safe and professional company. Choosing
to make a reservation with an agency which makes claims
of, but has no control over, safety, pilots and equipment
quality is literally throwing caution to the wind.
Do your research
before you fly - your safety and enjoyment depend on it!!
a reputable local PRO (Professional Ride Operator)