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frequently asked questions

If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for here, please contact us and we’ll be glad to help.


About the Balloon Flight
• how long is the hot air balloon flight?
• where do you fly from?
• when do you fly?
• why don’t you generally fly during the day?
• what time do I need to be at the launch site?
• how high will we go?
• how far will we fly?
• where will we land?
• What is the landing like?
• will the hot air balloon fly over my house?
• can my friends and family come and watch?
• is the passenger retrieval service from our home address?

Clothing and Cameras
• what should I wear?
• can I bring a camera?

The Balloon
• how big is the hot air balloon?
• how many passengers are there in the balloon?
• can anyone fly in a hot air balloon?
• is there an age or weight restriction?
• What if I'm pregnant?
• what if I have a medical condition?
• can I fly if I have a disability?
• can I fly the balloon?

Safety and Insurance
• is hot air ballooning safe?
• what about insurance?

Weather and Cancellations
• why would a balloon flight be cancelled?
• what happens if my flight is cancelled?
• what is the weather refund option?
• what are Back-up Sites?
• how do I find out if my flight is going ahead?
• what if I want to cancel or change my flight?

Vouchers & Packages
• what is the difference between our vouchers and packages?
• is the DVD in my gift pack of my flight?

Gift Extras
• What if I have brought a third party product from Virgin Balloon Flights?

 
 
About the flight

how long is the hot air balloon flight?
A hot air balloon ride with us lasts for around an hour, depending on prevailing weather conditions and suitability of landing sites, but you should allow at least four hours for the whole experience.
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where do you fly from?
We have over 100 balloon launch sites in England, Scotland and Wales. Please see our locations section for full details.
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when do you fly?
We schedule hot air balloon rides morning and evening, seven days a week during the UK ballooning season which is March to October. This does vary in some areas and in late October some flights will take place during the day due to limited day light hours.
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why don’t you generally fly during the day?
During the day, the sun heats the ground which in turn heats the air above causing thermals or columns of rising air. These thermals cause updrafts and downdrafts which affect a pilot’s ability to safely control the altitude of a hot air balloon. Lower temperatures in late October mean these conditions are not as common which allows day flights to take place.
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what time do I need to be at the launch site?
These are some approximate meeting times. You will be given the exact meeting time when you call the flight confirmation line.

Time of Year AM PM
March 07:00 15:30
Start April to mid April 07:00 17:00
Mid April to mid May 06:30 17.30
Mid May to end May 06:00 18:00
June and July 06:00 18:30
Start August to mid August 06:00 18:00
Mid August to end August 06:30 17.30
Start September to mid September 07:00 17:00
Mid September to end September 07:30 16:30
October 08:00 15:00
November 07:00 13:30
PLEASE NOTE: These are only approximate times which can vary by an hour each way and depend on weather conditions and regional variations. Call the flight line on your booking confirmation for your exact time.
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how high will we go?
Sometimes up as high as 5,000 feet - although this depends on airspace and it does vary from area to area and time of the year flown. Even at a few hundred feet the views are incredible and over 1,000 you can start to see for miles!
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how far will we fly?
Hot air balloons can’t be steered in the normal sense so they travel on the wind with skilled pilot’s controlling the altitude by heating the air inside the balloon. How far you’ll fly depends on the wind speed. It also depends on how long it takes the pilot to find a suitable landing spot. You could fly a relatively short distance or as far as 20 miles.
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where will we land?
Hot air balloons can’t be steered so they travel on the wind and you never know where exactly you’re going to land. The pilot will start looking for a suitable landing site after around 45 minutes. The retrieval crew will track the balloon on the ground and aim to arrive shortly after landing.
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what’s the landing like?
Flying in a balloon is a very serene experience while in the air, but it is an adventure activity in the great outdoors and sometimes on landing the basket can tip and/or drag along before coming to rest. This is how balloons have been landing for over 200 years and is perfectly normal. The balloon and basket are designed for your comfort and safety throughout the flight. During landing you will be in the safe, seated landing position within the basket as instructed by your pilot. The landing is an exciting part of the experience and in many cases people say it is their favourite part of the flight.
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will the balloon fly over my house?
We’d love to be able to promise this but, obviously, as hot air balloons cannot be steered, it’s a bit tricky. If you take off from a launch site in your home town or county and the wind is on your side, it is possible you’ll see your home. But, to avoid disappointment, please don’t expect it.
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Can people come with me to watch?
Spectators are welcome but please let them know that there may not be toilets or other facilities at the launch site. We would not recommend that spectators try to follow the balloon by road for safety reasons. Passengers will be transported back to the launch site after the flight, around 3 to 4 hours after the initial meeting time.
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is the passenger retrieval service from our home address?
No, you will need to make your way to you launch site before the flight and our balloon crew will transport you back there after the flight. You will then need to make your own way home.
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Clothing and Cameras

what should I wear?
We recommend clothes suitable for a walk in the country depending on the time of year and on the specific day you are flying. Generally warm, comfortable layers are a good idea, plus a cap or other hat for the warmth from the burners. Depending on conditions, you may be walking in wet, muddy fields so sensible shoes or trainers are essential.
Usually passengers are asked to help with the inflation and deflation of the balloon which most people really enjoy. This is much appreciated because it helps to make the process much quicker for everyone. So we also recommend you wear clothes which you don't mind getting a little dirty. No designer wear, flip-flops or high heels please as we are unable to accept responsibility for any damage to clothing and anyone who is dressed inappropriately may not be allowed to fly.
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can I bring a camera?
Yes, you can bring a camera, binoculars or camcorder as the balloon makes an excellent platform for photography. They must not be in metal cases and they are carried at your own risk. Most of our balloons have special pouches to stow cameras on landing. Some of our pilots in certain areas offer an in-flight photo service and if this is available they will explain this to you on the day.
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The Balloon

how big is the hot air balloon?
Our hot air balloons are very large and, once inflated, tower at over 100ft tall or four storeys high. They take between 250,000 and 400,000 Cubic Feet of air to fill.
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how many passengers are there in the balloon?
Our balloons have large baskets which carry either: 10, 12 or in most cases 16 passengers at a time. The balloon basket is split into compartments with between two and four people in each, so you have your own space and can enjoy an intimate experience with your guest.
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can anyone fly in a hot air balloon?
In order to ensure the safety and enjoyment of everyone who flies, passengers must be satisfied they are physically able to take part in the experience. This means that they can climb in and out over the sides of the basket (which is about 42 inches or 1.1m high), stand unassisted for an hour and adopt the bended knee seated landing position. Passengers must also be able to fully understand and follow all instructions given by the pilot and react quickly to them in the unlikely event of an emergency. Under Civil Aviation Law the balloon pilot has a duty of care for all passengers and, ultimately, it is their decision if someone is able to safely participate on the day. Please see the sections on age & weight restrictions, medical conditions, pregnancy and disability below.
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is there an age or weight restriction?
Children must be aged seven or over and at least 4ft 6in (1.4m) tall. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult. We know that our passengers come in all shapes and sizes, but due to weight and space restrictions of hot air balloons and baskets, anyone who is over 20 stone will be required to pay a supplement. This may also be the case for anyone who is over 18 stone and under 6ft tall. You can call our customer service team on 01952 212750 to discuss this before booking.
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what if I'm pregnant?
Unfortunately, for safety reasons, we are unable to fly women who are pregnant. However, if you become pregnant when you already have a voucher, we will extend the validity until after you've had the baby. All you need to do is contact us and provide us a copy of your MAT B1 form which you will receive from your midwife.
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what if I have a medical condition?
All passengers should be sure they do not have any pre-existing medical conditions which could be affected by the ballooning experience or could prevent them from safely taking part and should seek professional medical advice if unsure. You must not fly if you are suffering from any significant medical condition or if you have recently undergone major surgery. We require you to tell us about any medical or physical condition that could be considered to affect your safety or the safety of others. We may request a certificate of fitness to fly from a doctor or specialist.
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can I fly if I have a disability?
We make every effort to ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in balloon flights with us wherever it is possible and safe to do so. As everyone’s particular situation is different and some disabilities present greater challenges than others in the unique context of ballooning, we require you to tell us about any disability before purchasing a flight voucher or booking a flight. This is so we can best advise you; consider any necessary arrangements to accommodate you, if we can safely do so, and to ensure we fully attend to our duty of care for all passengers’ safety. We can provide information about disabled facilities at specific launch sites on request. Unfortunately, for safety reasons, we are unable to fly anyone who requires a wheelchair.
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can I fly the balloon?
No, our pilots are all qualified and highly experienced and we think it's best to leave the actual flying up to them. However, they will be happy to answer questions about how they got into flying balloons and how it all works. See the Meet the Pilots section in About Us for more information.
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Safety and Insurance

is hot air ballooning safe?
Hot air ballooning is an extremely safe activity which is highly regulated in the UK with strict safety guidelines. We are licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority and all of our hot air ballooning pilots hold full commercial pilot’s licences. We also use the latest equipment and have the most modern fleet of balloons operating in the UK having spent over £1million since 2005 on balloons and baskets alone.
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what about insurance?
Virgin Balloon Flights is insured for public and employers liability up to £10million so if you fly with us you don’t need to worry about insurance.
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Weather & Cancellations

why would a flight be cancelled?
The weather is our friend because it is what makes every flight unique but, unfortunately, we cannot control it (no matter how hard we try!). This means sometimes pilots will cancel flights because the weather conditions are not safe to fly in.
Our pilots are all highly experienced and they decide whether it is flyable. We are not allowed to question a pilot’s judgment as this could be seen as pressuring them to fly which could compromise safety.
Our pilots put your safety first at all time. When cancelling a flight, either on the flight line beforehand or occasionally on site, the pilot will usually try to offer some explanation as to why. Our pilots make their decision to fly based on the most relevant and up to date forecast available just before they set their flight line message. Sometimes the actual conditions may be different to what was forecasted. There are also different forecasts and they can be interpreted in different ways. So, like all weather people, we do occasionally make mistakes but unfortunately we can only go by what the forecaster says and some forecasters are better than others. We can tell you some of the general reasons why a pilot may cancel a flight:

The weather looked nice and sunny so why was it cancelled?

  • The wind at ground or gradient level (2,000ft) or the gust speed might have been too strong and outside operational limits.
  • Rain may have been forecasted in the area. We cannot fly in rain because it means there will be poor visibility and it also makes the balloon heavier to fly. Getting a balloon envelope wet can lead to some damage.
  • Thunderstorms or CB (Cumuli Nimbus) clouds may have been forecasted. These are dangerous and we would not fly in their vicinity.
  • If yours was a morning flight, the visibility early in the morning during our flight period could have been poorer than later in the day.
  • There may have been a wind direction which would have taken the balloon towards something unsuitable, like a large town or restricted airspace.

 
I saw another balloon flying in the area so why was my flight cancelled?

  • Our pilot’s decision whether to fly is not related to what other balloonists decide. Our pilots consider all the weather factors and make their own decision, always putting your safety first.
  • The other balloon could have had better shelter at take-off from the wind on that particular wind direction.
  • It might be a private balloon and they can legally fly in much poorer visibility than balloons on public transport licences like ours. Private balloons are also generally a lot smaller and therefore easier to inflate and land.
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what happens if my flight is cancelled?
Don't worry, if your flight is cancelled because of the weather or related factors, you can just book onto another date. Plus if you have a cancelation near the end of your voucher validity period we will extend it free of charge at our discretion so you have another opportunity to fly.
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What is the weather refund option?
Our 7 Day Anytime Plus vouchers and Gift Experience Packages have our weather refund option which means they are refundable if you are very unlucky with the ‘great’ British weather. Most people prefer to keep trying until they fly, but with these vouchers you have the following options:

Weather Refund
In the unlikely event that you have seven or more weather cancellations; we will give you a refund once you have returned the original vouchers to us, less a £10 admin fee per voucher.
After three cancellations, you can choose to take an early opt-out without taking up your flight and we will refund two thirds (66.66%) of what you paid. - Refunds can only be paid to the original purchaser and merchandise must be returned in saleable condition.

Experience gift card
Alternatively, in both of the above cases, you can exchange your vouchers for a Virgin Experience Days Gift Card for the value due which can be used against 500+ experiences - from spa sessions to driving days.
Advantages of a Gift Card are:
we can exchange these with the gift recipient rather than the original purchaser which ensures they still get a great gift experience
no merchandise needs to be returned
and there is no admin fee.
Full details are available in our voucher terms & conditions.
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what are Back-up Sites?
Sometimes a flight will be moved to a back-up site because the forecast conditions are not flyable at the original launch site, because the wind direction from there is not suitable (i.e. going towards a large town, an airport or out to sea) or because the site is otherwise unavailable or unsafe to fly from. Back-up sites are alternative locations which give flights improved chances of going ahead and your pilot will advise you of this on your flight line. If this happens you will need to attend the flight at the back-up launch site at your own cost or your voucher will become invalid and you will be required to buy a new voucher to fly. Please ensure that you have all maps, directions and transport arrangements in place to get to all of the potential launch sites on the day of your flight.
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how do I find out if my flight is going ahead?
Once you have a voucher and book onto a specific flight, you will receive a booking confirmation. This will include your dedicated flight line phone number which the pilot will update to let you know if the flight is going ahead, if it is being moved to a back-up site and any other important information. If it is a morning flight you will call the night before and if it is an evening flight you will call in the afternoon on the day.

FLIGHT TIMETIME TO CALL FLIGHT LINE
AM & DAY Flightsfrom 11pm the night before your flight
PM Flights (September to March)from 12 noon on the day of your flight
PM Flights (April to August)from 2pm on the day of your flight

In the unlikely event that the flight line is not updated within 30 minutes after these times, you can call the pilot on the emergency number which will also be provide on your booking confirmation.
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what if I want to cancel or change my flight?
You can cancel off a flight up to seven days before online at virginballoonflights.co.uk and up to three working days before by post or email. After these times you will need to attend the flight unless there are extenuating circumstances.
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Vouchers & Packages

what is the difference between our vouchers and packages?
Everyone who flies with Virgin Balloon Flights receives the same fantastic 3 to 4 hour experience. Our flight vouchers vary in terms of flexibility i.e. when you want to be able to fly, morning or evening, weekday or weekend, weather refund option, and exclusive merchandise or additional gift products.
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is the DVD in my gift pack of my flight?
No, the DVD is a short pre-flight film which shows you what to a balloon flight is like through the eyes of people who have already enjoyed it. It also builds the anticipation for someone if it’s a gift.
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What if I have brought a third party product from Virgin Balloon Flights?
If you have purchased an Afternoon Tea or Pamper Flight package product, these are sold by Virgin Balloon Flights but managed and distributed by Virgin Experience Days.
When an Afternoon Tea or Pamper package has been purchased, Virgin Balloon Flights immediately notify Virgin Experience Days who will then send out the respective Afternoon Tea or Pamper Voucher.
Any queries regarding Afternoon Tea or Pamper experiences should be directed to Virgin Experience Days on 0844 504 0844.
For Virgin Experience days terms and conditions please visit http://www.virginexperiencedays.co.uk/terms-and-conditions
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