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. This includes your pilot safety briefing, balloon preparation and packing away, the flight itself, a Prosecco toast after landing and travelling back to the original launch site afterwards.
We have more than 140 balloon launch sites, both main and back-up sites, across England, Scotland and Wales. Please see our locations section for full details.
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 daylight hours.
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 balloon. Lower temperatures in late October mean these conditions are not as common, which can allow day flights to take place.
Your pilot will confirm the exact time you need to arrive at the launch site for check-in on the Flight Information Line message. Check in times will vary throughout the year, depending on how many daylight hours we have (as we can't fly our big red balloons in the dark).
Hot air balloons can’t be steered in the traditional sense and instead travel where the wind takes them, with skilled pilots 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 20-30 miles.
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 ground crew will track the balloon on the ground and aim to arrive shortly after landing.
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 and landing. 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 many people say it is their favourite part of the flight.
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.
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, usually around 3 to 4 hours after the initial meeting time.
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.
Our hot air balloons are very large and, once inflated, most of them tower at almost 120ft tall or more than 10 storeys high. They take between 250,000 and 400,000 cubic feet of air to fill.
Our balloons have large baskets which carry either 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 ensure everyone in the basket has enough space to be comfortable.
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.
There are foot holes along each end of the balloon basket, which are there to help you climb in and out. If you still feel you might have problems climbing in, please let the ground crew know when you check in and they will assist you.
Book online by visiting Manage My Voucher>Sign In at the top right corner of our website, or in the main menu on a mobile or tablet. This takes you to a log-in page, where you will first need to register and create an account if you have not already done so. You need to have purchased your chosen flight vouchers from us before you can book.
As long as it is more than three working days before you are due to fly, you can cancel off a flight and book onto another date. This can be done both online and by contacting our customer service team. If your flight is less than three working days away, bookings unfortunately can't be cancelled unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as medical issues. Our customer service team is happy to advise further on such occasions.
Once you have booked a flight, confirmation of your booking will be sent to the email address in your account. This is usually within a few minutes of you making the booking but can take a bit longer. If your booking confirmation has not arrived within an hour or so, please check your spam folder, as they sometimes end up in there. If it isn't in spam, contact our customer service team and we'll send it out again. If you do not have an email address, speak to one of our team and we can arrange for your booking confirmation to be sent by post.
You can extend your voucher validity for a small admin fee by contacting our customer service team.
Yes, unless you already have our most flexible voucher option. If you have a Weekday Morning or Weekday Morning Or Evening voucher, these can both be upgraded for a small fee by contacting our customer service team.
If your flight voucher has expired, please contact our customer service team.
The expiry date on your flight voucher is not when you need to have flown by, it is the date by which you need to have booked onto a flight. The flight date itself can be after the expiry date on your voucher, as long as you have booked onto it before your voucher expires. In October and throughout our non-flying months, we release dates for the early part of the following year's flying season, which you can book onto during winter.
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 be able to bend your knees to take the 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 the pilot's decision if someone is able to safely participate on the day. Please see the sections on age and weight restrictions, medical conditions, pregnancy and disability below.
Children must be aged seven or over and at least 4ft 6in (1.4m) tall, with children under the age of 16 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 20 stone or more will be required to pay a supplement. This is also 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 and they will be happy to explain our policy in more detail.
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.
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.
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.
No, our pilots are all qualified and highly experienced commercial balloon pilots, certified by the Civil Aviation Authority 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.
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 off an explanation 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 ultimately turn out differently to what was forecast. Forecasters don't always get it right but pilots can only make their decision based on the information they have been given at the time.
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 forecast 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. Thunderstorms or CB (Cumuli Nimbus) clouds may have been forecast. 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 and while the vast majority of our launch sites do have back-up sites, some don't and those that do might still not have been suitable to fly from.
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.
Don't worry, if your flight is cancelled because of the weather or related factors, you can just book onto another date. If you have a cancellation near the end of your voucher validity period, we will extend it free of charge so you always have at least another six months in which to book again.
Sometimes a flight will be moved to a back-up site, which are alternative locations that improve the changes of a flight going ahead. The possible back-up sites for the launch site you have booked are included in your booking confirmation. Flights can be moved to a back-up for a number of reasons, including forecast conditions not flyable at the original launch site, 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. If your flight is moved, your pilot will inform you of this on the Flight Information Line. It is a good idea to make sure 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. 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 need to buy a new voucher to fly.
If your flight is cancelled, you can re-book onto another flight through your online account. Visit the Manage My Voucher>Sign In page in the top right corner of our website, or in the main menu on a mobile or tablet, to see our available dates. For morning flights, sometimes it takes a few hours for our system re-set your voucher to 'bookable' after a cancellation, so if you can't re-book immediately, please allow more time and try again later in the morning.
Due to the weather-dependency of hot air ballooning, all our vouchers are non-refundable unless you choose to add the weather refund option and purchase our Any Day Morning Or Evening PLUS voucher. If you did purchase our extra weather refund option, you can request a refund, minus a £10 per voucher admin fee, following seven or more cancellations by us. More details about our weather refund option can be found within our full Terms and Conditions.
If you do change your mind about wanting to do a balloon flight, you can get a refund as long as it is within the 14 days of purchase and you have not already booked onto a flight. If it is more than 14 days since you purchased your flight vouchers, as long as you haven't yet booked onto a flight and your voucher is still within its validity, you can exchange them for any of our Gift Extra products of the same value.
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.
We have the same level of insurance for our passengers as a commercial aircraft operator. All our balloons are insured for public and third-party liability in accordance with Regulation (Ec) No 785/2004 of the European Parliament – Insurance Requirements for Air Carriers and Aircraft Operators. Currently, our public and third-party liability is around £13 million, so we are well insured.
If you purchased a balloon flight voucher through Virgin Experience Days rather than directly through us, you will need to redeem your voucher with us before you can book a flight. Head over to our Virgin Experience Days redemption page here and enter the details requested. Once redeemed, we will send you your Virgin Balloon Flights voucher(s) and you can book a flight.
If you purchased a balloon flight voucher through Groupon rather than directly through us, you will need to redeem your voucher with us before you can book a flight. Head over to our Groupon redemption page here and enter the details requested. Once redeemed, your Virgin Balloon Flights voucher(s) will be sent to you via email and you can book a flight.
If you chose either our Standard or Express postal delivery options at checkout and your order hasn't arrived within the expected time frame, please contact our customer service team.
If you chose the 'Email' delivery option at checkout, please double check in your spam folder to ensure it hasn't ended up in there. If it still hasn't arrived, please contact our customer service team.
Yes, you can delay the dispatch of any postal order to a date of your choice by contacting our customer service team immediately after you have placed your order online.