So you want to experience a hot air balloon ride, but want to understand the cost? Like any business model, the price for your experience comprises many different things, and can vary from provider to provider. No two companies are the same, so make sure to do your research before you book a trip.
Why are hot air balloon rides so expensive? Equipment, operatinQg costs, maintenance costs, insurance, fuel, and more can factor into a final service price. Air balloon ride companies need a profit to continue, and the hot air balloon service industry is no different.
A hot air balloon flight can be found almost globally. Regardless of where you’re looking to fly, it’s important to consider what you’re paying for, in order to find the best service and ensure your money is well spent.
Of course, this doesn’t even begin to cover the extensive costs involved in a hot air balloon ride. So let’s take a deeper look at the specific factors involved in hot air balloon rides; from simply hiring a ride to owning your own balloon.
Commercial balloons are not small pieces of equipment. They are a cleverly designed method of transport with a storied history, and the balloons themselves can fetch quite a high price when sold. Not to mention further equipment, such as the burner, weights, and basket. The cost of maintenance therefore is a large part of the price.
Annual safety checks can only be performed by certified and trained individuals, and this can set a hot air balloon company back more than $1,000 a year. These trained individuals must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the United Kingdom, or the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in the EU.
According to the FAA, every hot air balloon should undergo a safety check after every 100 hours of use. So how much does an individual check cost? Roughly $350! For a business organising balloon rides, these can quickly stack up. Especially if they possess multiple balloons which need to be maintained.
The costs only extend if the safety and maintenance checks fail, as in the United States balloon repairs can only be performed by an FAA approved facility. All the agencies previously mentioned have certified facilities and equipment in order to safeguard amateur ballooners, and reduce the risk of injury or accidents.
Safety is the most important thing to consider for any hot air balloon enthusiast, and is a legal requirement for all air balloon ride companies. A hot air balloon accident is a quick way to sour an otherwise magical experience at a balloon club or hot air balloon festival.
After making sure your balloon is fit to fly, actually flying it also drums up some cost. This is largely down to the fuel of course. Hot air balloons use liquid propane mixed with oxygen, although there are alternative fuels you may be able to use if you check with the relevant aviation authority for approval.
However, propane is easily the most popular and perhaps cost-effective fuel for hot air balloons. It is significantly safer, but the price can vary. Usually between $2 and $3 a gallon.
While inexpensive, an average flight in a hot air balloon can use anywhere between 20 and 30 gallons on a 1-1.5 hour flight. That’s an extra $40 to $90 added to your cost. Naturally smaller balloons and shorter trips will reduce this, but for a business operating multiple commercial balloons intended for larger groups, well then the costs really start to add up.
Other Company Fees
Air balloon ride companies also need to employ certified professional as staff in order to operate the balloon correctly and safely. Certified balloon pilots, engineers, a ground crew for launch and a chase crew for landings are a must, and are hard to come by as a specialisation. Employees also need a salary to work.
Chase crews are necessary to follow the balloon, allowing the pilot and passengers to be picked up on landing or, in a worst case scenario, rescued after an accident. This an additional equipment burden for the company, who will need a truck or flat-bed to pick up the basket, balloon, and personnel.
Running a hot air balloon company can be an expensive endeavour, and naturally a profit motive will drive these companies forward. The final price for your commercial balloon ride will be reflecting a calculated effort to support both the hot air balloon business, and provide you with the experience of a lifetime.
Storage and Field Rent
Although balloons can easily deflate, allowing them to fold neatly and compactly into the basket, they still take up some space. For larger baskets designed to carry several people, this can be a serious issue when it comes to storage.
A hot air balloon company will need to rent or own their own storage facilities. Not only for safe keeping and management, but to prevent extraneous wear and tear on the balloon. Otherwise surprise repair costs may arise, as previously mentioned above.
It’s not just storage space that may be rented however, but also places to launch and land balloons. Typically this is done in fields, as large, open, and flat areas make the process easy and safe to perform. While owning property and land for storage and operation can mitigate some cost, the initial upfront price can be quite steep.
If you’re simply looking for a hot air balloon ride, then there are some final factors to consider. These are hidden fees you might not expect to be included in your price, but can help you find a cheaper service.
Location is easily one of the more important factors for hot air balloon companies. Beautiful sights and views attract a majority of their customers. You can find a reputable balloon company offering incredible services in Tanzania, France, and Turkey.
Prime tourist spots also offer higher costs for a hot air balloon ride. Whether this is a popular city like New York, or an ancient city Cuzco in Peru, you may be facing massive costs as a result of the location. A longer hot air balloon tour, rather than a one-time flight, may also see a rise in cost.
The time of year also affects service prices, with summer rides easily being the most expensive. While bad weather can delay or force a cancellation for safety reasons, passengers generally are willing to pay extra to fly at a comfortable temperature. It is also more difficult for a hot air balloon to fly on warm days, which can lead to extra fuel costs.
The exact service you’re seeking from your hot air balloon ride can also influence the air balloon ride price. Your flight time, that is how long you plan to be in the air, as well as how many people you wish to travel with will increase and decrease the wonderful activity costs accordingly.
A larger hot air balloon experience may see you flying with 12-16 people, while smaller and more personal models are available, or even sport models designed for racing with only a single person in the basket. Always make sure to check weather conditions for your flight online, as weather cancellation can occur although it is often refunded by the business.
Finally, the time of day is also a surprising factor for many people. A hot air balloon tour can be a magical and romantic experience, so sunset flights towards the evening can see you paying a little more than average with some companies. A balloon during sunrise will encounter similar increases in dollars per person.
Buy a Balloon
You may be considering purchasing your own personal balloon as a way to cut out some of these added costs. Owning a balloon comes with several benefits: no hidden fees from paying employees, no need to tip a pilot if you pilot your own balloon, and most importantly the ability to fly whenever and wherever you choose.
However, buying a balloon can be quite a costly investment. You’ll still need to be in line with aviation regulations, and unless you have your own pilot license or certification then you may end up hiring staff anyway. Adherence to proper safety checks and maintenance are also a legal requirement.
As previously stated, your own storage and launching point can be difficult to acquire. Yet, the hardest cost you’ll find will be the balloon envelope itself and the equipment necessary to operate it.
The upfront cost for a used ballon can set you back anywhere between $7000 and $15,000, while a new balloon can cost more than $90,000. This a large investment, even if you ignore other costs such as a storage hangar, fuel, and licensing.
These costs add up, especially if you plan on using larger balloons designed to carry larger groups of people. Other equipment can also vary depending on quality; such as different basket sizes, stainless steel fuel tanks, and how many gallons of fuel can be stored.
I’m Annie, a twenty-something year old girl who loves hot air balloons. So much so, that I have a full time job as a Flight Instructor and it is all I love talking about. Something about being up there in the elevated altitudes helps all my stresses float away!