As our balloon rides will now be fulfilled by Virgin Balloon Flights, while many of the below FAQs remain relevant, for up-to-date information about your balloon ride, please visit Virgin’s website here.

If you are looking to buy a Balloon ride as a gift choosing a company or an "operator" as they are called for hot air balloon rides in Essex can be difficult. Below we give some general advice for those considering an Essex air balloon ride as either a gift or for themselves. We hope that this will assist those looking for an amazing flying experience to get the best from their hot air balloon rides.

Buying advice and Recommendations

Buy local – Fly local

Generally the best balloon flights available are from the local balloon operator based in that county. More often than not they provide the greatest range of available flight dates to choose from compared with a “nationwide” operator who may spread themselves too thinly over all of them. And of course your local operator will posses a huge amount of local knowledge about the geography, history and weather conditions for the county.

The weather and availability

An important factor in hot air ballooning is the weather on the day of a flight. Conditions have to be favourable for a flight to go ahead and for this reason it is inevitable that some Essex balloon flights are postponed due to unfavourable weather conditions. Prior to purchasing a hot air balloon flight it is a good idea to enquire as to the amount of time a prospective passenger is likely to wait for a subsequent flight date in the event that their flight is postponed. A hot air balloon experience can easily be tarnished if there is a long wait to rebook your flight or if the passenger has a weekend or weekday evening voucher and the operator can only offer the less popular weekday morning flights, meeting at 6am. Unlike most nationwide balloon ride operators our schedules can be seen before you buy. See our current schedules here.

Time of day

Passengers involved in a hot air balloon flight over Essex meet either early in the morning at around 6am depending on the sunrise time, or in the evening about 3 hours before sunset. This is in order to take advantage of the stable air conditions found at these times of day. The most popular times to fly are weekends followed by weekday evenings, due to the fact that in late spring and summer there is enough daylight in the evenings for most passengers to finish work and get to their balloon flight.

Balloon flights with spaces on them

Generally the least popular flights are those conducted on weekday mornings, as most people work for a living and this option usually means a day, or at least a morning off work. This explains why weekday morning flights are the cheapest flights available. Many people who opt to purchase these may find they are a false economy, especially if they book a day off work and then find the weather causes the postponement of the flight on that day.

Balloon flight availability

A good indicator of flight availability is the facility for a passenger to be able to see the scheduled flight dates for at least the month ahead, for the county in which they wish to fly. This should be found on the balloon operator's website and studied prior to the purchase of a flight voucher. As a rule of thumb, weekends will fill first, then weekday evenings and lastly weekday mornings. If the balloon operator does not show available flight dates prior to the purchase of a flight voucher it may be that there is an unusually long wait or only the less popular weekday morning flights are left.

Civil aviation authority air operators certificate

All balloon operators providing balloon rides for the public must have an Air Operators Certificate and number issued by the Civil Aviation Authority to carry any fare paying passengers. If they do not, they are not licensed which could mean that they are under-qualified and flying without valid insurance cover. Our Air Operators Certificate number is BL210.

Buyer FAQ's

The Essex balloons hot air balloon flight voucher. What is it and how does it work?

The easy way to give a balloon flight to someone is to buy them a balloon flight gift voucher. This is an open voucher that is valid for 12 months. Accompanying the voucher is an information pack about the balloon flight and how to book a flight date. A flight date can be booked online from our scheduled flight dates.

Do I have to book the balloon flight for a specific date?

The balloon flight Gift Voucher is ideal as a present for any special occasion. It is an open dated ticket and valid for 12 months. You can give the voucher to the recipient and leave them free to choose a flight date, or, if you already have a date in mind, you can book this date at the time of purchase. To check the availability of a flight date please see our ‘scheduled flight dates’ .

Is there an age limit?

We have no upper age limit, but ballooning is an outdoor sport requiring a degree of agility. We recommend that people should be fit enough to climb in and out of the basket using the foot holes at the ends of the passenger compartments and to stand for about an hour. There may also be a short walk at the end of the flight to the edge of the field to meet our awaiting minibus that will return all passengers to the take-off site. We use the very latest partitioned baskets specially designed to ensure safety, comfort and a superb view. They are about 42 inches (1.1 metres) high, and have foot holes to assist entry. They also have seats to ensure a safe position for landing. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult on the flight.

Can you fly with a disability?

There are many differing levels of disability, so please talk to us first to find out. We are not currently able to provide flights for anyone who is confined to a wheelchair, simply because passenger balloon baskets aren't designed or certified to carry them.

Passenger FAQ’s

On which days and at what tines are Essex balloon flights scheduled?

From April to October we schedule a number of Essex balloon flights each week as passenger demand requires with flight dates available up to 30 days in advance. We schedule generally equal amounts of flights for evenings or morning flights throughout the week. Times depend on sunrise and sunset, so vary throughout the season. Typically in May, we meet you at 6am for morning flights, and 6pm for evening flights. Unfortunately, during the winter, the weather is too windy and unsettled and the ground conditions too wet for getting balloons on and off fields.

How far does the balloons travel and how high does it go?

Distance is dependent on the wind speed on the day of the flight. The average distance covered during a hot air balloon flight is 10 to 12 miles, but we can cover anything from 2 to 20 miles! Our altitude varies between tree top height and 2500 feet. It is controlled by the pilot who will vary the altitude throughout the flight to take in the features of the area and the wind conditions on the day.

How long in advance do I need to book my flight?

We usually recommend a few weeks notice if you wish to book a specific date. It can be less if you are not restricted to weekends or Bank Holidays. Weekends can be quite busy especially Saturday and Sunday evenings. Please use our Flight Dates page to check dates.

What should I wear for my balloon flight?

No special clothing is required, just outdoor clothing suitable for the time of year. Long sleeves and trousers made from natural fibres are recommended, as are sensible shoes such as trainers or light boots. No high heels or skirts please! If you have a morning flight the grass is likely to be wet with dew, so please bear this in mind when choosing footwear. You will not feel any colder up in the balloon than you feel on the ground so there is no need for extra layers of clothing. On occasions, the radiant heat from the burners can feel quite hot on top of the head, so please bring a cotton cap for protection.

Where do Essex Balloons fly from?

Our flights launch from several sites in Essex. Full launch site directions, including maps, will be sent to you with the confirmation of your booking. You will need to make your own way to the launch site or meeting point.

How long will the experience last and how do we get?

The balloon experience starts with the preparation and inflation of the balloon at one of our Essex launch sites and a safety briefing. The balloon flight itself usually lasts for approximately an hour or so. Once we have landed and the balloon has been packed away we serve Champagne and soft drinks. We present each passenger with a commemorative flight certificate and give everyone the opportunity to order an in-flight photograph. After we have finished we return our passengers to the take-off site in our licensed minibus.

Can I help with the preparation of the balloon for flight?

Our pilots frequently invite you to help prepare and also pack away the balloon and will give you instruction on how this is done. You are welcome to help or just watch.

How do I get in and out of the balloon basket?

Our balloon baskets are divided into compartments for your safety and comfort. There are foot holes at the ends of each basket compartment to help you climb in and out. There will usually be three or four passengers in each compartment.

Can I fly over my house, village or town?

A hot air balloon will only go where the wind takes it and as we often say no two flights are ever the same, so we cannot guarantee a flight will travel over any particular house, village or town. We have several strategically placed take-off sites in Essex and the site chosen for the day will be chosen to make the most of whatever wind direction we have and to obtain the best possible flight for that day.

What happens to my friends or family who aren't flying?

They are welcome to watch the inflation and launch of the balloon. We will inform everyone of the approximate time we expect to return the passengers by minibus to the take-off site. As a guide, we normally return approximately 2 and a half hours from the time the balloon took off.

What happens if the weather is unsuitable for ballooning?

Ballooning requires very particular conditions for a safe, legal and enjoyable flight and is completely weather dependent at any time of year. You will be provided with a flight information telephone number to call several hours before the flight is due to take place. This will give you information concerning your flight as well as the weather. Details of this will be sent to you in your flight conformation. If the weather is suitable for ballooning we will confirm the time and venue, but if the weather is too windy and unsettled we will postpone the flight in order to save passengers arriving at the take-off site unnecessarily. If the flight is postponed you will be asked to choose another flight date. This can be done at any time of day online via our web site by clicking on our flight dates page and logging in.

Can I cancel if the sun isn't shining?

No. If the Pilot considers the weather conditions to be safe and suitable the flight will take place. Living in the British Isles, it is not possible to guarantee sunshine, but we will not fly in rain, poor visibility, unsuitably windy conditions, threat of thunderstorms and unstable air.

What happens if I am not keen on heights?

Don't worry, balloons give a great feeling of security and the sensation is not the same as going up a ladder or standing on a tall building. A large passenger balloon basket will feel very stable under foot and does not swing or rock from side to side. Balloons fly with the breeze, making it feel as though you are floating in still air, giving a great feeling of peace and tranquility

Am I fit to fly, what are the medical conditions?

We are not qualified to express an opinion as to whether you are fit to fly and it is your responsibility to ensure that you are fit to fly. You must not fly if you are suffering from osteoporosis (brittle bones) or any serious medical condition or have recently undergone surgery, unless you have a certificate of your fitness to fly from your doctor. You must not fly if you are pregnant or under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.

Post Flight FAQ’s

Are their any souvenirs?

In-flight photographs 10"x8" in size at £15 are available to order after the flight.

How do passengers get back to the take off site?

Once we have completed all our post flight celebrations and packed away the balloon, all passengers are transported back to the launch site in our PSV licensed minibus.

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