Dear Broadland Balloonists,
Update 26th March 2021.
As you are aware, the government has issued a plan for England’s route out of lockdown over the coming weeks and months.
Last Tuesday, the latest meeting took place between the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Department for Transport (DfT), and various commercial aviation stakeholders (including our trade body, the Commercial Ballooning Association). At this meeting, the DfT gave us their rules regarding the return to balloon flights in England, and we are now passing this information to you for action as necessary.
Although we had a DfT Exemption to allow commercial passenger ballooning since August of last year (with passengers wearing face masks, using hand sanitiser, and with all of our balloon equipment disinfected between flights), and indeed managed to take more than 500 passengers on flights (without a single Covid incident) prior to the November lockdown, we have not been allowed to fly the balloons since that time.
However, the DfT and CAA have now permitted commercial pilots across the UK aviation industries to begin their routine proficiency and type rating flying checks, and this applies equally to commercial balloon pilots (such as we employ) and the airline pilots who fly you off on your holidays! We are pleased to say that we made our first such outing this week, with our company chief pilot making several flights. We expect all of our pilots to be ready to start commercial flights as soon as the permission is granted.
The important part of this message is to tell you that the DfT have now made their latest ruling regarding the return to commercial passenger balloon flights in the UK, and I give details below:
• From the 17th of May we will be able to resume a full flight service, operating all and any of our largest hot air balloons, carrying 8 to 16 passengers.
So, if you are booked onto a flight scheduled for a date before the 17th of May, you now need to go online to our website and reschedule for a date after the 17th of May.
You may see balloons flying prior to this date, but they will only be the small balloons, most probably carrying out pilot check flights. Of course, as we are all aware, there is always the possibility that this date of the 17th of May could get pushed further if the Covid situation worsens, but at this stage we are fairly confident.
What will happen to my vouchers and expiry date if I wish to delay my flight?
We are keen to ensure you are not missing out as a result of the Covid impact. Therefore, if your vouchers have recently expired, or are about to, we will extend your flight vouchers to the end of 2021. Furthermore, a number of passengers have contacted us to ask whether they could delay their flights because they are still shielding themselves (or family) or simply feel anxious about being with others at this time, and of course we will be pleased to accommodate these requests.
Can I book my flight date?
Yes! We have worked hard to get our flying schedule together for Spring and Summer. Please schedule your Spring or Summer balloon flight by visiting the redeem voucher section of this website.
What if I’m buying a new voucher?
We have increased the validity of all of our vouchers from 12 months to 18 months, just to give passengers added flexibility and more time in which to book.
As we get through this unprecedented crisis together, we thank you for supporting our small family business and we hope that you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well. We look forward to meeting you all in a field someday soon to embark on an exciting adventure into the sky.
The Balloons Over Britain Team
Page Last Updated: 26/03/21