As much as we hate to admit it, our industry — like many others — has had its share of disreputable businesses and unreliable owners.
Hot air ballooning requires very specialized skills and is very labor intensive. The price you pay is not cheap and we realize that. We want you to get the most for your hard earned dollar. Whether you ultimately purchase your flight with The Lake Geneva Balloon Company or not, the following tips to help you make your decision easier and avoid an unpleasant purchase experience.
1. DO NOT purchase your flight certificate from a national ticket broker offering Nationwide Certificates… buy local and fly local.
In recent times, balloon ride ticket brokers have popped up running advertisements in hundreds or of local newspapers nationwide. What isn’t mentioned in the ad is that none of these companies actually own balloons. These “brokers” are often selling flights based on these ads for $180 to $200. They then pay the “local” pilot who completes the flight $115 to $120 per passenger.
In our experience in the business, we have noticed that many of the “local” operators listed by the brokers do not even accept their certificates. The brokers list as many “local” operators as possible to make themselves more appealing.
Additionally, we have found that the “local” operators almost always sell their own flights for substantially more than they receive from the “brokers”. They view the “brokers” certificates as “filler” when they can’t schedule their own passengers. Consequently, you will always be treated differently by the “local” balloon ride operator because of your “broker certificate.” It’s just not worth it economically for the “local” pilot if he has his own passengers.
Please note: The Lake Geneva Balloon Company only accepts certificates purchased from us directly. Nationwide certificates are not honored. For more information about ticket brokers and Nationwide Certificates, please visit www.localballooning.com.
2. Ask for and check references
Reputable balloon ride operators who deal with the public in an honest and trustworthy way are always well-known in their local communities. Call the local chamber of commerce or tourism bureau and ask about the reputation of the operator. Call some of the local resorts and speak to the concierge or call the local Bed n Breakfast operators and ask questions. These local sources are the best source of information.
Ask the operator for a list of satisfied guests. Can they give a personal testimonial? Does the operator have an active list of testimonials on the website?
Finally, you can call the Better Business Bureau for your state and run a check on the company to see if they have unresolved complaints against them.
3. Find out if the company’s flight certificates have an expiration date
Many balloon ride companies place an expiration date of 12 to 18 months on their Flight & Gift Certificates. If you are unable to redeem your certificate before that date you must pay a “reinstatement fee” that varies from company to company.
Since ballooning requires such specific weather conditions for a safe flight and since we live in the midwest, it is not unusual for guests to experience several cancellations before completing their flight. It is not always possible for a guest to redeem their flight the first summer, especially if they have a busy schedule and aren’t able to make it to our area often.
The Lake Geneva Balloon Company does not put expiration dates on our certificates. As long as your certificate is “active” (meaning you’ve scheduled at least one attempt in the past year) we will honor it.
4. Ask about the company’s Cancellation Policy for guests
Balloon ride companies in the Midwest have a very short season to make their profits… it’s that simple. Each company wants to make sure each basket is full on every flight so they require 48-72 hours notice for a guest wishing to cancel a reservation. Make sure you know the specifics of your balloon company’s Cancellation Policy. It can be costly if you “no show” or forget a scheduled flight. Most companies will void your certificate and claim your down payment as forfeited for missing a scheduled flight.
5. Check the company’s Refund Policy
Each company has a different policy on Refunds. The point is that you want to be familiar with each company’s policy and ask for it in writing. The company’s rules and procedures regarding refunds should be clearly explained and consistently applied.
6. Request Proof of Insurance
In our experience, we have noticed that most of the companies we’ve worked with over the years have been well insured. Although ballooning is a very safe and pleasurable experience, every business should be adequately insured and the businesses in our industry are no exception. You can request a Proof of Insurance from the the balloon ride operator.