Hot air balloons are timeless. They seem to float through the air without effort, without worry, and independent of the laws of the universe. However, the truth is that what goes up must come down!
Most commercial hot air balloon rides last one or two hours, although some can be a little longer or a little shorter. This is mainly because of the amount of fuel a hot air balloon can use, especially when weighed down by multiple passengers. Weather also effects flight duration.
Are there shorter rides available? How long can a hot air balloon ride really last? Should I use the bathroom before we take off? All of these questions and more answered below!
Average Flight Length (With Examples!)
When we talk about how long the “average” hot air balloon ride is, we’re talking about commercial flights. These are the flights you pay a company for.
In terms of how long private flights last, it’s really up to the owner of the balloon. We’ll discuss some of the limitations of flight duration below!
The average commercial hot air balloon flight lasts between one and two hours. Naturally, the longer you want to be in the air, the more money it will cost you.
There are a handful of options out there that fly for less than an hour. There are many more options for longer hot air balloon rides. Got to make that money!
Of course, it makes sense to have more availability for longer flights! Most people want longer flights. Give the people what they want!
It also makes sense to charge more for longer flights. There are a lot of things that a passenger is paying for when they buy a flight, but one of the primary and upfront costs is the cost of fuel.
So the longer a hot air balloon ride lasts, the more fuel it burns, the more it costs! Of course, hot air balloon rides are already expensive, so most hot air balloon rides meet the market by having rides last one to two hours.
Let’s look at some real examples of how long hot air balloon rides last!
1) The United States Hot Air Balloon Team
This company has flights all over the east coast and provides an excellent service to tons of passengers every year. They have flights in Lancaster, Gettysburg, Hershey, and elsewhere!
The advertised time is three hours round trip. That time includes set up, the flight, and refreshments afterward. This is a smart way to advertise so people really know what to expect!
The actual flight duration is one hour in the air! That’s right perfectly average!
2) U-Ken-Do Ballooning
U-Ken-Do Ballooning is based in northern Vermont, another east coast company! They specialize in flying near the Lake Champlain area!
This company offers a couple of different time options, including one very unique one! Their average flight lasts for one hour. However, for larger groups, their is a shorter option.
With a group of five to eight passengers, you can split your group in two for two thirty minute rides. This is one of the shorter options available! You can also hire them for a tethered balloon experience that only lasts five to seven minutes.
3) Napa Valley Balloons
Heading over to the west coast we have Napa Valley Balloons. This is one of the premier hot air balloon ride companies in California. They also happen to fly over one of the most beautiful places on the planet!
Their average hot air balloon ride lasts 45 minutes to an hour, but the whole experience can take up to four hours. One of the longer experiences overall with a slightly shorter time in the air!
How Long Could a Flight Last?
Now that we’ve covered how long an average flight lasts, let’s talk about how long a flight could last. The truth is that it could last for a really long time. But there are some obstacles.
Let’s look at the challenges, both serious and otherwise.
There are two basic obstacles that face pilots wanting to go on longer flights, and then some sub-obstacles. The two main obstacles are weight and fuel.
Unfortunately, these issues are totally cyclical. For a long trip, you want as much fuel as possible. The more fuel you have, the farther you can go. Once you’re out of fuel, you’re dead in the air.
On the other hand, the less weight you have, the less fuel you burn. So, lighter hot air balloons can go farther with less fuel! Of course, that brings us to the crux of the issue.
Which one do you choose? Weight or fuel?
Well, as it turns out, there have been hot air balloons that have stayed in the air for a really long time. Like 20 days long! As it turns out, they were normally on the heavier side.
That having been said, those hot air balloons were specially made by engineering experts. So while we can each do our best to make hot air balloons fly longer, there are some things that should be left to the experts!
Major issues aside, there are some more minor issues that do need to be addressed. These may seem less than serious, but I assure you that they will seem very serious when you have to deal with them.
First off, there’s the bathroom issue. When nature calls, humankind answers. So what do you do when you’re 1,500 feet up in the air? Do you just yell, “heads up!”?
I mean, you can only carry so many water bottles. Plus, there’s the issue of when you need something more than a water balloon.
Secondly, having enough food is a problem. If you’re like me, you love food. And not just any food, good food. Steak, hamburgers, pizza, cake, etc. It’s kind of hard to fit all that food in a hot air balloon basket!
Third, what do you do when you need to sleep? Curl up into a really, really small ball? That can’t be comfortable, right? I guess you could learn how to sleep standing up!
No matter what you do, don’t roll off the bed!
Lastly, you have to figure out how to have some entertainment up there! Ballooning is cool, but only for so long. Maybe you could bring a book, but not a heavy one. A magazine perhaps?
When speaking about how you spend your time, it’s always important to consider opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is defined as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen”.
In English, that means that when you do something, the opportunity cost is missing out on what you could’ve been doing. You spend an hour watching TV? You could’ve spent an hour exercising. Boom. Opportunity cost.
So now that we’ve discussed how long a hot air balloon ride lasts, how much does it cost? Not in financial terms, but what is the opportunity cost?
Well, if the average hot air balloon ride costs one hour, plus one hour for traveling, what else could you do with those two hours?
You could bake a cake, read several chapters in a book, clean the house, watch a movie, go to dinner with friends, take a nap, play a board game, go on a hike, clear out your inbox, or go to the zoo.
The question is, are any of those things better than spending an hour in the air? Well, let’s look at it this way.
Want some time in nature? Go hot air ballooning. Want time with friends? Hot air ballooning? Also want some peace and quiet? Ballooning. Want a new experience? Ballooning. Want to have a rush? Ballooning.
I think you get the picture. Hot air ballooning is awesome.
So if you think two hours or more is a lot to sacrifice, just think about the opportunity cost. And trust me, once you go, you’ll be bummed that you only had one hour in the air.
Maybe the question isn’t how long does a hot air balloon ride last, but how long is it until you go on a hot air balloon ride? Food for thought.