Why Are Hot Air Balloon Rides So Expensive?


Hot air balloon rides are awesome. Unfortunately, like a lot of awesome things, they’re also very expensive. Why is this? Who is to blame? Capitalism? Corporate greed?

Hot air balloon rides are expensive because of the massive costs incurred by operating a hot air balloon ride company. The cost of the hot air balloons themselves, fuel, maintenance, and transportation all contribute to these costs. Also, hot air balloon ride companies will raise or lower their prices based on their competition’s prices.

Below, we’ll explore some of the many reasons why this wonderful activity costs so much. You may be surprised to learn that hot air balloon rides could cost much, much more!

Costs of Owning a Balloon

Hot air balloons are expensive. Not expensive like a new Xbox, expensive like a new car. If you’re in the market to buy a new hot air balloon, you’ll easily spend $20,000-$40,000.

If you’re looking to get a hot air balloon that can carry 12-16 people, get ready to spend upwards of $80,000. That just so happens to be the same cost as a Tesla X.

Balloons, Maintenance, Fuel, and More!

So for a business to get a fleet of four or six balloons (that’s on the smaller side), you’re looking at costs in excess of $200,000. That’s just to have the balloons in the first place.

Then, you have to factor in the cost of maintenance, fuel, and transportation. Each of those will be recurring costs for as long as a company owns and uses a balloon.

Maintenance is the hardest cost to get a beat on. There are yearly inspections that a balloon needs to be in tip top shape for, but something could break at any time.

For example, a hard landing could damage the basket. An envelope could get a tear. A burner could go bad and need replacing. To be financially responsible, it makes sense to have enough money to be prepared for the unexpected.

Fuel is actually relatively cheap. Or, should I say, fuel is comparatively cheap. Compared to other costs, fuel is really the least of your concerns.

It’s kind of like owning a car. The car itself is the most expensive, then the car insurance, then the random noises that need fixing, and then the cost of gas (unless we go to war with Iran).

Of course, there’s also the cost of transporting the balloon from place to place. Plus, you’ll have to have somewhere to keep the balloons. That’s more money.

So, the lesson is that the balloons are expensive. The more you own and the more often you fly them, the more expensive they become.

Costs of Owning a Business

Owning a business is surprisingly expensive. If you don’t believe me, just look up Michael Scott’s Paper Company. If you still don’t believe me, just try starting your own company.

Okay, now that you’re back from doing that, let’s talk costs of owning a business. When it comes to owning a hot air balloon ride company, there aren’t too many unique costs.

Most companies will have the following costs. What really makes a hot air balloon company so expensive is that these costs come on top of owning and maintaining a fleet of hot air balloons.

That having been said, you can’t disregard the costs of the business itself. Let’s take a close look!

Employees

Spoiler alert: employees cost money. If you thought that was shocking, strap in for this revelation: businesses need employees to operate.

If you haven’t gone into shock after reading the above paragraph, consider how quickly paying employees can add up. First things first, you need pilots.

There aren’t a ton of pilots out there, so you’ll have to make them an okay offer. Normally this isn’t their only source of income though, so paying your pilots won’t break the bank.

Then you’ll need crew members. These people transport passengers and the balloon itself, drive the chase vehicle and help set up and put away the balloon.

Again, not too expensive, but you might need a couple of these.

Then you might need an office person. This is the person in charge of scheduling, payments, and payroll. The more business you have, the more office people you’ll need.

Then you have to decide if you’re paying by the hour, paying salary, and whether or not you’ll offer benefits for your more permanent employees.

Suddenly you’re looking at a good chunk of change for your employees!

Marketing

Having a balloon and employees is no good if people don’t know you exist. As someone who has spent numerous hours researching hot air balloon ride companies, let me tell you that marketing matters.

If your website doesn’t come up on the first page of Google when someone searches for “hot air balloons near me”, you’re in trouble. So, you’ll need a marketing budget.

Of course, there are other ways to market too. The power of word of mouth is still relevant. You can take out ads in your local newspaper, partner with local businesses, or start a YouTube channel.

A lot of your success will be based in your location. Find somewhere there is a high population or lots of tourists!

At the end of the day, people need to know you exist. On top of that, they need to be excited about getting in a hot air balloon. If they aren’t, then you’re dead in the water.

In any case, the reality is that a hot air balloon ride company needs marketing, and marketing costs money.

“The first requirement of a ride business is having a good supply of potential passengers either by having a large population close by or by being in an area where tourists regularly visit.”

“The Balloon Ride Business”
Extra Services

As a hot air balloon ride company gets bigger, they’ll start to offer extra services. This is pretty standard stuff, but it does mean there are more costs to be aware of.

For example, it’s traditional to have a drink of champagne or sparkling cider at the end of a hot air balloon ride. One bottle of each per flight starts to add up over time.

Another common service is providing a breakfast snack. A lot of flights take place in the morning, so it isn’t uncommon to offer bagels, orange juice, or something like that.

Then there’s the transportation of passengers. Whether that means driving passengers to the take-off site, driving them back to their cars, or both, that’s an additional service that will cost money.

Some companies will also offer optional charges. For example, onboard photography could be offered for $15 a person. Or maybe you can offer special, romantic banners.

There are even companies that offer all-out wedding, birthday, or anniversary packages. Being prepared to offer these services will have an upfront cost.

I’m sure that there are plenty of other services that could be offered. Just like the ones we’ve mentioned, they all cost money.

Other Costs

This is really a wide open field for any business. There could be all sorts of things a business might spend their money on. However, many of these costs are related to expansion.

Maybe a company is large enough that it needs an office. Then there will be a cost for finding an office space. Plus there’s the cost of all the associated office supplies, including phones, computers, and internet.

It would be beyond prudent to have some insurance. It is highly unlikely that anyone will be harmed while hot air ballooning, but it does happen from time to time.

If something does go wrong, someone gets hurt, and you have no insurance, you’re sunk.

Larger companies might advertise at hot air balloon festivals or local events. All of that is going to cost money (although it is an important investment for any company looking to grow).

Basically, business is rarely linear or static. As markets change, costs will change too.

Making a Profit

Keeping all of those things in mind, it’s actually kind of amazing that hot air balloon rides are as cheap as they are. I’m no accountant, but I’d say prices could be much higher!

It is important for these businesses to make a profit. If they don’t, then there would be no hot air balloon ride companies. Each of us would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to own a hot air balloon of our own.

Plus, if you’re a hot air balloon enthusiast, then it’s nice to put money into an activity you enjoy and want to support.

So maybe the question shouldn’t be “why are hot air balloon rides so expensive”? Maybe it should be “how are hot air balloon rides so cheap”?

In any case, I’m sure we’re all glad these companies exist and offer the services they do. They make it possible for all of us to safely enjoy our passion for hot air ballooning!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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