Looking to buy a flight?
 
The following should help you make your decision.

Having made the decision to buy a balloon flight for either yourself or as a gift for someone else, it's likely that you are now visiting numerous web sites to see what is available.  There are quite a number of companies offering various options and you may be finding it difficult to make a final choice. The following is an impartial guide that, hopefully, will assist you with your purchase.
 
Hot Air Ballooning is totally weather dependent. Be aware that you may not get your flight on your first attempt. On average passengers will get their flight within the first three attempts, but occasionally the weather will not be suitable to fly and it can take a few attempts before you find yourself airborne.
 
Availability of flights is very important. For many reasons, some operators do not show the availability of spaces on their web site, and if you therefore want a flight on a particular date, it may be advisable to check availability with the operator by telephone before making your purchase.  
 
Even if you book a flight from a particular launch site, please bear in mind that flights will occasionally be moved from the booked launch site for operational reasons, such as wind directions that would take the balloon into controlled airspace or built up areas, etc

Many companies close down for the Winter (October – March). That could be five or six months of your twelve months validity on your voucher, so it's important to know what the company's rules are on voucher extensions if you haven't been able to take your flight during the summer.
 
For example, a flight voucher is usually valid for one year from the gift date. In that year you would be expected to make a few attempts to fly, and some companies specify a minimum number of attempts before the voucher can be extended. 

Should you not have made sufficient attempts to fly you may then be asked to pay an extension fee to extend the voucher validity period, so whilst it pays to be pro-active in re-booking a flight as soon as you can following a cancellation, you may wish to check the operator's requirements and costs in the event that you have to pay for an extension.
 
Refunds: This is important - most companies sell only non-refundable vouchers, so please check the refund policy of the company before you book if the possibility of the cancellation of your original booking is likely to be a problem for you. 
 
Take care if the deal looks too good to be true: Balloon flights tend to cost broadly the same, and although some operators are able to offer reasonable discounts at certain times of the year or in certain areas, do exercise caution if a flight is advertised well below the average market price.

Finally, and perhaps the most important of all: If they are to fly fare-paying passengers, operators need to have notified their operation at the Civil Aviation Authority, carry an appropriate level of insurance, and use commercially-licensed pilots.