Hot Air Ballooning During 2020 And The COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 And Hot Air Balloon Rides – How We Adapted To The 2020 Pandemic
It is clear to see that 2020 has been far from normal and had a huge impact on the way we live our lives due to COVID-19. It has also had an enormous effect on the world of hot air ballooning. We have had to constantly evolve and adapt how we operate as we learn more about the virus.
Following Boris Johnson’s announcement in March we were prohibited from flying hot air balloons due to the close proximity of passengers – totally understandable. We were happy to do what we could to stop the spread of the virus and support our NHS throughout this crazy time. The no flying restrictions continued for many months through the spring and summer. Unfortunately this is usually when we do the majority of our flying.
Relaxing of COVID-19 Restrictions
However, at the beginning of July we got some good news! We were able to begin operating our ‘Exclusive For 2’ balloon again, with some COIVD-19 secure tweaks. This balloon carries just 2 passengers plus the pilot so, with the help of masks and hand sanitiser, the risk of infection was incredibly low. It was a great success and the feeling of flying again after such a long break was incredible!
Towards the end of July, we got some even better news! The Department for Transport had granted us an exemption. Therefore we were able to operate the larger 16-man balloons if we so wished – as long as all passengers were masked and showing no COVID-19 symptoms. We created a web page to show the passengers what would be involved in a COVID-19 secure hot air balloon flight. We tried to be as transparent as possible and highlight the COVID-19 risks involved. This way, passengers could make up their own mind on whether they wanted to fly or not. We did not want anyone to put themselves at risk.
Following a few tests flights and further tweaks to our system we decided to release a full schedule for the remainder of the flying season. We had a hugely positive response from passengers, claiming that they felt very safe and there was no more we could do to reduce the risk of infection. Since July we have successfully flown over 500 passengers, and had 0 positive COVID-19 results. This is the most of any hot air balloon ride operator in the UK this year. It is nothing compared to our usually figures, but in a year as bizarre as 2020 we will gladly take it.
Now we are heading into winter and the weather is rapidly deteriorating for hot air balloon flights. Hopefully we can get a better control of the virus through the winter period and we can fully scale up our operation for 2021 – but who knows! Regardless, we look forward to meeting all of our passengers someday soon.