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Covid 19 Update - please read this.
4.00pm 11th September 2020
Please read our latest update following the most recent changes by the Government regarding hot air balloon flights.
In early July the Department of Transport gave permission for commercial hot air balloon flights to resume with up to 5 passengers and pilot. This was an unsafe number of passengers for balloon operators in the UK who all use baskets designed to take not less than 12 passengers as a required minimum take off weight. After further negotiation and discussion, in late July, the DofT then gave our industry the green light to re-commence flights in our larger balloons to their full capacity, with considerable social distancing precautions being necessary.
However, in addition to imposing conditions that we felt would undermine the enjoyment of the flight experience, the DofT's lighter touch approach created a situation where passengers would have necessarily had to ignore any social distancing whilst standing shoulder to shoulder with people of different ages, from different areas and households. In addition to the flight, passengers would also be in close proximity to each other in the vehicle used for their return from the landing to the balloon take off site. We could not accept there was any scientific basis behind this change of view. As an industry the protocols were considered carefully and a near unanimous decision was made by all UK balloon operators not to fly passenger balloons in the UK until there was clear evidence the virus was reliably receding. Since late July we have seen repeated "hot spots" occur across the UK, providing reinforcement to the view that now is not the time to go ballooning with passengers.
After further consideration and monitoring of the situation in the subsequent period, and the Governments briefing on 9th September, we have now come to a very sad and hard decision not to fly our large passenger balloons for the rest of the season, which ends in October. We are sorry that we are bringing you such disappointing news but hope that you can understand that this is due to COVID-19 and circumstances beyond our control. It’s been a very tough year for everybody, particularly small businesses such as ours, and we are very much looking forward to flying you next year.
Given the uncertainty of what the winter period may bring, we will not issue new flight dates for the 2021 season until early March 2021 when we very much hope matters will be clearer. As stated before, the remaining validity current at 1st April 2020 for all our voucher holders will be re-instated when we release 2021 season dates to restart flying in 2021. So for example, if your voucher expired on the 1st of July 2020, it would have had three months of validity remaining and we will add this from the date we restart flying. So, - when we do restart flying, (hopefully 1st April 2021) it will be extended by three flying months whenever that start date is. As we don't yet know when exactly we will be able to restart flying we will not be able to extend the validity of vouchers until that time. We hope that makes sense to you. Clearly if we are unable to restart on the 1st April, our news page on the customer log in pages will keep you informed if there is to be any further delay.
On a more general note, please be assured that we are a very long-established and financially stable business. We hold reserves in preparation for situations such as we currently face, and have previously operated through challenges such as the foot and mouth crisis when hot air ballooning completely ceased in the UK for seven months.
Our staff will continue to work remotely until we return to flying and will update the news page if there are any significant changes and you can view this on the news tab of your customer login. Meanwhile we hope you enjoy your autumn and winter, stay safe and log in again to your customer record at the beginning of March 2021.
We look forward to meeting you at one of our launch sites in 2021 to embark on an exciting adventure in the skies.
Click on My Details and book yourself onto a flight. Here are a few useful tips which can improve your experience with Henley Balloons.
To help you, on the occasions where our flight team can see that a flight is going to be clearly unsuitable to fly earlier than our normal weatherline call in times we will text you to give you more notice. So make sure we have an up to date mobile for you that receives texts if you have one. But please remember that you must still call into the weatherline to check if we don't text you because no text means the weather outlook is probably good! Please do not call the office to ask if flights are likely to go ahead as they will not be able to give you any information.
You may also like to register as a standby passenger using the standby tab in My Details. If you are flexible in your availability to fly we will then be able to text you about any short notice space that may become available before the date you have booked. We only send standby texts if the weather is good, so if you can make it you are pretty much guaranteed to fly.
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