With the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta taking place at the end of the week, we’ve got balloons on the brain. But what exactly is involved in a hot air balloon flight? Jo Bailey, Director of Bailey Balloons enlightens us:

Jo Bailey

Image - Jo Bailey, Bailey Balloons

Ballooning is fascinating, not just the flight itself, but the whole experience from beginning to end. Here’s how a balloon flight works with Bailey Balloons…

Meeting and Inflating

Our passengers are required to meet at a designated time and place after calling a special pre-flight check-in line. Upon arrival, passengers meet their pilot and crew for the flight and are invited to get involved with setting up the balloon for its flight. The first step is for the crew to unload the basket off the back of the trailer. The next step is to unfurl the balloon (known as the envelope) out of the bag which it is stored in, the pilot then gives a safety briefing for all the passengers. Passengers can help set up the envelope and then it is inflated with cold air from a huge fan. Once the balloon has been cold-inflated, we add heat with the burners to make the balloon stand up right. After this the balloon is ready to fly.

Balloon flight

Image - Preparing the balloon, credit Paul Box

Taking off

Once the balloon has been prepared and safety checks have been done, the pilot will activate the burner and produce big flames which will start to make the balloon rise. After a reminder of the safety briefing it’s up, up and away!

Balloon fiesta

Image - preparing the balloon, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Paul Box

Balloon flight

The wind is the determining factor of where the balloon will go. Balloons always travel with the wind and this is what makes every flight different. Once you’re in the air there is no feeling of movement, total peacefulness. All our pilots, including Clive Bailey, have flown balloons all over the world so they are very experienced. Clive even flew Sir David Attenborough and a camera crew over the Swiss Alps last year for the filming of the BBC’s Planet Earth II!

Bailey Balloons

Image - Bailey Balloons new balloon in flight


When the balloon is ready to land the pilot will choose a suitable spot - usually a field. The Bailey Balloons crew on the ground will be in constant contact with your pilot, so they know where you will land. The balloon will slowly descend and get closer to the ground before touching down, sometimes there is a slight bump on landing.

Ballooning and the weather

Ballooning is a weather dependant activity. This means that if the weather is not suitable or safe for balloons, your flight won’t go ahead as planned. If a pilot feels a balloon flight will not be safe and comfortable for passengers, they won’t fly and they will never take risks. For some passengers, booking a flight will take a few attempts and for others, they may fly on their first time.

For a balloon flight, winds need to be light - not just on the ground, but at various flight levels too (often 500ft and 1000ft). There also needs to be no rain and good visibility. Unfortunately, even though we would like to, we can’t control the weather! 

Balloon fiesta

Image - Balloon Fiesta balloons in flight, credit Paul Box

Now you know the ins and outs (or should that be ups and downs?), why not take to the skies yourself and experience the magic? There are still flights available with Bailey Balloons at this weekend’s Balloon Fiesta (10-13 August), but they are filling up fast…call 01275 375 300 to book a flight. Hurry!

Keep an eye on the Bristol International Fiesta website and social media feeds for all up-to-date information and news about the mass ascents @Bristolballoon (twitterinstagramfacebook).