Hot Air Balloon Ride in Jakkur Aero field, Bengaluru

I had tried hot air balloon in Pune few years ago- it had cost me 8k per person for the 30 mins ride,  8k per person for flight to Pune, another 8k for second trip as first time balloon ride couldn’t happen due to unfavorable weather and other expenses like car rental, stay etc. Thus is was pretty expensive affair overall, though we did enjoy the 30 odd minutes ride. [Read my Pune Hot Air Balloon experience with Skywaltz)

Recently I learnt about an option to try Hot Air balloon in Bengaluru- that was unusual so decided to probe more- the price Rs 1999 seemed affordable and upon enquiry I was told it will be a 10 minutes ride. That sounded reasonable- had paid 8000 earlier for 30 mins, so 10 mins for 2000 is proportionate. I decided to give it a try along with few family members and friends. Booking was done via MakeMyAdventures, who were marketing this and few other adventure activities in Jakkur Aerodrome. Confirmed availability of slots, made online payment and got confirmation and instructions next day. We were to report at Jakkur Aerodrome by 5.45 AM on the scheduled day (yesterday)
This post shares all the details and experiences about the short duration hot air balloon ride in Bengaluru that we tried.

We reached Jakkur Aerodrome on time, along with Shande. Having come here couple of times to fly xAir and ZenAir microlights, I was familiar with the location and formalities. It had rained last night- we arrived, did registration formalities and waited. There was a delay due to poor weather (strong wind). At around 6.30 the crew attempted to inflate the balloon, almost got it upright but then abandoned launch and deflated it, as pilot was finding it difficult to stabilize due to strong winds.

We waited for another 30 mins, it almost looked like they would pack-up- few staff tried convincing customers to take up para motoring or para sailing instead. The balloon had a big Royal Challenger Logo on it- probably hired by RC to promote them during IPL season. When it failed to take off, for a moment I wished it had CSK written on it.

One thing I learnt upon arriving at the venue was that this ride will be a tethered one-meaning the hot air balloon will be tied to ground through a rope. (Initially I thought it will be tied to the jeep, so that some moment can be allowed- but it is tied to ground on 3-4 sides, so absolutely no moving around possible, except some minor swaying and up and down movement.

In between we got to have a chat with the staff- below is what we are told
  • The balloon part of it costs about 26 lakhs (28 lakhs after customs) and has a life span of 400 hours (600 if maintained very well and used lightly)- this means for every hour of operation they lose about INR 7000+ in depreciation of balloon alone
  • It costs a lot just to maintain the balloon air worthy- few technicians and other crew need to be hired and paid, various checks need to be done at regular intervals and so on
  • Due to Aero India 2019 preparations, they don’t have permission to fly after Jan 1st in Jakkur
  • Their main operation is in Goa-where they operate under the brand Tiger Safaris and charge about 11000 for 45 mins flight- that is a free flow flight
  • They are constantly exploring newer locations to operate balloon but where location is good there won’t be enough accommodation options for customers to stay and report early morning and where there is accommodation it is hard to get all permission due to electric wires, buildings and other obstacles.
Some good news: However after checking weather and other factors crew made another attempt at about 7.15 and this time wind was not bad, so they could launch. We were the first group to board. Like I said my original thought was balloon will at least float around a bit inside the Jakkur aerodrome premises- but I was wrong- it was tied in all sides to ground, which meant there’s no horizontal movement possible. Only some minor swaying and vertical movement.
Jakkur is not the most scenic part, so the view was ok-ok- just the airfield below, highway nearby etc. Cloudy sky meant not so good pictures either. We could see para sailing folks taking off. In about 5 minutes our ride was over, we came down.

In this particular balloon, the burners were right over our head, so it was getting too hot to stand, particularly for tall people. I suggest you wear a cap or even a half face helmet if you’re very tall. The Pune one was a bigger balloon and had bigger basket and more gap between the burner and our head. An advise to wear hat or half face helmet would have helped.
Let me give a comparison with my Pune Experience in 2015 and the Bengaluru hot air balloon experience in December 2018
#
Factor
Bengaluru (Tethered
Pune (Free flow)
Remarks
1
Operator
Aero Adventures
Skywaltz

2
Marketed by
Make My Adventures
Skywaltz

3
Duration (claimed)
10 mins
30 mins

4
Duration (Actual)
5-7 mins depending on wind
20-30 mins depending on wind n landing spot

5
Horizontal distance moved
0 ft
Approx 8-10 kms

6
Vertical height reached
100-150 ft
600-800 ft approx

7
Type
Tethered (balloon tied to ground using rope)
Free (balloon floats freely and lands at different spot

8
Price per person
Rs 1999
Rs 8000

9
Per min
300-400
Rs 270-400

10
Cancellation policies
Similar
Similar

11
Refund
No
No
Only reschedule
12
Basket capacity
4-5 max
8-10

13
Refreshments
Drinking water only
Breakfast & tea

14
Photo/Video
NA
Available for purchase

15
Distance from city
10-15 kms
40-50 kms

16
Balloon Size
Smaller (4-5 pax max)
Bigger (8-10 people in basket)

The rope is 300 ft tall, but it wasn’t vertical- it was slant, so I guess we went up hardly 150-200 ft up in the air.

Some of the crucial information was not disclosed upfront- for example, duration of 10 minutes was revealed upon enquiry, no refund policy was communicated only after receiving payment, that it is tethered ballooning was told only after reaching the venue. I understand from a marketing point of view they need to delay bad news as much as possible to get more bookings, but to me, someone deliberately withholding information that affects my decision making is simply deception. If I had known about zero horizontal movement I would have probably skipped it- I was hoping it will move around at least within aerodrome premises. Anyway 2k I spent again I will write it off as the investment for this blog post. Hopefully my other guests enjoyed their short first time balloon ride.

Conclusion:
The short term hot air balloon ride being offered in Bengaluru's Jakkur Aerodrome is NOT for serious fun and adventure. However you can try this if following things excite you
  • You don’t fancy spending 8-11k on a balloon ride- prefer a cheaper option
  • You can’t travel to other cities like Goa, Jaipur etc where balloon ride happens in big scale
  • You’re fine to get a quick sample experience by spending 2k and decide if you’d like to do more later
  • You are fine to revisit some other time, if on the day of your booking weather is bad and balloon ride is cancelled
Few other activities conducted right now in Jakkur are:
Para sailing (INR 750 per ride, you’re pulled up into air by a jeep and get to sail about half a km/4-5 mins

Para motoring: INR 2000, you’ll flay in tandem in a motorized vehicle aided by a canopy. Read my detailed post on Para motoring experience. Saw at least 3 different operators of para motoring in Jakkur yesterday.

For bookings you may contact MakeMyAdventures (Ph:7349256119)

Microlight flying also happens in Jakkur, though I didn’t see any on my balloon ride day.

Before you book, keep in mind their refund policy
Balloon rides are subject to favorable wind conditions- if wind is too strong, ride will be cancelled. If your ride is cancelled, only reschedule is offered, no refund. You will have to come back some other day when there’re slots available. During most weekends I am told around 20-30 bookings are usually received in Bengaluru, as per what I am told. To be fair winds are in no ones control and the operator will still incur various costs even if the flight couldn't be conducted. If you're in same city, rescheduling would work- you can come back later. Rescheduling will be an issue if you're traveling from a different city.
Balloon rides around the world
The cheapest I have seen abroad was in Kaunas, Lithuania where a ride could be tried for 99 Euros. Balloon rides are very popular in Turkey, Australia and many countries around the world. Pricing largely depends on the country, duration of flight, additional services offered (hotel pickup etc) and so on. The no-refund only reschedule policy is almost same everywhere, so you need to factor some extra days for second attempt, if the take off doesn't happen on the day of your booking due to bad weather.

You could also try attend balloon festivals- happens once in a while in Chennai, Pollachi, Vizag etc

Read more Adventure blog posts here

Watch a 4 min video of our balloon ride experience in Bengaluru's Jakkur Aerodrome [Youtube link]

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