I was very disappointed in Balloons Above The Valley. My wife and I booked our flight back in February, and traveled from Chicago to Yountville to celebrate our 20th anniversary in July. We expected a romantic early morning flight above the vineyards, but got much less than we expected and paid for.
We arrived at 5:30AM ready for our launch. We filled out the waiver, given a cryptic group number and loaded into vans by group to travel to the launch point. At the launch point they started inflating the balloons and launching them. It was at that point we learned that we were relegated to the second "hop" of the day. We were stuck riding in the chase van while we watched the balloons from the ground. We were miles from our car, no chance to just leave.
BATV launched two balloons each capable of carrying 16. They overbooked by 14. I don't know how they selected us, but all 14 of us on the second hop seemed to be from out of state. My guess is that they figured their reputation would be safe since we wouldn't be around to spread the word.
The other Napa valley balloon operators launched at the same time, from the same place. NONE had a second hop and all of their flights were in the air between 45 to 60 minutes.
Once the first group landed in the vineyards around 8:30, they loaded us and launched again. We were in the air no more than 35 minutes from takeoff to touchdown, and because the valley air warmed, there was no wind. Where the other flight traveled a couple of miles from the launch point, we barely moved.
I wish I had done more research before we selected Balloons Above The Valley. I recommend finding an operator that has smaller balloons and baskets and make sure you specify you want the first Flight / Hop of the day.
We tried not to let the experience ruin our anniversary. Its a sure bet, I wont be flying with them ever again.
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