How Many Passengers Fit in a Hot Air Balloon?
A hot air balloon can seat several passengers at once, depending on the size of the balloon and other factors. But just how many?
It depends. Let's get into it.
A typical hot air balloon can carry 3 to 5 people, depending on how big it is and what kind of trip you’re planning on taking.
While a smaller, more compact model might hold 3 to 4 passengers, a larger hot air balloon might be able to haul 7 or 8 people for an hour-long tour.
As you may have already found out from your research searching for the best hot air balloon rides, there are a lot of different sized hot air balloons. In fact, many companies have a fleet of different balloons to handle demand and a wide variety of trips.
Let's take a look at the many variables involved to accurately determine how many people can fit in a hot air balloon.
The size of a hot air balloon basket, also known as a gondola, is limited by how much weight you can take in your wicker or bamboo arches. The larger your basket, however, the more stable it will be and thus able to carry more people.
Baskets that can hold 3-4 adults comfortably usually have a circumference around 5 feet. Bigger baskets that hold 6-8 passengers often have circumferences around 6 feet.
The envelope volume determines how many people can ride in a hot air balloon.
A hot air balloon works because when you heat the air inside the balloon envelope, the molecules start to move faster and spread further apart. That means that there are fewer molecules inside the balloon, making it lighter than the air outside of it.
Each cubic foot of hot air is roughly 7 grams lighter than cold air. This is why balloons are massive. To lift 1,000 pounds, a hot air balloon needs to be about 65,000 cubic feet. The bigger the balloon envelope, the more air you can heat up inside, which helps allow for more occupancy.
The number of people who can comfortably fly in a hot air balloon is also determined by temperature. Air density increases and decreases depending on ambient temperature, which affects how much lift your craft will be able to produce.
According to NASA, 70 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for flight. In cooler or warmer temperatures, you’ll experience less lift—meaning fewer passengers should be carried.
Pilots will look at Maximum Allowable Gross Weight ahead of a flight. This is the maximum amount of weight that a balloon may lift, under standard conditions. For reference, an average of 1,000 cubic feet of air, when heated, will lift around 20 pounds.
They will also look at useful lift (load). In aviation, this is the potential weight of the pilot, passengers, equipment, and fuel. It is the basic empty weight of the aircraft (which should be found in the flight manual for each balloon) subtracted from the maximum allowable gross weight.
This term is frequently confused with payload, which in aviation is defined as the weight of occupants, cargo, and baggage.
The number of crew members depends upon the size of the balloon, purpose of the flight, terrain, and other factors.
When using a small balloon for instruction, a crew of three people, including the instructor, student, and one crew, may be sufficient. For passenger flights in large balloons, a larger number of crewmembers are generally required.
Wondering whether hot air balloons have weight limits? They do! Similar to other aircraft, hot air balloons that bear commercial passengers have obtained certifications from the Federal Aviation (FAA) when it comes to weight restrictions. This is because the gross weight affects the overall performance of the balloon flight.
Normally, the weight limit for hot air balloons is 1,000 pounds, but it depends on different factors. These include the size of the vessel, weather condition, and the basket and the flying equipment. Other considerations include the type of ride you booked and the specific rules set by the pilot.
Companies or pilots will need your weight details so they can determine how many people the hot air balloon can accommodate based on the gross weight restriction. Usually, if you exceed 200 pounds, you may have to pay double or get a discounted price.
Hot air flight companies have the liberty to reject your booking, given that it can affect the ideal number of passengers allowed for the flight. It’s best to verify the maximum weight limit with the company.
All pilots ask their passengers to be weighed before a flight as it is important information for both passengers and pilots.
Each has corresponding weight limitations depending on how large the balloons are. While there are no weight restrictions for individual passengers, each balloon has a weight limitation set by the Hot Air Balloons Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Pilots ask for a passenger's weight to calculate the maximum number of people that can board the balloon safely. They must ensure that their load is within the suitable range. By providing your weight, operators can ensure that the basket is loaded correctly relative to the lift capacity of the balloon and weather conditions.
Determining the amount of passengers a hot air balloon can fly isn't always super cut and dry.
Nobody knows a balloon better than the pilot. They have thousands of hours in training and flight experience that allow them to make the right decisions about occupancy for their aircraft.
Use this guide as a general resource. For pilots looking for more detailed information, we recommend referencing the Balloon Flying Handbook provided by the FAA.