Is 1-800-SKY-RIDE a SkyScam?
There are hundreds of reputable balloon ride companies worldwide, ranging from small single balloon part time operations to large companies flying in multiple cities.
In the US, there is a company who has been selling gift certificates for both balloon rides and skydiving for several years, even though, to our knowledge, they do not own or operate any commercial balloon ride operations themselves.
The company is known as 1-800-SKY-RIDE, and they operate hundreds of websites that give the impression each is run by a local company. Take a look at this page for a list of a small fraction of their ballooning websites.
You'll see the sites are nearly identical, even the "testimonials". They all list the same phone numbers, 800-585-5555 or 800-761-5867. For an in-depth look at the hundreds of websites they operate, visit this site: Skyride web sites.
As far as ballooning goes, their business model appears to be to sell gift certificates for balloon rides, then pay a local ride company after the certificate holder takes their ride. At first glance this doesn't seem to be bad, but talk within the ballooning and skydiving communites paints a very different picture.
Several balloonists throughout the USA report SkyRides certificate holders calling to schedule a ride, when the company does not accept SkyRides Certificates. The balloon company owners report that the certificate holders were given the local company's name and phone number as accepting them.
Mike Shrum, the only balloon pilot in Soccorro, New Mexico, said this:
"The one thing that bothers me the most is they claim they have a pilot
in Socorro New Mexico. I had my wife call them and inquire about a ride, and
they could not tell her who that pilot was. I am the ONLY balloon pilot in
Socorro. I do not recall ever contracting with these folks. Never talked to
them. They would not even tell her that it might be a pilot from another
town, safety record, years of experience, etc. and she asked ALL of these
It is my PERSONAL opinion, they are scammers. Buy the ride, and continue to
cancel or reschedule the ride until the customer goes away.That is the only
facts I have on the subject" more
The Chicago Sun-Times Consumer affairs column "The Fixer" says this in the November 13, 2006 edition:
"1-800-SKY-RIDE, the Georgia company we wrote about in August, has racked up 183 complaints with the BBB over the last three years. It has an unsatisfactory record for not responding to consumers whose flights never took place -- in some cases because the loal balloon or sky-dive operators wouldn't accept the company's certificates. Some consumers have complained that the "no refund" policy wasn't explained clearly. The Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs is investigating."
Stories from unhappy customers can be found on the internet. Here's one from someone who tried to fly in Minnesota while on vacation. The author explains the run-around they got: Unhappy 1-800-SKY-RIDE customer
SkyRides has upset much of the skydiving community, too. SkyDive Arizona filed suit against the pricipals of 1-800-SKY-RIDE, alleging violations of federal law prohibiting false designations of origin, false or misleading descriptions of fact, and false or misleading representations of fact in commercial advertising. According to the complaint, the named defendants misrepresent the nature, characteristics, qualities, and geographic origin of their services and commercial activities. The complaint also alleges claims of consumer deception, unfair competition, and trademark infringement.
Read more about the SkyRides Lawsuit. Funjumper.com has detailed the company's alleged practices here.
Other complaints on 1-800-Sky-Ride:
Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs files lawsuit against on-line provider of extreme outdoor adventures
Be sure you know who you are dealing with when you buy a balloon ride gift certificate. We present the above information to help consumers make a smart buying decision.
Related: Sampling of 1-800-SKY-RIDE balloon websites
Related: Are Thrill Planet and 800skyride related?
Related: Update on misleading ballooning websites