Pewsey-based hot air balloon operator Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd has gone into administration, leaving hundreds of pre-paid customers grounded, and around 30 people out of a job.
The company traded from Woodborough under the name Go Ballooning. It has previously traded as Horizon Ballooning and High Adventure Balloons.
Its website was taken down last week, and was today today replaced by a message which reads: “The Company is deeply saddened to advise that after successfully trading for over 25 years and flying many tens of thousands of customers we have had to take the very difficult decision to cease trading.
“The company has been and will continue to work with the liquidator to attempt to formulate a solution for customers.” It advised customers to log back on from Tuesday, April 9.
In a statement, The British Association of Balloon Operators (BABO), the UK trade body for commercial hot air balloon operators, of which Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd was not a member, said: “For some considerable time, the BABO committee has been of the opinion that Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd’s business model was seriously flawed, and drew to the directors’ attention as far back as November 2010 the unacceptably high number of passenger complaints BABO was receiving with regard to their operation.
“Furthermore, since mid-July 2011 BABO have had several conversations and correspondence with Wiltshire Trading Standards regarding concerns over the level of customer complaints pertaining to Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd. However Wiltshire Trading Standards felt there was no further action required on their behalf.
“We deeply regret the distress and financial penalty suffered by customers, staff and suppliers who may have lost money with Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd, but can only emphasise that this company was not a member of our association and therefore operated outside of our trade body’s control.
“We would always urge members of the public to ensure that they only book a balloon flight with companies who are members of BABO.”
It is understood that the company had been cancelling booked flights for some time.
As early as June last year customers had set up a Facebook Page called I Didn't Go Ballooning (www.facebook.com/ididntgoballooning).
Customer Simon Walsh wrote: “We were bought tickets for a go ballooning flight at the end of 2011 for my wife 50th birthday present, it was cancelled 5 times last year due to 'the weather'", while Keith Balbi said: “I purchased two tickets from go ballooning two years ago and still have not flown yet coz everytime i try it gets cancelled. I paid 230 pounds and they will only offer me 25 percent refund. Not happy.”
And today angry customers took to Twitter to vent their frustration. Chris Brown write “Flight tomorrow (paid for) no update until the 9th? Hotel paid, what do we do? Been trying to go for 2 years!” while an anonymous balloon pilot wrote: “I was one of there crew until yesterday. There's no hope. Don't expect answers to calls/emails. Lots now out of work,” and “all us who did the flying in a big hole”.
- Cameron Balloon Flights (Southern) have no connection with Bristol-based balloon manufacturers Cameron Balloons Ltd.