Updated for 2016!
If you ever walked past the Aérophile Characters in Flight balloon at Disney Springs without purchasing a ticket, telling yourself you’ll do it the next time when you have a little more money, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess.
But did you know they offer an “early bird” special? Get there before a certain time, and you can save almost 50% off the regular ticket price. That was just the news my family had been waiting for!
What is Characters in Flight?
Characters in Flight is an attraction at Disney Springs in Orlando, also known as Downtown Disney, that takes guests 400 feet up in the air on an Aero30 tethered gas balloon that was custom-built for Disney by Paris-headquartered company Aérophile S.A..
The yellow striped balloon has hand-painted silhouettes of Peter Pan, Dumbo, Aladdin, Jasmine, Buzz Lightyear, and Tinker Bell. On its 19-foot diameter gondola, up to 29 passengers and an Aérophile-certified pilot can take a ride straight up, floating skyward with the help of up to 210,000 cubic feet of helium.
The balloon is tethered and will not travel beyond 400 feet at any time.
Where can you ride an Aérophile balloon?
In 1993, Matthieu Gobbi and Jerome Giacomoni, who were just 25 years old at that time, reinvented the tethered gas balloon, which enables faster rides than your typical gas balloon. They started the company called Aérophile. Their balloons are now fun attractions in more than 60 locations around the world, including Paris, Berlin, and Angkor Wat Temple.
Renowned amusement parks like Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris use Aérophile’s innovative balloons. You’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding attractions and landscape, and stay with us to see how you can save money on your tickets as well.
Where is Characters in Flight located in Orlando?
The balloon is located on the West side of Disney Springs, right next to the (new in 2015) Starbucks location along the waterfront facing Saratoga Springs Resort.
You will see from the map below that the balloon is also very close to the AMC Downtown Disney 24 Dine-In Theaters and the Planet Hollywood restaurant. This map was current when we first published this article, but back then we still called the area Downtown Disney. When they finish re-imagining the entire area, we’ll update this map. When the balloon is floating in the air, you can’t miss it!
How much does Characters in Flight cost?
Adult tickets, and adult means anyone age 10 and up, are $18.00 including tax.
A child’s ticket, ages three to nine, is $12.00.
Children ages two and under are FREE!
How long does Characters in Flight last?
Visitors hover for 8 to 10 minutes, experiencing breathtaking 360-degree views of the Disney Springs area. Soar high above the white peaked tents of the Cirque du Soleil Theater and get a view of the theme parks and resort hotels off in the distance. Depending on the weather conditions, guests on board will be treated to stunning vistas up to 10 miles away.
If you look closely, you can see the Epcot ball!
How old do you have to be to ride?
Guests over nine years of age are permitted to ride by themselves. However, children under nine years must be accompanied by an adult (18 years of age or older).
What if you have a wheelchair or a scooter?
Guests must transfer from their motorized scooter or ECV to an available wheelchair to experience this attraction. Be sure to speak with a Cast Member when you get your tickets.
Who shouldn’t ride?
Expectant mothers should not ride. This attraction is not recommended for those prone to motion sickness, vertigo, heart problems or any other condition that may be aggravated by flight.
While the main Disney website does not include this information, Groupon, who runs 40% off coupons about once a year, states that while there are no age or height restriction, there is a 250 pound weight restriction. Use this link to their information regarding groupon coupons and information.
More Info. Before You Go
The balloon will not fly if winds exceed 22 mph or if there is a storm.
Maximum balloon capacity is affected by wind speeds.
Bags, food and drink, smoking and strollers are not permitted.
Disney Springs Parking Concerns
Because of ongoing construction and limited parking availability as Downtown Disney transforms into Disney Springs, it’s highly recommend that all Disney Resort hotel guests take advantage of complimentary transportation options. So if you can hop a bus from your resort, this could be easier than taking your own car. Busses will drop guests off at the Marketplace end.
Watercraft transportation is also available from Port Orleans, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs.
If you drive your own vehicle, it’s suggested that you leave 60 minutes in advance of all reservations and planned activities. Traffic is just crazy in this area with all the construction.
Valet Parking is available daily with pricing starting at $10 for 0-2 hours; the cost is $15 for 2-3 hours and $20 for three or more hours.
The gondola seems smaller when you are walking by at a distance, but it feels much larger as you get closer to the balloon.
There is more than enough room for people to walk by each other on the balloon gondola without feeling cramped.
And there doesn’t appear to be a bad place to stand, because one side give you a water view, and the other gives you a view over land.
Saratoga Springs Resort from high above…
From 400 feet in the air, you can see all the construction going on. Now months -actually over a year- after these pictures were taken, things will look vastly different.
Photo Tip: Remember the Net
There is a safety net around the gondola for your protection, which can make it difficult to take pictures. It’s not so much that the net will prevent you from snapping photos. But putting your hands and camera through the net can be stressful, because if that camera/phone slips from your fingers, there is no safety net below to catch it. It’s just gone.
The photos you see here came from my iPhone 6, and I was an absolute nervous wreck holding my phone through the net. The balloon was not swaying very much at all on our flight, so it wasn’t crazy winds that would have caused me to drop my phone/camera but rather my shaky hands.
So hold on to your camera/phone.
Tip: Motion Sickness & Nervousness
When we purchased our tickets, my teen son was a bit nervous. The Cast Member selling tickets told him to keep his eyes on the horizon, on the buildings in the distance rather than looking straight down, which he explained could help with motion sickness as well as nervousness for those that are afraid of heights.
The balloon will sway, even if there is not a strong wind that you can feel on the ground. 400 feet in the air, the balloon has a slight motion feeling. I get severely motion sick, and I felt a little queasy once the balloon got back to the ground. So if you don’t have severe motion sickness, you should be fine. Keep your eyes on the horizon.
If you are not sure if you are afraid of heights, you will find out really quickly once you hit 400 feet. The Cast Member we talk with said most people are just fine. For us personally, two of our three kids enjoyed the ride, while the third never got over the height issue.
How to Save Money!
If you made it through all our flight pictures, then it’s time for the most important information you may get today.
If you buy your ticket and travel up by 10 a.m., ticket prices drop from $18 for adults to $10. For adults, that’s almost half off! You’ll save $2 per child’s ticket. And when I heard that, nine years of saying I would go next time became let me show you my money. It’s called the Early Bird Special.
Now, this special could change at any minute with no notice for you or me, but a Cast Member said this promotion had been going on for a long time.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you 400 feet up in the air. Trust me, I’ll be there before 10 a.m.!
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