While ballooning season takes place year-round in some parts of the country, the best time to take flight is from April to November when weather conditions are most favorable. The wind is stronger, the air is often clearer, and visibility is better during these months. And, best of all, it's not cold!

But before balloon ride operators take to the skies, they need to look at their insurance programs to ensure proper coverage is in place to protect their passengers, their crew and the balloon itself in the event of an accident.

In reviewing a ride operator's exposures, you and your client need to talk about the importance of being named as an additional insured in another operator's insurance program, the amount of Medical Expense coverage to buy, and more. Kathy Gallagher-Burton, Broker/Underwriter, RPS Balloon, explains why.

1. Is the Balloon Ride Operator Swapping Rides?

To accommodate a balloon enthusiast's booking request, a fully booked ride operator may send the customer to another operator to provide the ride. Easy fix, right? Not so fast. If the balloon operator who actually provided the ride has an accident, the booking ride operator may also end up being named in a lawsuit.

"It's important for those who are balloon swapping to add one another to their respective liability policies as additional insureds," says Gallagher-Burton. "Although the booking ride operator wasn't responsible for the accident, the insured needs some form of defense coverage in the event of an accident and lawsuit."

2. How Far Is the Balloon Ride from Emergency Services?

Many hot-air balloon flights take place in rural areas, above beautiful and scenic vistas. If passengers or crew members are injured in an accident, emergency services can be quite costly to arrange.

"A lot of pilots operate in remote areas, like the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, where you're many miles away from medical services," explains Gallagher-Burton. "The injured may have to be airlifted to the hospital, which can run $100 per mile."

It's important for insureds, therefore, to consider their geographic location and the distance to emergency medical aid to determine how much Medical Expense coverage to purchase.

"The limit many insureds purchase is $5,000, but this may not be enough depending on their location. RPS offers extended Medical Expense coverage up to $25,000."

3. Are They Attending Any Major Balloon Events Soon?

Take the time to review your clients' coverage to ensure they're adequately protected well in advance of their airborne excursions — including October's Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest gathering of balloons and balloonists in the world. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, promoters are expecting millions of people to attend and up to 900 balloons to grace the skies.

As the largest hot air balloon insurance broker in the United States, RPS is among the proud sponsors of the Balloon Fiesta. With 30-plus years of experience and more than 2,500 insureds, balloon operators from all over the country turn to RPS. We offer a comprehensive program that includes Third-Party Liability and Passenger and Crew Liability coverage, Hull coverage for property damage to the balloon and basket, Medical Expense, Balloon Premises Liability, and Host Liquor Liability.

If you've gotten this far, chances are you have hot air balloon clients. So pick up the phone and run through these questions, to ensure they're protected before they take flight.

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