Lawn Chair Ballooning vs. Commercial Air Flight

You may have heard about the guy who flew 193 miles in a lawn chair tied to 105 helium balloons.  Turns out, he’s not a lone wacko. This form of transportation, called cluster ballooning, is  increasingly popular.

Clearly, the question a reponsible travel blogger must answer is whether cluster ballooning might be a reasonable alternative to commercial air travel in terms of cost, comfort, convenience, service and environmental considerations.

Let us examine these factors.

Cost.  According to National Geographic News, the balloons for a typical cluster balloon flight cost as much as $900 and the helium as much as $1,200. Also, there’s the occasional fine for messing with air traffic. A 200-mile flight on a major air carrier between New York and Washington can be had this summer for under $200.
   Winner: commercial air travel

Comfort. This is a tough one. For climate control and pressurization, commercial aircraft have the edge. But with unlimited leg room and fully adjustable (one presumes) seating, the lawn chair is way out ahead.
   Winner: cluster balloon chair

Convenience. The 193-mile cluster balloon flight took nine hours. Even factoring in the average flight delay of 48 minutes between JFK and Reagan National in Washington, plus time waiting in the airport, getting through security etc., you’re still clearly better off on a commercial aircraft.
  Winner: commercial air travel

Service. Forget flight attendants, snacks and movies. I’m pretty sure that lawn chair didn’t even have a bathroom.
  Winner: commercial air travel

Environmental considerations. Carbon emissions from jet fuel are obviously worse for the environment than helium emissions from leaking balloons and any fallout from the lack of a bathroom on the lawn chair.
   Winner: cluster balloon chair

It’s a close call, then. Maybe the best strategy would be to strap the lawn chair to a 737.


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