Ultimate Guide to the 19th Hot-Air Balloon Festival
It is February once again, and people have been waiting for this time of the year so that they can head north to witness a grand parade of hot-air balloons in the sky. We are talking about the 19th Hot-Air Balloon Festival in Pampanga. Officially called the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF), the fiesta’s slogan is “A Weekend of Everything That Flies.” Here’s an ultimate guide to this year’s festivities.
About the 19th PIHABF
Started in 1994, the festival is considered as the longest running aviation sports in Asia. Indeed, it is not just a spectators event, but also a gathering of aviators from the Philippines and other parts of the world. The festival started as a passion project to uplift the spirit of the Pampangeños as well as the local economy after the devastating effects of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991.
Nowadays, the main goal is to create aviation awareness and bring back the aviation industry’s good standing in the international aviation community. In this year, the organizing committee will launch the 2015 Aviation Awards Program to honor aviators who made great contribution to the air transportation system in the country and those who exemplify the highest standards when it comes to flying.
The festival will happen at the Omni Aviation Complex in Clark, Pampanga.
The 19th Balloon Fiesta ticket is available for ₱300 per attendee. According to the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta Foundation (PIHABFF), the general admission ticket cost serves as attendees’ contribution to the PIHABFF’s advocacy of sending less-fortunate students to aviation schools.
One ticket is available for one fiesta day only. Groups may purchase up to 5 tickets, but they have to show up together at the booth for one fiesta day. Unused slots will become invalid after using the group ticket. Children below 3 feet can enter for free and standard ticket price applies to children above 3 feet.
VIP tickets are also available for ₱6,000 per attendee. Nonetheless, at least 2 attendees have to be admitted at the same time. Unused slots will be forfeited after using the premium group ticket. These tickets are inclusive of perks and privileges such as pilot meet-up, priority entrance, breakfast and lunch buffet, afternoon tea, complimentary use of the balloon launch patio and air-conditioned lounge and toilet access.
There will be no refunds available unless the fiesta is canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. Tickets are transferable.
Ticket purchases can be made through PayPal.
Tickets will be also made available at the admission booths. Tickets cannot be reserved.
Senior citizens can avail a 20% discount on the tickets purchased at the ticket booth. A senior citizen’s ID is required.
No stamp, no reentry in case you went outside and wished to come back to the grounds.
General admission tickets will only grant you access to the spectator area. Foldable chairs are allowed inside the area.
The 19th hot-air balloon fiesta is a 4-day event, from February 12 to 15. Gates open at 4:30am, but it is advisable to be at the grounds at least 30 minutes before the scheduled activity that you want to witness and to scout for a good sitting position. Gates close at 10pm. Aside from the scheduled Night Glows on Saturday and Sunday, there will be a total of 12 flying activities namely:
- Hot-air ballooning
- Chase crew and off-road driving
- Aerobatic exhibitions
- Microlight and ultralight flying
- Powered paragliding
- Formation flying
- Balloon bursting
- Radio controlled aircraft
- Kite flying
- Search and rescue flight demonstrations
Some of the activities are open to the public. These activities include paragliding, airplane ride, balloon ride and tandem skydive.
Paragliding is available on the afternoon of February 12 and 13. The ticket costs $100 for each paraglider. Tickets can only be purchased online and must be presented to the on-site Aircraft Rides Booth 2 hours before the flight.
Airplane (Cessna 172) ride is available on the afternoon of February 12 to 15. The ride will include a 30-minute flying time with a maximum of 3 passengers per ride. Passengers will be picked up at the booth, but they need to be on hand 2 hours before the engine starts. The ticket costs $120 per passenger.
Balloon ride is available on the morning of February 12, 13 and 15. The first balloon is launched at around 6am. Passengers are expected to be at the lobby of Holiday Inn Clark Pampanga 2 hours before the launch where they will be picked up. The ticket costs $300 per each passenger.
Tandem skydive is available from February 12 to 15. The ticket costs $400 for each skydiver. Tickets can only be purchased online. For briefing and other preparations, tickets must be presented to the on-site Aircraft Rides Booth 2 hours before the flight.
A full refund will be made available in case the activity is canceled due to unfavorable weather conditions, for instance.
Attendees and participants are encouraged to wear casual and comfortable clothing.
By public transport
Clark, Pampanga is approximately 80 kilometers north of Metro Manila. Public utility buses are available and travel several times a day to and fro Pampanga. Take a Victory Liner bus bound for Dagupan. Alight the bus a Dau common terminal. From there, walk towards the highway. Jeepneys and tricycles are available here. They take passengers directly to Clark Freeport Zone.
From Manila, take the NLEX (North Luzon Expressway). Exit at Dau, Mabalacat Exit. Turn left towards Angeles City. Turn an easy right once you see the Clark Zone. With no heavy traffic, the entire trip will only take 1 and ½ hours from Manila. There is a parking plan to follow, complete with parking attendants.
Take any commercial flight bound to Clark International Airport. Some commercial carriers operating to Clark are Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, and Tiger Airways.
Fiesta Fly Market
Attendees may bring food inside the venue except for bottled drinks. Nonetheless, attendees need not worry about food and refreshments. There will be hundreds of food trucks and booths to choose from. Aside from that, the fly market will offer various kinds of merchandises from local delicacies to fiesta souvenirs.
For interested concessionaires, concession booths are available in the tented area in bazaar (8×8 feet), snack lounge (8×8 feet) and food court (12×12 feet). The organizer provides a booth system with tent, 2 chairs, and light. The concessionaire is on a first come, first served basis only.
Display booth spaces are also available for the interested brands. Banners and standees can be displayed at the station. Other permitted activities within the booth space are distributing flyers and giving samples.
Portable toilets will be placed on various areas inside the venue.
There won’t be any ATM within the venue. However, there are banks, gasoline stations, and convenience stores nearby.
Transport service will not be provided by the fiesta organizer. Hotels may provide this for you.
A public assistance desk will be provided to attend to concerns and emergencies. Emergency numbers will be posted in various parts of the venue.
A medical team will be also provided.
Pets are allowed inside the venue.
Smoking is not allowed inside the venue although smoking areas will be designated.