Group First makes the news as balloons wake up London

Image credit: Caroline Dykes

Early birds in London caught more than they bargained for yesterday when a procession of 40 hot air balloons soared across the sky.

Group First’s balloon was among the select few who joined the Lord Mayor’s Hot Air Balloon Regatta for a breathtaking flight across the city early Sunday morning to raise money for charity and elevate the profile of British ballooning.

The first event of its kind in almost 20 years saw the balloons set off from Shoreditch at dawn.

London Regatta 4

The Group First balloon joined others to fly over many of London’s major tourist attractions, weaving across the Thames and taking in sights like Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, the Gherkin, the Shard, HMS Belfast, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral and the O2.

London Regatta 3 London Regatta 5

For the Group First balloon, piloted by our finance director Richard Gahan, the early morning flight lasted an hour and 15 minutes.

Setting off from Manchester at 10pm on Saturday night, the team arrived in London at 2.30am before taking flight at 5.15am and landing at 6.40am.

Group First's Richard Gahan (right)

Group First’s Richard Gahan (right)

Richard said: “We were part of something unforgettable and a huge thank you goes to everyone who made it possible. Conditions on the day were spectacular, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and camaraderie was high among all of our fellow balloonists.

“The response from the press was incredible – we had so much national coverage and #HotAirBalloons was even trending on Twitter because the event caused such a buzz.”

Group First was an associate sponsor for the event, which was organised by Exclusive Ballooning to raise money for the Lord Mayor’s charities and raise the profile of British ballooning.

The spectacle garnered plenty of column inches – it was featured in the Mirror, the Express, the Evening Standard, Londonist, Time Out London, ITV News, Mashable and the Telegraph.

Other companies whose balloons took part included Fortnum & Mason, British Airways, Stirling Ackroyd, Ricoh, British Telecom and Universal Pictures.

The event has so far raised £78,884 for the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal, which will go to Scope and Mencap.

London Regatta 3 London Regatta 12 London Regatta 11 London Regatta 10 London Regatta 9 London Regatta 8 London Regatta 6 London Regatta 7