7 On Your Side: Hot air balloon ride goes bust

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Nina Pineda has the details on the balloonists who stepped up to help newlyweds.

The once-in-a-lifetime thrill ride never happened for newlyweds Valentina and Jose Correa.

"The company selling the vouchers went bankrupt there was no way of getting the money back," said Valentina.

Their best friends bought the gift certificate from Soaring Adventures of America as a wedding gift last year.

"It was roughly $350 but it wasn't the money it was the disappointment," said the couple's friend, Eric Meyer.

Tom Robbins, balloon pilot and owner of 'A-Lot-A Hot Air Balloon Rides' says he didn't get paid by Soaring Adventures of America for a few dozen rides he gave saying he kept getting promised payment, but, "I'd have regular conversation with him he'd sent me a little bit here and there."

But the payment stopped and the balloon pilot now estimates he's out $16,000 for rides he gave expecting to get paid.

A trail of pilots and unhappy customers, including charities, from all across the country are posting complaints about buying Soaring Adventures of America worthless vouchers.

After finding company headquarters in Wilton, Connecticut closed, we tried to ask owner, Rob Wilkinson questions at his house. But instead we heard from his bankruptcy attorney who told us "zillions of people are owed money." It looked like Angelina and Jose would never get their ride.

That's when 'A-Lot-A Hot Air' pilot Tom Robbins' company stepped up and the balloonist took the couple up - free.

The Correas got their wish to see Hunterdon County floating high above and celebrated an unforgettable first anniversary.

The big takeaway? When you buy a gift card or gift certificate - don't buy from a retailer having money problems. If you are able, purchase directly from the vendor. And redeem gift certificates right away. A company can go out of business - or you can misplace or lose the certificate. Connecticut's Department of consumer protection is handling complaints - nearly 150 so far.
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