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Balloons in Luggage Area of a Plane

by Eva
(NY, USA)

I want to send my daughter a "Birthday in a Box". The box will be in the cargo area of the plane. Question is will the air inflated balloons pop or deflate?

Trip is from New York to Florida, USA.

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Effects of Temperature and Air Pressure on Balloons
by: Margit

Hi Eva,

When sending an air or helium filled balloon with a plane, two opposed forces are at work: temperature and air pressure. Not all cargo holds are temperature controlled, so it can become very cold in there. As cold air shrinks, the balloon will deflate.

On the other hand, air pressure will be lower in the plane than where you inflated your balloon, as it is pressurized to the conditions you would have in about 8000 feet above sea level.

The lower the pressure in the environment, the more the balloon will expand. Once the difference becomes too big, the balloon will pop. Studies for helium filled latex balloons have shown that this happens at an altitude of about 28,000 to 30,000 feet.

So, in your case, I would say that the balloon might either slightly deflate or expand, depending on the actual temperature and air conditions in the cargo area.

But I don't think it will pop or completely deflate (especially as I assume that it is a Mylar balloon, not a latex balloon). As soon as the balloon reaches "normal" conditions on the ground, it will regain its initial shape.

You might want to put a note on the box saying something like "pressure and temperature sensitive freight". Just to make sure that it gets put into a reasonably controlled area of the cargo hold.

Good luck,

Margit

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