Published: April 1, 2016
Tandem Skydiving: Asking the Right Questions
Did you know that not all skydiving centers are the same? Just as restaurants all serve food, the culinary experience can vary greatly from one to the other.
This is certainly the case in skydiving with major variances being customer service, cleanliness of the facilities, use of modern equipment, professional standards, wait times, type of aircraft and exit altitude. One or the combination of these variables will dictate whether your skydive is simply 'fun' or a 'life changing experience.'
The hardest part for consumers is trying to identify a good skydiving center from an average one. There really isn't much information out there that informs consumers of what to look for when selecting a drop zone. Your decision of where to jump should not be centered around price... there's much more to consider!
Here, we offer some valuable tips of what to be aware of before booking with any skydiving center:
Is The Skydiving Center a Member of the USPA?
The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is the recognized governing body of skydiving in the United States. It is not mandatory for a skydiving center to be a USPA member. Anyone with or without skydiving experience can actually open a skydiving center in America! Being a member of the USPA is a good idea because it's an organization that sets safety standards for all of its member associations to follow. Not being a member of the USPA entitles a skydive center owner to set whatever rules they deem as 'safe.' We don't view this as a great idea as having recognized minimum standards for all to follow should be the way to go with a sport that involves risk like skydiving.
Is the Skydiving Center You're Calling... REAL?
This seems like a crazy question, but there are several third party companies (essentially call centers) who have set up thousands of fake skydiving websites all over the country.
They're well-designed sites that by all appearances, look legitimate. When you call the phone number, you're routed to a call center in Georgia where they'll make a reservation for you...usually not in the location you thought you were going to and usually at an even higher price.
The best way to spot a fake is to look for the physical address on the website. If there is a physical address, Google it to make sure it's actually at an airport. These fake sites have setup addresses at physical buildings to look legitimate as more people are catching on. Don't be fooled! It's an unethical business practice.
Another tip is to ask the person on the other line the actual name of the skydiving center you're booking with... they usually won't tell you until they've received your money first as they don't want you to call the actual skydiving center they're sending you to because they'll miss out on the commission they receive for setting up the booking.
Aircraft Type & Altitude
Ask what kind of aircraft the skydiving center uses for their jump operations. The aircraft type will effect your experience. The higher the better and the preferred altitude you should be trying to jump from is between 13,000 and 14,000 feet. Ask how many passengers their aircraft type holds. If you're planning to jump with friends, your time spent at the DZ is extended greatly as more flights are required to accommodate groups because of the use of smaller planes.
Beware the Daily Deal and Deals that Are Abnormally Low
We recently wrote an article on why we don't accept daily deals. Usually, customer service suffers along with other factors you should consider. You often get what you pay for, so purchase a daily deal wisely and do your homework!
Try To Book Early!
When scheduling your skydive, try to book early! The earlier the better as wait times to board aircraft are usually less and weather conditions are usually much calmer in the mornings. This is especially true during the summer months.
Do your homework in this area. Ask your friends on Facebook if they've jumped in the area and get feedback. Also be sure to check review sites like Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews and Yelp. You'll usually get a good feel of the operation based on what former customers have stated about their experience. If there aren't many reviews, this can be a red flag as that company may not be exceeding expectations which is what it takes for someone to share something positive.
Call The Skydiving Center!
Booking online is convenient, but it's always a good idea to call the skydiving center directly and see what the interaction is like. You'll get a sense of their professionalism right away.
Find out if there have been any reports in the news regarding the operation. If there is something negative, don't write them off, as what you're reading isn't always accurate in the news.
When calling the skydiving center, talk about what you've read with the owner. You'll get a sense of things based on the response whether being open and transparent or being closed and defensive.