Girls’ favourite bedtime tale to be shared with Virgin Atlantic passengers

A Haywards Heath father’s bedtime story is being handed out to Virgin Atlantic airline passengers after his daughters requested he publish it as a book.

For years the tale of the Great Hot Air Balloon Adventure helped Stephen Holmes’ daughters Madison and Ella fall fast asleep.

It became their favourite to the point that Madison, seven, asked if it they could make it into a book.

Stephen, 42, said: “They liked the adventure of going on a balloon ride to the clouds and across to the enchanted forest. I thought it was a great idea (to get it published). Writing was not something I have ever done or thought of doing.

“This was intended to be a lovely keepsake we could look back on in years to come.”

The book was published six weeks ago and last week Virgin Atlantic ordered 2,000 copies for a trial to give them out to families on the long haul flights from Orlando to Gatwick Airport.

Stephen said: “I thought hot air balloon equals Richard Branson. I was trying my luck.

“I was amazed to get such a quick response, and absolutely bowled over when they said they’d like to make an order.”

Matt Webster, senior customer experience manager at Virgin Atlantic, said: “We were instantly charmed by Stephen’s endearing book, as well as the story behind it, and felt it would be a great hit with families on night time flights.

“It was the icing on the cake that Stephen is based in Haywards Heath, just around the corner from Virgin Atlantic’s HQ; we always like to support up-and-coming local talent where we can.”

Now Stephen is wondering where this may take him next. It could even be the start of a new career.

He said: “I’d certainly never thought of myself as an author, just a dad making up stories for his kids.

“But what’s happened with Balloon has been incredible. I’ve definitely got the bug now and I’m testing out new stories all the time with my two biggest critics/supporters - my girls”.

The Great Hot Air Balloon Adventure, priced £5.99, is available from

For each copy sold, Stephen will make a donation to the Make a Wish charity, which helps dreams come true for children with life threatening conditions.