Helium shortage inflates balloon prices

Local News

Just in time for Hawaii’s annual graduation season — full of pomp, circumstance — and balloons  — there is a global shortage of helium.

Four ceremonies tonight kicked off Hawaii high school graduation season — as word spreads of a global helium shortage.

Kelly Leong, store manager at HouseMart Ben Franklin Crafts in Mapunapuna, confirms what you’ve been hearing.

“There’s definitely a helium shortage it really hasn’t affected us too much yet, but it will.”

Given the law of supply and demand, the company has raised its helium balloon price by $1, to $4.99.

Grocery stores such as Safeway, sell the mylar-style helium balloons as well, in various sizes, beginning at $5.99.

Being a craft store, Leong says they have many creative alternatives to helium balloons.

“We have the lollipop balloons, we have balloon boutiques, so instead of helium-filled, it’s air-filled, so it’ll last a little longer and it’s a little bit customized for the consumer or the customer.”

She did say boutique — and not bouquet.

“So a boutique is an air-filled balloon, and we have some cellophane wrap on the top with some curling ribbon, and it’s hand-held, so it can’t float away, it’s not going to affect the environment.”

Or your electricity, for that matter. Hawaiian Electric Company says May and June are the peak months for power outages caused by metallic balloons that get away from people.

HECO also warns graduation partiers about confetti cannons —  they can also cause outages, so they should not be used near power lines. 

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that only 17 percent of all helium goes to party balloons, hot air balloons and other recreational applications.

Balloons are what we see the most — but way more helium is used by the medical, aerospace and technology industries.

It should be noted that you cannot take balloons into Aloha Stadium, or into Blaisdell Arena or Concert Hall, so for your graduation preparations, we have links to those lists of prohibited items.

Prohibited items:

Blaisdell Center and Waikiki Shell

Aloha Stadium

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