I have always been a fan of ride reservation systems at amusement parks. From Disney's
As a complimentary service for all park guests (except at Six Flags where it's a premium feature), it helps make even a busy day tolerable. At least you know that you will be able to get on your favorite ride with a minimal wait.
But there is a flip side to those that stand to benefit from the shorter queues. Yes, it's the folks with tired legs standing in the longer standby lines. It's not just a lack of education that is fueling the situation. The passes or stamps tend to run out quickly at the most popular rides. That means that those arriving late are often out of luck.
Over the past two weeks I've been doing my fair share of waiting in lines. Vacationing in Central Florida -- theme park central -- I think I've done it right for the most part with my family. We arrive early. We duck out early. We head back to a park later in the day when others are dragging themselves through the exit turnstiles.
Everything went swimmingly, line-wise, until just the past couple of days. We headed into Disney's Animal Kingdom on Sunday afternoon. Folks tend to clear out of that park in a hurry come early afternoon. By 4 p.m., every ride but one was a walk-on. That attraction happened to be Kali River Rapids, with a 45-minute wait in the standby line. No FastPass ticket scalpers to be found.
Over the years, the one thing that I had come to expect with posted queue times is that they err on the conservative side. So I was a bit shocked when that 45-minute wait dragged into a 70-minute burden. Yesterday morning, it was Disney's Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain had a five-minute standby wait when we arrived shortly after the park opened. It was a 25-minute wait. Stitch Encounter was flashing a 15-minute wait. We were in line for exactly 53 minutes. Good riddance! We streamed out to cool off at a water park.
Three straight rides that erred on the side against suddenly steaming park guests? That wasn't like Disney at all. FastPass is an easy culprit for theme parks adopting the same "slow creep" that haunts airline passengers, but it's worse than that. Surely, by now, Disney has enough experience with its queue management system. FastPass redemption patterns, weather effects, parades, the showtimes of nearby staged attractions -- they should all be in the mix beyond eyeballing the actual queue lengths. Why would Disney sabotage the guest experience by failing them with something as simple as a digital standby wait board?
Disney just kicked off a massive celebration. The parks look great. New rides and attractions have sprung up. This should be a record year for Disney. So why was I surrounded by some pretty angry guests that felt cheated? They pay plenty for their treks, and their time, in every sense of the word, is money. Will Disney fix this? When it does, it will be about time.
Other headlines that will let you hop right on board:
- Online technology may pave a revival in theme park attendance.
- Disney is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Disneyland at all of its parks.
- Ride reservation systems were already popular five years ago.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still had an amazing time with his family, hitting ten different parks in less than two weeks. He does own shares in Disney and Six Flags as well as units in Cedar Fair. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.