Lightning Lanes, Genie+, whatever guests choose to purchase is creating more problems for guests that don't cough up the dough.
Long lines are a part of a trip to a theme park but if you really wanted to see "magic" it would be nice to watch it all disappear into a more reasonable wait time.
I'm at Disney this week and honestly, the lines are not horrible and the parks have been pretty light in attendance compared to other weeks I have been here. Seeing a 75 minute wait for Seven Dwars Mine Ride was a good sign in the middle of the afternoon.
Still, I couldn't help but wonder if it could be better.
At Hollywood Studios I took my soon-to-be five year old on Toy Story Mania. The arcade style spin ride was an attraction I have often avoided due to the long wait times vs. the rides level of enjoyment. At 40 minutes I could't really justify not taking him.
What I noticed on my 55 minute wait was that the parks could do better with their lightning lane guests and thus, improve the wait times for guests not paying upwards of $30.00 on some days to have it. Yes, I know it's all about money but I'm not recommending Disney do away with it. Heare me out.
As I waited with the rest of the regular Joes, my kids continued to comment on the LL guests who were skipping through in their own lane. Then commenting on why the lane was empty. When I got to the junction where the LL guests and the regulars met, we waited, and waited, and waited some more while the LL's got shuffled through to the right and to the left. Then, "How many in your party?" the cast member asked the group that was four in front of me. They would get shuffled through and the next, but then we were told to hold again as the next wave of LL guests came through.
So why stop them was my question? On several rides at Disney Parks, there are multiple lanes for entry to the actual attraction. Toy Story Mania has two, others have more than that, like Avatar: Flight of Passage, or SOARIN. Why not dedicate one of those lines for LL guests?
Disney wants them to buy the Lightning Lane passes with the promise of skipping the lines but that doesn't mean they have to have access to every line after they join with the other groups, in fact, they could avoid the joining completely on several rides and leave that one single attraction open to those guests. For example, at SOARIN why not leave one "gate" open just for LL holders?
Would it make a huge difference?
To test this, I opted to drop $80.00 for myself and four kids to get a Lightning Lane pass for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. A last-minute decision to see if we could bypass the queue.
The line was long but nowhere near as long as the queue line. We didn't skip right to the front but within 10 minutes we were in the staging area and five minutes later we were on the ride. At the junction with the standby queue we were ushered it at the same time and pace as the other side.
It worked out well enough but it was a hefty cost for a single ride. $17.00 and change per person.
The 10 minute wait wasn't bad and this attraction is one of only a couple that actually have a Lightning Lane wait of any kind. That seemed to go hand in hand with my thinking.
Lightning Lane may be to skip the main line but a little bit of a wait doesn't hurt anyone. In this case, it would make sense to dedicate a single side of an attraction for LL holders. Depending on the attraction, a single car. This would allow other guests to get through the attractions at a quicker pace as well and when there are times that the LL line is empty, Disney can simply shuffle standby lines into that one to reduce wait times.
There are a few options to reduce wait times and the use of Lightning Lanes, if done right could help ease those times and create better experiences for all guests.
There is no reason LL holders should hold up standby lane guests nor have to wait long themselves but getting to the front of the line shouldn't be the end ticket to keeping every other guest waiting longer. There are ways to do it and so far Disney park managers haven't figured it out.