When will we stop fighting over line jumping at theme parks?

September 27, 2017, 1:27 PM · Are ready for outrage? Lemme serve up a heaping helping of flame bait and direct your attention to a news story out of Chicago, about a family of three that ended up in the hospital after a fight with line-jumpers at Six Flags Great America.

Nine teenagers were arrested in connection with the attack on two adults and a teenage boy. From the Chicago Tribune story:

[W]itnesses told police there was an exchange of words over one of the victim's thoughts on the group's inappropriate behavior, which included foul language and a line issue for a ride.

"They were talking initially before a battery occurred to the child," [a Gurnee police officer] said. He added that the father went to his son's aid and started to pull the offender off the boy when the father was knocked to the ground, and the group surrounded him and hit him with 'punches and kicks.'

At that point, the wife tried to help her husband and son, and she also was attacked.

My experience reading police and court stories suggests to me that there lies some very interesting and relevant information between the lines in this story, starting with, what did the older man say to the teenagers? So the only conclusion I would recommend taking from this incident is... no matter how offended line-jumpers make you, it's not worth assuming the job of park security and calling them out.

How many people brazen and inconsiderate enough to line jump are really going to back down and return to the end of the queue because someone says something to them? And provoking someone only makes these situations worse. The park is not paying you to do its employees' jobs, and it is never worth going to the hospital to try to get back a few spaces in line.

That said, I don't want to see any more line-jumpers get away with it, either. The parks have an effective solution to stop this — and it is not deploying more cast or team members to police the queues. Virtual line systems allow parks to assign a sequential order for people to board an attraction, without having to maintain order in a physical queue. People with kids who really do need to go to the bathroom can do so, without having to push past anyone in line. And line jumpers have no way to cheat.

Parks can implement virtual line-style security in actual physical queues, as Universal Orlando has done with some Halloween Horror Nights houses, where the park hands out numbered tickets to visitors as they enter the queue. If you present an out-of-order ticket at the entrance, the park knows you jumped. Don't want to mess with paper tickets? Scan people's admission tickets at the entrance and exit of queues, instead. (Of course, at that point, you might as well just spend a few extra bucks on programming an app, and implement a full virtual queue system.)

Line jumping is not a Six Flags problem. I have seen blatant line jumping in every theme park I've visited in the United States. (Heck, I think the problem in my hometown is just as bad at Disneyland and Knott's as it is at Six Flags Magic Mountain, where I think there is a more widespread resignation about having to wait.) I have seen people of all races, genders and ages attempt to jump queues.

There is no social solution to ending line jumping and the physical conflicts to which they sometimes lead. But there are technical and logistical solutions that will end this mess, and theme parks need to start looking more aggressively at implementing them, before an incident like this leads to lawsuit that forces the industry to rush to respond.

You also might like:

Replies (18)

September 27, 2017 at 2:51 PM · Good read Robert. For me, my “line jumping” issue is a bit different, but just as maddening. Virtual queues aren’t perfect either apparently. After just returning (today) from WDW for the past 7-days, I can honestly say I have never seen so many cast members so aloof about allowing people without Fastpass+ reservations through the Fastpass line. I never once saw ANY cast member question or not allow a guest (or in most cases large groups of guests) through when their band of ticket didn’t scan right or didn’t understand the Fastpass line or concept at all. Almost all were just waved through anyway, what is going on with that?? It really was a point of contention on my most recent visit.
September 27, 2017 at 3:19 PM · It is never worth it to fight over line jumping.
September 27, 2017 at 5:02 PM · Six Flags has an 800 number posted IN LINE at the parks to report line jumpers
September 27, 2017 at 9:16 PM · My hubby, friends and I were at Magic Kingdom a few years ago in February during a cheerleading weekend and when we were entering the queue for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin there were two cheerleaders ahead of us and about 10 of their fellow cheerleaders got in line behind us. The two cheerleaders ahead of us were signaling for the 10 people behind us to cut in front of us to be with them. I could understand if it was 1 or 2 people, but 10? Uh...No!! Thankfully my wonderful hubby wasn't going to let that happen and told the 2 people in front of us that they were more than welcome to let us(4 of us) go in front of them so they could be with their 10 friends behind us, but they weren't having that either, but we weren't going to allow 10 people to skip ahead of us so the 2 people ahead of us and the 10 people behind us stayed right where they were and we heard them cursing us out quietly to each other, but we were happy that we stopped those line jumpers, so I think if you feel uncomfortable calling out a line jumper but are upset about it, talk to guest relations about the unhappy experience as I bet they will probably compensate you for your inconveinence, however despite the sometimes violent outbursts of rude patrons, kudos to those who will not just let it happen cause it does get very annoying when people don't stay with their party.
September 28, 2017 at 2:31 AM · Best option is for everyone to be a little more British about queueing. in general, us Brits wouldn't even think of queue-jumping, or even holding a place for someone ("You knew the wait was 45 minutes, you should have gone before we got in the queue"). If someone should push in or try to get ahead of us, we will give them a stern, disapproving look, before muttering something, quietly, under our breath, which we will then say again, more loudly to our family, once the miscreant has passed beyond earshot. The rest of the wait will be a miserable mix of resentment and bottled up anger. It's going to end up with someone having a stress induced coronary, but at least nobody did anything as vulgar as resorting to fisticuffs.
September 28, 2017 at 4:59 AM · The odd thing was that this was not widely reported until Monday. Yikes! I was there on Sunday!
September 28, 2017 at 5:06 AM · Its not that I don't like people, I just feel better when they're not around......
September 28, 2017 at 5:20 AM · Jump a Queue, Get kicked out of the park. no refunds. That should help. Revoke season passes as well. Second time, banned for life.
September 28, 2017 at 6:37 AM · I'm surprised more parks do not use mobile apps and text alerts for guests to report scofflaws. It's pretty common in most sports and concert venues and I've see Six Flags advertise text alerts for guests to report bathroom issues. If line cutters know that everyone is watching them, not just rarely present security personnel, that may be enough to discourage the practice. All of the "line cutting is grounds for ejection from the park without refund" signs are useless if there has to be a park employee present witnessing the act. Also being able to discretely notify security on your mobile device without having to confront the rule breaker (or at least not initiate a confrontation until security is present) would eliminate the situations like what happened at SFGA. If the guests offended by the line cutter could have just texted for security to arrive, the physicality of the incident would likely have been minimized or eliminated altogether.

Guests need to be empowered to act as eyes and ears to improve park security. In most cases, it would only take one or two publicized events of guests being ejected to discourage line cutters.

September 28, 2017 at 8:51 AM · I would imagine that this group of teens were just waiting for the chance to confront someone using their groups size as intimidation. Parks should limit group sizes to 4 or less. It is doubtful that a single security officer could have handled this situation when it got to a beating frenzy. Break up congregating groups, more adult security, and enforcement of "violate the rules, you are banned", will all help prevent this type of situation.
September 28, 2017 at 9:01 AM · "Parks should limit group sizes to 4 or less."

Are you kidding?? So school groups can't go together? Large families can't go together? What if you have a group of 8 brothers/sisters/cousins all between 12-18, are they not allowed to walk around a park and stand in line together? I will admit prohibiting groups would likely be successful in solving the problem, but only because no one would visit parks with such a policy, meaning there's nobody left in the park to create a line cutting issue.

Large groups are the least of the problems with line cutters. The issue is that it's a problem that has gone unaddressed for far too long. So long, in fact, that it has almost become common and acceptable to see guests wading up a line to join their friends. Swift, visible, and fair enforcement is what will eliminate these situations, not just keeping guests from congregating.

September 28, 2017 at 10:23 AM · What a bizarre article, the family did not provoke this by asking the 9 to stop using offensive language in front of children. These thugs sucker punched a 12 year old boy and then proceeded to surround and attack his mother and father.

September 28, 2017 at 11:06 AM · If you give an inch to someone, they will take a mile. I think that by doing nothing about line-jumpers, the line-jumpers will figure that what they did is ok and will continue to do it. If all park visitors stand united and identify the line-jumpers to park employees AND the park employees physically evict them, then just maybe it will stop. Or possibly the line-jumpers may want to cut in front of some bikers, policemen, or MMA athletes. These people will not stand still for them.
September 28, 2017 at 2:54 PM · The only person that could determine whether or not its worth it to say anything to a line jumper is the person that is being jumped. Its not doing the park securitys job, its standing up for yourself. If they want to say something, more power to them. No need to basically bash this family for doing what they felt was right. As for the line jumpers, bash them all you like.
September 28, 2017 at 2:56 PM · 1. Don't cut in line
2. Don't curse a blue streak in public
3. Don't assault people if they confront you over you cursing a blue streak in public or cutting in line.

A 12 year old boy was sucker punched because his parents objected to a group of teens using foul language. The parents were mobbed and beaten as was the boy. This is intolerable, unacceptable anti-social behavior. Yes, there is a "social solution" to such savage behavior. Immediate, overwhelming consequences. Whether it be from security, police, or the great mass of people standing around right there witnessing it. It is an awful thing that sometimes that's what is needed, but sometimes it is.

September 29, 2017 at 2:05 AM · While I agree that standing up to line jumpers is not worth a trip to the hospital, we all surely agree that it is a sad day when such a thing leads to a mob attack.

What an awful situation- part of me is disgusted that no one came to the aid of these three people- but realistically I know how terrifying and intimidating it must be to see 8 young adults attacking as a group. My thoughts are with the family of three, and I honestly hope those attackers get the psychological help that they clearly need.

September 29, 2017 at 9:31 AM · I have season passes for Universal in Orlando. I go just about every weekend. NO LIE, every time we are in line, someone is jumping it. Sometimes 5 to 10 people cut in front to go with their friends. I don't think that fair at all. If i have to wait, so should you!!! I have spoken to the staff workers & they don't do anything. Its very upsetting and no one seems to care at the park!!!
September 30, 2017 at 8:38 AM · I get very upset by line jumping no matter where or how many people it involves. Once or twice I have seen something done but normally if I tell staff about it, the response is "if I didn't see it, I can't do anything about it" even though 10 people or more in the queue back me up. It only rewards bad behavior and I wish every park had a phone number or other way to report.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive