Should theme parks charge fans more to go on their newest rides?

December 5, 2017, 10:15 AM · What's the best way for theme parks to manage demand for a new ride?

In my Orange County Register column this week, I raise the idea that parks might soon try to make popular new attractions an upcharge for some period after their debut. Parks have shown that some people are willing to pay extra to avoid long lines by getting upcharge front-of-line passes. Why not extend that concept by restricting initial access to a new ride for a few days/weeks/months to people willing to pay extra to ride it?

Please don't jump all over me for suggesting the extra charge. Believe me, this is not a new concept for parks. They've considered this in the past, but no one has actually pulled the trigger on it, save for the occasional charity auction of seats on a coaster's first run on its media day.

But many fans suspect that Disney's Star Wars land might be the project that convinces a park to go for a paid-access plan to try to handle what otherwise might be debilitating crowds for the rest of Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios when Galaxy's Edge opens in 2019.

What other options do theme parks have for managing the overflow of people who want to get on an attraction? Let's look at five ways that theme parks can handle how people get onto rides and into shows.

1. Physical queue: Pros? This is the traditional way of managing crowds in a theme park. It's fair and intuitive. People get on in the order in which they arrived at the location. First-come, first-served.

Cons? Maintaining a physical queue requires a lot of space in a park, as well as people to staff the queue in order to discourage the line-jumping that often leads to ugly conflicts between fans. And when the ride no longer commands huge waits, the park is left with unused, empty queue space.

2. Virtual queue: Pros? It's also a first-come, first-served system, but it avoids the space and staffing demands of a physical queue. People can go do other stuff in the park while they wait for their return time to the attraction, potentially increasing both per-guest spending and guest satisfaction.

Cons? Maintaining a virtual queue requires developing or buying the technology to manage it. And how will visitors claim their space in the virtual queue? A cell phone app? Or will they have to line up in a physical queue to check into the virtual one? Virtual queues can hurt overall park attendance, if they "sell out" all return times early in the day. While that might encourage some would-be late arrivals to show up earlier, extending their time (and spending) in the park, it might deter others from visiting at all.

3. Advance reservation: Pros? It's basically a virtual queue with the queue's opening extended to an earlier date, before people arrive in the park. So there's no physical queueing at all, as people will have to use apps, websites, or phone calls to claim their reservation times. People will know in advance whether they will get on or not and can plan their day around their ride time.

Cons? People who can't get an advance reservation might be less likely to visit at all, defeating the attendance-boosting purpose of an expensive new attraction. And while some visitors might enjoy the convenience of booking a ride time at home, others might resent having to start planning their trip in advance.

4. Random selection: Pros? A lottery means no waiting, and everyone gets an equal chance at a ride time. It neither requires nor permits any extra effort to gain an advantage.

Cons? It neither requires nor permits any extra effort to gain an advantage. That means a park's most dedicated fans might be left out in favor of people who enter the lottery on a whim and might not enjoy the experience anyway. So you've got the same attendance risk as with advance reservations, amplified by the risk of ticking off your most loyal fans.

5. Extra payment: Pros? The park has the potential to earn a lot more money by making a popular attraction an upcharge. Price it right, and no other means of crowd control will be required: no physical or virtual queues, no advance reservations, and no lotteries.

Cons? The park limits its potential attendance gains with what is effectively a big price increase for the park. And at some point, the park won't be able to keep the new ride filled to capacity if it remains an upcharge. That means transitioning to one of the other four entrance management methods.

Optimally, a park will manage that transition by gradually reducing the price of the upcharge, until it become "free" to park guests. But that requires a lot of data and math work to manage effectively, and at this point, parks are swimming in air as no one's captured that data by trying this method on any significant scale. Do you want to be the park to jeopardize the successful launch of a multi-million-dollar investment by being the first? Unless your paycheck is signed by a certain mouse, I don't think so.

Ultimately, parks have tried to manage the pros and cons of these methods by blending them. You offer a virtual queue, with a physical standby queue, for example. Or you turn off the virtual queue at certain times of day. Or you set aside a percentage of ride times for advance reservations or lottery distribution and leave the rest for a physical queue.

But at some point, as I wrote in the column, the upcharge option is coming into this mix. Will Disney be the one to do it? As the market leader, it makes sense that Disney would be the one with the resources and margin for error to assume that risk.

Read Robert's column:

Replies (44)

December 5, 2017 at 10:26 AM · I like to have the Qbot dongle whenever I'm in a park that supports it (do any let me use a phone app instead yet?) just because it lets me go off.

Advance I don't like because I'm on break. I'm scheduled to all heck at work. I want to follow a whim and relax.

Lottery and upcharge I can't percieve as being "Fair". So those are out.

That leaves Physical queues as the last-best option.

(of course, this leaves off the best demand management tool completely - ADD MORE CAPACITY)

December 5, 2017 at 10:40 AM · This is surely my Economics degree talking, but if there is excess demand for a good or service, then the price is too low. There is no issue with a corporation like Disney doing this for access to a theme park land. If they create something that too many people want, they deserve some extra money. The situation is different when you're price gauging things like water or gasoline in natural disasters when rich and poor should have the same access to essential goods. Galaxy's Edge is not an essential good. This is obviously Disney's choice and they'll have to decide how to maximize profits and guest satisfaction.
December 5, 2017 at 10:41 AM · One con of the virtual queue is that it tends to fill up the walkways and make the rest of the park much more crowded and unpleasant.
December 5, 2017 at 10:45 AM · It is almost impossible to see the new Fantasmic show without a dinner package for the first showing. The area in directly in front of the stage are reserved. Fastpass is good for only one section (of four)on the far right side, but you have to get it in the morning. Not convenient if you're not in the park for the whole day.

So for Star Wars, they need more options. Maxpass is required and probably the cheapest option. Have some Star Wars dining options. Their new Star Wars restaurants will be in high demand. Pairing dining with a complementary attraction Fastpass is almost irresistible. Include a Meet & Greet package with Fastpass. Of course, people will want both Fastpasses for each new ride. In that case, have an option to upgrade to an all inclusive Star Wars bonus package.

December 5, 2017 at 10:50 AM · There was a time Disney opened a new significant ride every year. Every 4 years the cycle of parks was round and new rides popped up. They had high capacity to fit the demand. Although busy it never felt outrages. Then they threw that all out of the windows. Lesser amount of rides and lesser capacity in the rides themselves.
I heard Universal kicked in high gear before Diagon Alley opened to have Transformer up and running, spreading the guests out. I think that is the best way to manage crowd.
December 5, 2017 at 10:53 AM · I'm going old school on this, but I'd stick with physical lines and let people take their chances. Back when USO first opened WWOHP, the super-fans and masochists waited in line for up to 10 hours. Saner people like me just waited a month or two and waited until the initial furor died down and had a completely pleasant experience. Of course, I realize that Star Wars is going to be a completely different animal....And compounded with Disney's Fast Pass+ system, it may never be pleasant. Personally, I'm shocked that Avatar has been open as long as it has and stand-by lines for FOP are still 2 hours within 30 minutes of park opening. That's insane and I blame it on FP+. And that's for an IP that's nowhere NEAR as popular as SW. I just plan on sitting back and waiting a looong time before braving SW land... And, honestly, without recognizable locations from the original movies, I'm only moderately excited about it at this point...
December 5, 2017 at 11:19 AM · I haven't tried Maxpass yet, but I noticed that the standby wait times are twice a long as before, which to me is not acceptable. I hate it when they stop the standby line, and no one is even going in to the Fastpass line. If people are not going into the Fastpass line, they should let the standby line go through.

I won't mind paying an upcharge for Star Wars land as long as they don't restrict APs from the rest of Disneyland, as was rumored a while back.

December 5, 2017 at 11:42 AM · I'd go the temporary upcharge route and offer a full month of daily "preview parties" where you can experience six hours in the new Star Wars Land before it opens to the general public.

Run two parties per day (9-3 & 4-10), set the prices high (sorry), keep tickets to a reasonable cap where attendance will allow six hours to be plenty of time to experience the two attractions, a food experience and meet & greet, and, most importantly, make sure everything is up and running before you start the parties.

That last point is important if you're hoping to lessen the onslaught when you open the attraction to the public. People who paid will need to feel like they got the full experience (as well as feeling special for seeing it early) so they decide they don't have to stand in line for 10 hours during those early weeks.

But if you do it right, you've lessened demand among your most die-hard (who would be the kind of fan that would pay extra for early access) and hopefully set yourself for a smoother grand opening, while also grossing millions of dollars of additional revenue.

I don't have to like the upcharge aspect (and I don't) to admit that it's what I'd recommend if I were asked. And if I'm being honest with myself, I'd be far more likely to go that route than the wait 10 hours route. But it's also why I thought their other cash-grab upcharge options in recent years -- whether Tomorrowland cabanas or a few extra hours of park time at night -- have been shortsighted. Save it for when you have something the public is willing to pay for. Star Wars is that.

December 5, 2017 at 11:53 AM · I have to completely disagree with all of these. I think theme parks love lines, and brand new attractions and lands with lines snaking through hours-long queues validate designers and investors. If people can simply buy their way onto an attraction, it may not seem as special, and guests are going to constantly weigh the quality of the attraction to the price. Certainly time waiting in a line is a resource, just like money, but it's less tangible than physically paying to access an attraction.

What is not mentioned here is that lines tend to be longer when an attraction first opens not just because of the popularity and anticipation for the addition, but also because the attraction is incapable of operating at optimal capacity when it first opens. However, the only way the park can get an attraction up to maximum capacity is to ramp it up with real guests under a full-park scenario - soft opens only test the ride and operators under very controlled circumstances with extremely light crowds. Take Flight of Passage for example - The attraction was built with four (4) independent theaters, but for much of the first 3-4 months of operation (until around August), Disney was unable to efficiently operate all four theaters simultaneously due to technical issues with the equipment (reportedly overheating of systems). Even roller coasters, which are relatively reliable in terms of operations compared to simulators and many motion base dark rides, have a break in period that limits throughput far below maximum capacity because safety systems and emergency lockouts are deliberately overly conservative while the park learns the intricacies of each individual installation - even a meticulously designed coaster with erection tolerances down to the millimeter will have a "personality" that operators need to learn to know when a sensor is throwing an error is not actually a problem with the ride. Then there's the break-in time for ride operators. While most theme parks, especially Disney and Universal, hire and train ride ops specifically for one attraction or set of attractions, there's still variation in the way individuals operate the rides as a crew rotates through the various assignments, whether it be master operator, loader, restraint checker, greeter, etc... On top of that, many parks will have multiple crews in order to cover full-day operations of an attraction through a given week. So, just for a single crew to become comfortable and efficient at operating an attraction at maximum capacity, it can take weeks, especially if crews are constantly shifting members and assignments on a complicated attraction with multiple queues.

Unless a park deliberately wanted to operate an attraction below optimal capacity for a full break-in period (let's say 1-2 months), there's no way they could charge for exclusive access to the attraction. People are not going to pay money if they can't walk on the ride, so you either don't have a standby line at all to make sure you have enough wiggle room to get all of the paying customers on the ride in a given day, or you have a standby line that never moves because the ride is rarely operating at maximum capacity and doesn't have additional space beyond the paying customers to accommodate standby riders.

Standard standby lines, along with free advanced reservation systems that favor the smart, not the rich, are the best way to manage popular new attractions during their break in process. Those that are smart enough to know to stay away during the first few months of operation to avoid the crowds and are rewarded with advanced reservations when they visit a few months after the opening and generally shorter lines as the throughput gradually increases over time. Guests that absolutely need to ride a new attraction on opening day can get up a o-dark 30, try to outsmart everyone else at getting and advanced reservation, or deal with the consequences of their silly decision with ridiculous standby lines. I have no pity for guests whining about long lines on opening day, and parks should not give these morons any more tools to pander to their idiocy, even if it results in easy profit.

December 5, 2017 at 12:10 PM · I think an upcharge for the whole land is appropriate for the first year, at least at Disneyland. It will probably have to be in advance, otherwise people will be severely disappointed if they travel thousands of miles and can't visit what they came for.

Passholders should get one or two free visits during the first year that they can reserve, but that's it. The demand is too high for Star Wars. If it's not at maximum capacity from people booking in advance, there should be a lottery for pass-holders, and a lottery for regular guests.

No matter what Disney does, people will be disappointed. It will be interesting to see what happens.

December 5, 2017 at 12:33 PM · Upcharges are fine for previews, but if the area is officially open I can't see any scenario where an upcharge is a good idea. If you could pay for Star Wars Land only and not also buy general admission to the park it would be a different story, but otherwise you'll have a mix of disappointed guests that didn't realize they paid $~50 extra for an area with only had two attractions (keep in mind how many people thought Wizarding World of Harry Potter was a whole theme park), as well as angry guests who decide to take their money elsewhere because the all-inclusive admission price is no longer "all-inclusive." It would keep crowds down, sure, but they'd also likely be shooting themselves in the foot long-term.

My solution would be this: Star Wars Land is available by advance reservation only. Once the opening date is announced, reservations are made available to guests who have purchased tickets valid in the first 3 or so months of the land's opening. Guests choose a day and a time to enter the land, and while they cannot enter before the chosen time they may visit any time after that. A certain percentage of reservations (probably around 25-30%, in addition to what is not claimed in advance) would be made available for day-of use by guests who are already in the park, and claiming one of these would give the earliest available time slot. Once inside the land, guests are permitted to stay as long as desired, but they may not reenter after they leave. Additionally, there is no Fastpass within the land...capacity would be monitored to keep Stand-by queues to around an hour.

To prevent abuse of this system, every ticket would only be permitted a single reservation. If it hasn't been used, the reservation may be rescheduled, but once a guest has visited Star Wars Land they are blocked out for the remainder of their ticket period. Therefore, someone with a multi-day ticket will get guaranteed access to Star Wars Land on one of their days, but will not have access to the area on others (in the event of major operational issues, Disney could offer a second reservation for these guests). Since annual passholders will obviously cry foul if they only get one visit per year, they would be granted one reservation in each three month period. Those with a one-day ticket may or may not be able to get in, but since Disney is trying to discourage one-day visitors that wouldn't really be a concern for them.

Once enough people have visited that reservations are not filling up on a regular basis, Disney would remove the reservation system and start implementing Fastpass within the land. Should the land reach capacity with this system, it would be temporarily closed to anyone who does not hold a Fastpass, and those who wish to enter would use a standard stand-by queue and/or Fastpass for land entrance.

December 5, 2017 at 12:44 PM · I think some of the concerns about the overcrowding of lands would be addressed by:

1. Making sure the attractions in those lands have very high capacity. Any major E-ticket should be designed to move (at minimum) 2,000 guests through every hour.

2. Constantly adding NEW CAPACITY (not replacement capacity) elsewhere in the park, and throughout the WDW resort in general. DHS, Epcot, and AK all need MORE rides.

I am decidedly not a fan of the idea of charging guests more money to access a new land or ride. I fear Disney’s temptation would be to never get rid of such an upcharge once they have it in place, and that would be a terrible precedent to set.

December 5, 2017 at 1:20 PM · @Brett - There's only so much capacity an attraction can have, governed mostly by space (Universal came up with a clever solution by creating Transformers as a 2-level attraction with elevators to lengthen and increase the number of guests that can ride per hour). Then there's the logistical issues of having an attraction with multiple parallel ride systems and how to load those evenly, which require additional resources and training.

As far as adding "new capacity" Disney has done this where possible (TSMM at DHS and Soarin' at EPCOT most notably), but adding extra capacity elsewhere doesn't compensate for demand on the new attractions. I would agree that there is pent up demand for more new rides overall at WDW, but it takes time to modernize all of these parks. Pandora finally made DAK a full-day park (took almost 20 years to achieve), and Galaxy's Edge, along with Toy Story Land, will do the same for DHS again after the park's re imagining away from a studio park. EPCOT is getting 2 new e-tickets in the next 3-5 years, which will make it a 1.5+ day park again. Let's face it, it takes a lot of money and effort to keep theme parks modernized, and just as you're opening the newest high-tech attraction, another attraction is 5 years overdue for replacement. Disney is addressing the obvious problems while still seeing significant attendance growth across the board.

December 5, 2017 at 1:41 PM · I'm not sure how this is any different than the old school coupon books.
December 5, 2017 at 1:57 PM · Don't you think you are already charging enough to keep normal families from affording the parks. Don't give us up charging. Just keep it like it is and stop going up. Its getting like a Super Bowl if you don't have enough money you cannot go
December 5, 2017 at 2:00 PM · I'm sorry but the thought of Disney charging more for a specific area is disgusting. I sincerely hope this is just random talking and not something that comes to pass.

Yeah cool it's their park and they can do what they want and Disney isn't a right but come on. I am beyond disappointed that a company that pretty much prints money with every franchise they have exploits regular people so much.

Sorry not everyone can be super rich or land a great job or be as upwardly mobile as the haters who respond to me will say I need to be if I want to go to Disney. I work all year and like to believe I earn a vacation only to be exploited out of every dollar they can get really takes that heart out of it.

December 5, 2017 at 3:13 PM · Epcot and DHS are finally adding attractions that have staying power. Previously, their educational attractions lose interest in less than 5 years after opening and people just stopped going. That's why there is such heavy demand for Epcot's Test Track and Soarin', and DHS' Rock n' Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania. Nobody wants to go on anything else. Certainly, adding new capacity helps, but there needs to be enough high quality attractions to spread the crowds.

Disney did the correct thing with DCA's Tower of Terror to change it. Previously, Radiator Springs Racers had 120 minute wait times while Tower of Terror had 45 minute wait times. Now, Guardians and RSR are evenly matched at 60 minute wait times each. This is much better crowd distribution. You're more likely to do both attractions instead of missing out on RSR.

After Epcot's transformation, I'm sure Test Track and Soarin' will be much easier to ride, just like DHS' Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror will be more available. DCA's Toy Story Mania and Soarin' are never the heavy hitters and they often rank much below the other attractions in popularity.

As for Animal Kingdom's Flight of Passage, the heavy demand at 90 to 120 minute wait times must be countered and Dinosaur is obviously not doing it's job. The Indiana Jones Adventure conversion is a no brainer. It must be done soon.

December 5, 2017 at 5:09 PM · Virtual queueing works when demand is hot (like when Potter first opened back in 2010) but once the popularity fades, I'd rather stick to the physical queues.
December 5, 2017 at 5:25 PM · You've admitted the best reason to avoid the upcharge: class strife. Right now American is torn between the haves and the have-nots, perhaps more so since the great depression. Regular families have to save all year to go to Disneyland, let along stay in a Disney hotel, let alone stay in the marquee hotels. All day long regular kids see the rich kids skipping lines with their park guides; they see all the toys they can't afford.

And yet Disney continues to create more and more upsell experiences for the very rich--have breakfast on the Jungle Cruise! A special dinner in PotC!

If they start charging more for rides within the parks, the animosity it creates will far outweigh whatever benefits they might achieve. I pray they don't go there, but if they do, I may not, either.

December 6, 2017 at 3:31 AM · Thing is for a 2 week break its costs us £700 for the package ticket which is a lot of money. so i dont see why i have to pay more for a new ride. the problem with virtual Qs and disneys fastpass is that they sell out straight away and need to be very lucky to get one. i think people should only be allowed to go on the ride once in a day so this gives everybody a chance
December 6, 2017 at 3:33 AM · Thing is for a 2 week break its costs us £700 for the package ticket which is a lot of money. so i dont see why i have to pay more for a new ride. the problem with virtual Qs and disneys fastpass is that they sell out straight away and need to be very lucky to get one. i think people should only be allowed to go on the ride once in a day so this gives everybody a chance
December 6, 2017 at 4:14 AM · Up charge for this up charge for that on top of an absolutely crowed park. Not worth it.

I for one would not pay it. The value has disappeared from a trip to Disney as you spend most of the time on a queue.

I have mentioned here before in other discussions about an extra show building for the ride itself but one queue just like they added to toy story mania.

Disney are aware from the planning stage just how busy this attraction is going to be and they should plan accordingly.

And before any gets on here and mentions sure aren't they a company trying to make as much profit as possible. A thought needs to be spared for people who have to buy plane tickets hotel costs car hire and other costs before their entrance fee into the park.
So it doesn't only cost an entrance fee, costs are for some people a once in a life time vacation.
There needs to be some goodwill from the company which is lacking in the last number of years. Look at the number of up charge experience which have been added in the last number of years and shorter park hours to make way for evening upcharge events.
Even Mickey's very merry Christmas party at 85 dollars had only 18 attractions operating despite the park being packed.

December 6, 2017 at 6:58 AM · "Disney are aware from the planning stage just how busy this attraction is going to be and they should plan accordingly."

Absolutely, but those plans include anticipated demand not only in the first few month, but 5+ years down the road. I makes absolutely no sense for a park to spend tens of millions extra on an attraction building redundant capacity that will not be needed 5 years down the road. It also doesn't make sense for designers to spend tens of millions extra to displace critical backstage infrastructure and/or adjacent park space just so guests wait 20-30 minutes less for the first year of operation.

Look at Na'Vi River Journey...It ran throughout the summer with 60-90 minute posted lines for what most consider a mediocre, at best, attraction. Sure, Disney could have made the course longer, allowing for more boats and higher capacity, or even build a second loading platform and parallel course in the backstage area, which would have probably dropped average lines to 20-30 minutes. However, as evidenced by recent wait times, the shine has started to wear off as more and more guests realize the ride is not longer worth the inflated wait, dropping typical wait times to 30-60 minutes, which will inevitably fall even further after the new year during the "slow" period.

I'm sure Disney hope and plans for every single attraction they build to be a long-standing hit and will maintain its popularity for decades. However, the fact of the matter is that even the best Disney attractions eventually are superceded by newer attractions, meaning any additional capacity is unnecessary and thus a wasted investment years down the road.

I'll reiterate that I think Disney (and other theme park operators) actually like lines, particularly for new attractions, because it validates the demand and popularity of the new additions. Having so much additional capacity on a new attraction eliminates the pent up demand for the new rides and takes the shine off it in the eyes of guests (if the line is only 20 minutes, the attraction must not be that good, but if it's 240 minutes, it must be AMAZING).

December 6, 2017 at 8:52 AM · "I makes absolutely no sense for a park to spend tens of millions extra on an attraction building redundant capacity that will not be needed 5 years down the road."

Sure, but too late for Epcot's Soarin' with a third theater and DHS' Toy Story Mania with a third track. They should have saved their money by adding even more E-Tickets in the parks, but I'm sure Fastpass+ figures into the decision.

Star Wars should have been the exception to the rule for it's popularity show no signs of letting up.

December 6, 2017 at 11:58 AM · I think they should go back to charging a minimum to enter the park, maybe $15 to $20, then sell ticket books to ride all the rides. The only dowside is that unpopular rides would get replaced... so we might lose things like Pinnochio.
December 6, 2017 at 12:10 PM · I don't think they should do an upcharge at Hollywood Studios. That park really has no other actual attractions, and really needs Star Wars land to make it a park worth visiting in the first place. What they should have done in Anaheim (too late now, I know) was built a 3rd gate, with Star Wars, Marvel and Avatar, thus providing the necessary momentum to truly spread out the crowds and provide some relief for Disneyland and DCA. The plan to build a giant crowd magnet at the back of an already crowded park was and is a huge mistake. No upcharge or virtual queues are going to solve the mess they're making.
December 7, 2017 at 6:10 AM · Have to say Russell I don't agree with you.
Because if a ride becomes redundant as happens they can use the space to build a new ride just like they have done with Tower of Terror for example.
So when they build a new ride in that area they do the same again and guess what? they already have the two show buildings and one queue for the new ride again reducing wait times and costs.

Nor do I agree if a ride had a short wait time that I am not going to get on it because it must be an average ride. Quite the opposite, if a queue is 240 minutes long I am not going to wait on it no matter how good the ride is supposed to be.
I did'nt spend all that money to stand on a queue all day I'm on holidays.

Other advantages to the customer is if one side is down for maintenance the other side could be open. If the park is not busy during certain times of the year they could just open one side.

In the overall scheme of things the cost of a second ride is only a fraction of the cost of the whole project and might I add pittance to amount of money Disney will make on this project.
Simply if a queue is to long it bad planning and poor customer service in my view.
I am not just taking Disney here I include Universal and other parks

Greetings from Ireland Russell

December 7, 2017 at 7:14 AM · I agree with your points Del, but unfortunately human psychology doesn't always work logically. Smart, savvy theme park visitors (i.e. most people reading and posting here) are typically trying to find a way to get on the best attractions as many times as possible with minimal waiting, so your statement that guests won't get in a 240-minute line is accurate, at least for that group of guests. However, go to any Disney fan site or listen to guests talk in the park and you'll see that a significant majority of theme park visitors, particularly those to WDW, are completely clueless as to how the parks work, and follow the inherited human instinct to hop in a queue because that's where everyone else is. These are guests that think they're planning because they do enough research to know that attractions like FOP and 7DMT have ridiculous lines and will plan chunks of their day explicitly to stand in them, instead of finding ways or working to avoid them. These guests, again making up a pretty significant majority of daily visitors, go with the flow, and are susceptible to the natural instinct of the mob mentality. To these guests, a HUGE line must mean the attraction is the best in the park, and instead of coming back when the line is shorter, they hop in to follow the crowd (lemmings). The logical/analytical side of me would say that there couldn't possibly be that many people in this world, but every time I visit WDW, there they are all over the place, and I overhear them talking about grabbing a bite to eat before standing in a 2+ hour line while I'm on MDE securing a FP+ for that same attraction 30 minutes from now.

Redundant capacity would always be a great idea, but it can come at significant cost. In Disneyland, that cost is not always in dollars and cents, but instead in space. If Disney were to build redundant capacity for the Millennium Falcon and First Order rides, the overall footprint of Galaxy's Edge would likely increase by at least a third, forcing Disney to expand further south into Rivers of America, potentially taking Tom Sawyer Island with it, or expanding east, taking out a chunk of Toontown. Certainly DHS's version of the land would have extra space to work with, but I think that may be where the Star Wars Hotel is going, so you would be displacing that to simply reduce waits.

As far as making money, Disney does not make money on rides. Because a single admission price is charged to access all attractions, guests are paying for an overall experience, so the addition of Galaxy's Edge would only make money based on increased attendance and per-cap spending, which can only go so high based on the overall capacity of the park (not dramatically affected by individual ride capacities). Building additional ride capacity certainly would provide a better guest experience, but it doesn't necessarily translate to additional revenue. People will flock to DL and DHS in droves for Galaxy's Edge whether the attractions can handle 1,500 people per hour or 2,500 pph, and the extra 12,000 people per day that could ride the higher capacity attractions in a typical 12-hour day would not come from extra park admissions, they would come from the overall park population and guests wanting to ride the attractions multiple times. It simply doesn't make smart business sense to build redundant capacity just to make lines a bit shorter in the first few months (when lines are already going to be longer due to natural operational inefficiency and the normal ride break-in period).

December 7, 2017 at 10:31 AM · Stop giving them ideas!! No upcharge for new rides. When you buy admission to the park, you have access to everything in the park. Period.
December 7, 2017 at 10:32 AM · As for Star Wars Land, I can see a fast pass system just to get into the new land. Didn't Universal do something like that with Potter when it first opened?
December 7, 2017 at 10:36 AM · Again I disagree as I have often heard people putting off or planning vacations until after a particular ride or experience opens. So while you can ride any of the attractions you wish when you pay your entrance fee. People do travel to do particular rides when they open or with the intention of doing so only to be disappointed by the particularly long lines long after the attraction has opened.
Adding a second ride would not increase the size of the area by a third.
Also I am not taking about increased numbers attending the park to take up the extra ride capacity either. There is already an excess number of people in the park who have not experienced the attraction but have paid their entrance fee it simply a better customer experience.
A 12,000 capacity is small considering the number of people in the park.
As regards people riding it twice this is easily blocked by only allowing one fastpass per day. The second ride could be used as fasspass only and the first one, part fastpass part normal queue thereby providing guests a greater opportunity of experiencing the attraction. Therefore if you really want to ride it twice good luck on the standby line and enjoy the four hour wait.
Sure they have already added capacity to a simple spinner rides like Dumbo. The queue for this was often in excess of an hour but when you have a small child with you who wants to experience it an hour is excessive. Toy story mania being another example often 2 hour wait in Florida with all the fastpasses gone by 11a.m. Still wildly popular after all this time.
December 7, 2017 at 11:57 AM · "Adding a second ride would not increase the size of the area by a third."

Yes it would. Look at how much space was consumed by the 3rd Soarin' theater at EPCOT (took over a support area and loading dock behind The Land) or the 3rd TSMM track at DHS (took over an entire sound stage that was used as a walk-through attraction). Galaxy's Edge is already opening with two rides, a restaurant/bar, gift shop, character meet areas, and more. Adding redundant capacity to both the Millennium Falcon and First Order attractions would take up significant space, not to mention when you build parallel ride systems, you have to also create parallel queues since you can't just load both from the same platform. If you keep these rides positioned in the land to maximize mobility through the area (something that wasn't heavily considered in IOA's WWoHP IMHO), the redundant ride systems would either have to get pushed outside Disneyland's current park boundaries to the north or west or the entire land would have to get pushed south or east into currently utilized space (Rivers of America or Toontown).

"There is already an excess number of people in the park who have not experienced the attraction but have paid their entrance fee it simply a better customer experience."

There may also be guests that either don't want or cannot ride the new attractions for one reason or another (height restrictions, medical conditions, disinterest, etc...). Walking into the gates of a theme park does not entitle you a ride on the newest attraction. The early bird gets the worm, so either show up at rope drop to ride attractions that you don't have FPs for, or deal with the long lines. Parks like that, because it builds anticipation before guests even walk through the gate, and ensures that guests will lengthen their days to accommodate the new attraction (increase to per-cap spending). The other option is to simply wait for the hysteria to die down when lines are more manageable. Certainly, it would be great if every single person walking into the gates of a theme park could ride every single attraction without waiting, but that's just not feasible given space and logistical constraints.

"As regards people riding it twice this is easily blocked by only allowing one fastpass per day."

That's what they're doing right now, and presumably how they will handle Galaxy's Edge when it opens (unless one of Robert's ideas catches on). Both new rides will likely be categorized as tier 1 attractions, meaning guests can only pre-reserve one of the 2 rides (just like how they're handling FOP and Na'Vi River Journey). If additional capacity becomes available day of because of efficient operations and/or cancelled/no-show FPs, that capacity should then be made available to anyone who wants to utilize it on a first come, first serve basis either through additional standby throughput or FPs. That's exactly how we were able to ride Flight of Passage 3 times in October (first at rope drop, second on a FP we reserved ahead of time, and then a 3rd time on a FP that appeared on MDE randomly in the afternoon while we were in the park).

December 7, 2017 at 12:05 PM · "Didn't Universal do something like that with Potter when it first opened?"

Nope, they just had a line form that snaked around from Jurassic Park all the way to Marvel Super Hero Island. Once the land reached capacity in the morning, they would start forming a line, and would not allow additional people to enter the WWoHP until guests in the land exited. In the weeks that the land was first opened, lines were reported upwards of 8 hours just to get into the WWoHP.

It was expected that Disney was going to do the same for Pandora, but it never happened. I'm guessing the same rumors will crop up when Galaxy's Edge nears completion, but it's anyone's guess as to what they actually do. The first clues will likely come in how Disney sells APs in California since that was how Universal attempted to initially manage crowds for USH's WWoHP. I would have to think they will have to have some way to manage guests in the land as a whole in addition to the attractions themselves and limit the amount of time guests can spend there, allowing maximum throughput.

December 8, 2017 at 3:24 AM · Still don't agree Russell. I have never mentioned anywhere that once I paid in I was entitled to walk on to all or any of the rides in the park. All I am suggesting is I should be able to get on an attraction in a resonable amount of time and a resonable number of attractions in a day which was not the case on my last visit.
As for arriving at rope drop means a very early start to get near the front,I have been at the rope drop in the Magic Kingdom Blizzard Beach to name but a few. In Disney Studios Paris at the rope drop with the intention of doing Crushes coaster it still took as long between the queue outside the park to get in and although ride queue was shorter still took an hour and a half when both times combined together. Queue time for the ride was 90 minutes during the day so no difference.
As park attendance just continues to rise year on year the only real solution is to increase ride capacity.
You refer back in your posts Universal and Harry Potter. I am not trying to single out Disney here although crowds were worse in the Disney Parks on my last visit.
December 8, 2017 at 7:23 AM · I can see where you're coming from, but I don't think it's as easy as simply building additional ride capacity. As noted before, redundant ride capacity is expensive to build, and even in situations where price would be no object (i.e. Star Wars), space becomes a limiting factor.

Perhaps you have had bad rope drop experiences, but we've always been very satisfied by arriving at parks 45-60 minutes prior to opening. In fact, we arrived in the parking lot of DAK about 50 minutes prior to the official park opening on our most recent trip in October, and arrived in the entry plaza about 35-40 minutes ahead with about 300 or so guests gathered ahead of us. They opened the gates about 25 minutes prior to the official park opening and the held the crowd near Tiffins for another 15 minutes or so until they opened Pandora. By the time we got off FOP, it was 9:10 AM, so our total wait time for the most popular ride in all of WDW (one that has been averaging 3-4 hours during the peak of the day) was about an hour. Even if we were further back in the crowd, having the majority of the wait time during a period when the park was not open is far better than wasting time during the day when you could actually be riding something else, so I have ZERO compassion for those complaining about long lines during the day or arguing that rope dropping ends up with the same wait time. That may be true, but I'll take waiting when I can't ride anything else (or while I'm eating breakfast in a in-park restaurant prior to opening), than spending that same wait time when all the rides and attractions are open any day of the week. After riding FOP we were then able to ride Na'Vi River Journey (posted 90-minute wait) through the standby line in about 30-40 minutes. After watching the drumming show, spending some time walking around, riding FOP with our FP+, and then having lunch at SaTuli Canteen, we had fully experienced PtWoA by 11:30. Based on other trip reports, our experience is a pretty common one for those willing to wake up just a bit earlier to get to the park and have a loose plan for their day. Also, our rope drop experience can be replicated in the other Disney parks as well for high demand/low capacity attractions like 7DMT, Peter Pan, Frozen Ever After, and previously for TSMM (capacity doesn't appear to be much of an issue anymore with the 3rd track).

You also seem to think that rides are the only think guests coming to Disney parks want to do, which is absolutely not the case. Some people will come into the parks and not ride a single ride, and not have any desire to. Those guests are perfectly happy people watching, dining, seeing shows, and just enjoying the overall ambiance of the parks. While that percentage of the overall attendance is probably not more than 20%, it's still a pretty significant chunk.

I think from Disney's perspective, they would ideally want guests to enjoy somewhere between 6 and 10 attractions per day (including rides, shows, parades, and meals), and most guests seem to be happy with that - attendance continues to increase year over year despite rapid price increases. Disney is also a business, so if people are still showing up in droves and willing to wait in 2+ hour lines for the best attractions, why in the world would they bother spending more money building redundant capacity for attractions? It would be money flushed down the toilet to appease a few guests that are unwilling to work to make the most out of their visit and the ignorant that probably won't make another trip to the resort anyway because they are completely crowd averse. A large majority of WDW visitors were aware of the 4-hour standby lines for FOP and either worked to avoid it or accepted that the new ride was popular and technically complex resulting in frequent, unpredictable downtime. Most of those guests, even if they spend 4 hours waiting in line, are probably still going to make a return visit, so in Disney's view, they're validated in not only making the addition, but in offering new, cutting edge attractions even if it takes 4 hours to experience them.

"As park attendance just continues to rise year on year the only real solution is to increase ride capacity."

And see, that's where you don't quite understand. Disney may not be increasing individual ride capacity, but by adding new rides and attractions that are either brand new (increasing total ride count in the park) or replacing older, less popular rides, they are increasing overall park ride capacity to accommodate the increasing attendance. The Galaxy's Edge rides on both coasts represent increases over the current total ride count in the respective parks. Now, you could argue that at DHS they took out a bunch of attractions to make room, but those attractions (Backlot tour/Catastrophe Canyon, Lights Motors Action, etc...) have been gone for over a year, and the park has been running in a handicapped state for quite a while, so adding Galaxy's Edge, along with Toy Story, will be like opening the flood gates in terms of ride availability (I would expect TSMM, ToT, and RnRC to have lines cut in half after Galaxy's Edge opens). Nonetheless, whatever the official capacities are for the new Star Wars rides, the represent an increase over the current overall park ride capacity. Whether guests are willing to work to avoid the inevitably long lines to experience them is on them (FP, planning, rope drop, etc...).

December 8, 2017 at 8:23 AM · still don't agree with all the planning in the world there is no way to avoid long lines.
you keep taking about redundant capacity. There is no redundant capacity on soarin toy story midway mania or Dumbo which have had extra ride capacity added so my theory works. Tell me where capacity has been added and is redundant.
I'm sure if I said to you the queue is only an hour long instead of two you wouldn't say ahh no I prefer to queue for two hours.Nor would it mean you will come back less often cause the queue was only an hour. But although you might not believe it longer lines does lead to less visits for a lot of people.
I just don't go to a park to do rides as I already stated a resonable number of attractions per day.By the way my favourite is fantastic which is not even a ride.
And yes this is about Disney spending extra money for little or no return. But I'm my view they are already getting enough.
December 8, 2017 at 10:32 AM · "And yes this is about Disney spending extra money for little or no return."

And that's the point. Disney is a publicly traded company charged to earn profits for shareholders, not some charity giving handouts to people whining about long lines.

" There is no redundant capacity on soarin toy story midway mania or Dumbo which have had extra ride capacity added so my theory works."

Actually, Dumbo is a PERFECT example. The original capacity for Dumbo was pathetic because it was a single load. Waits for Dumbo were typically around 60 minutes prior to the move and doubling of capacity. However, Dumbo at DL rarely has lines over 30 minutes because there are plenty of other rides nearby in Fantasyland if the Dumbo line is beyond guest tolerance (plus there's no FP gumming up the flow of the standby line). Additionally, the dueling Dumbos at WDW are now practically walk on all the time except on extremely busy days, so between the move (with additional overall Fantasyland ride capacity in the immediate area) and the doubling of Dumbo's capacity they've now created should be viewed as redundant capacity. I think we'll see a similar situation play out with TSMM once Toy Story Land and Galaxy's Edge open as the additional capacity from the construction of the 3rd track combined with even more rides guests can experience will reduce lines even more significantly (typical lines are already down to 20-40 minutes with FP+s easy to come by throughout the day). I don't think TSMM will ever get to walk-on like Dumbo has become (which honestly is a bit sad - no lines reflect negatively on a ride's status within a park), but could get regularly down to under 20 minutes. You'd probably say that's great for guests, but for Disney that signals an attraction that's not drawing and not as popular as it once was. It also signals that the 1,000+ people that were standing in those 90+ minute lines for TSMM are now somewhere else in the park, not representing an increase in overall attendance. For all three of these examples of recently added capacity to existing attractions (Dumbo, Soarin', and TSMM), Disney spent money, and didn't get anything out of it. From a guest perspective, it's great that the lines are shorter, but I would have much rather they added a NEW attraction than build a parallel ride system to an existing attraction. To me, this is a prime example of Disney taking the lazy way out that in the end will not improve their bottom line one bit, and could have improved guest satisfaction even further by giving them more overall attractions than a higher throughput/shorter line for the most popular.

December 8, 2017 at 1:35 PM · Russell we will never agree on this but just to mention. 60 minutes plus was always too long for the Dumbo spinner ride.
Last year was the first time I got to experience Toy story ride about a Forty minute queue in November with both sides operating and soarin 70 minutes again fully operating.
While I do agree Disney is not a charity its a business with high standards I am of the view that over the last few years everything is about money and profits to the detriment of customer satisfaction.
That has been my experience in recent visits.
I have no problem standing in a queue it's just when everything has such a long queue it ruins the experience.
So while that problem has been solved with Dumbo I still think they need to do more.
Anyway it been a pleasure having this debate I look forward to more on other issues in the future. Cheers Derek
December 8, 2017 at 2:04 PM · I guess we will all have differences of opinion, but in my experience, those 60+-minute lines can easily be avoided. Yes, they're there and people do actually wait hours on end, but a smart and savvy visitor can and should avoid them. You used to have to guess whether a line was worth getting in compared to other attractions around the park, but now with MDE, you can instantly pull up the wait times across the entire WDW resort, and see if that 60-minute line for Frozen is worth standing in if there's a 30-minute line for Soarin'. We have regularly visited WDW every 2 years or so for the past 15+ years, and have never actually waited in a line at WDW over 60 minutes (not including rope drop waits). We have always used FP and trip planning to avoid long lines, while still experiencing virtually every attraction (including minor ones) in all of four of the parks over a 4-5 day visit. Is it getting harder than it was 15 years ago, absolutely, but it's by no means impossible. I have zero empathy for guests whining about lines or pleading for Disney to add extra capacity to rides, because there's always a way to avoid lines and/or prioritize your trips. I was highly critical of FP+ when it replaced the original FP system, but now that it's fully implemented with the ability to add and change reservations on the fly with your phone instead of having to walk to an in-park kiosk, it's a pretty incredible system. I provided the example of our experience in Pandora earlier, and can give many many more examples of using the tools that Disney provides to get the most out of your visit. Anyone who complains about not getting on enough rides in a given day or is screaming to the heavens about waiting in a 240 minute line for FOP doesn't deserve anyone's pity, and certainly doesn't deserve billions of dollars of additional investment from Disney to make their previous little snowflake's visit to WDW free of lines.

"So while that problem has been solved with Dumbo I still think they need to do more."

But see, I think in solving one problem, they created another. Now Dumbo sits with no line, and after all that investment, the attraction is not holding any guests in its queues to keep them from filling the rest of the park (limiting overall park capacity). The problem with Dumbo was a FP issue, because DL's Dumbo never had an issue with 60+ minute lines. The ride is not that great, yet the standby lines swelled for it because guests could simply FP it and it limited the standby throughput.

I think Disney has been doing a good job of finally adding new attractions to WDW, and by 2021, all 4 parks should be up to full-day+ lineups, which will help all of the lines, but will also bring even more people into the parks. It's a Catch-22, because if you don't want lines, then that means parks are not full. If parks are not full, they can't make money to build new rides. If they don't build new rides, the lines on the best of the old rides will swell, starting the whole cycle over again.

December 9, 2017 at 2:44 AM · Its funny that the first poster said they have an economics degree and they think it's a good idea. While I respect that opinion, this MBA does not think its a good idea. I grew up in socal, trust me I know how over crowded Disneyland gets, and i'm sure Star Wars Land will be insane, but I don't think it's worth the PR nightmare. Imagine people taking their kids to Disneyland and having to explain to them that they can't afford to go to Star Wars Land lol. People that buy their tickets should be able to see the whole park IMO.

The best ways to deal with the crowds are

1: Have a LOT of AP previews. I'm talking like daily for two months. DLR has over 1 million AP holders and if they don't do something like this get ready for mass chaos on opening day.
Also (this will only help crowds on opening day, but still needs to be done) whatever kind of opening ceremony they have it should be media only, this way the AP holders who already went during the AP previews don't feel the need to take over the park on opening day. They did this with Pandora I would imagine they will do it with Star Wars as well.

2: EMH every day both in the morning and evening, with the nighttime EMH being Star Wars Land only. WDW did this with Pandora and it spread the crowds out nicely. Between the three resorts that's like 2,500 families that don't need to crowd the area during the day (of course you will get people who want to ride multiple times and willing to wait, but at least those that don't will get an opportunity to ride).

December 9, 2017 at 10:39 AM · Had the phone app and planned in advance.
I would love to have one of those "snowflake vacations" Russell you crack me up.
The next time I am going you might lend me those rose coloured tinted glasses which you use when your looking at the Disney app for ride times. If we are still friends?
December 11, 2017 at 5:34 AM · Terrible idea. Disney neglected their American parks for the better part of two decades. Why reward Disney for systematic underinvestment in their American parks? Now Disney is finally adding spare capacity. Ten years too late.

If Disney had invested the $1.5 billion wasted on MyMagic+ in actual brick and mortar attractions, overcrowding would not be an issue. Could it be Disney likes overcrowding because it gives their MBA's an excuse to raise prices without having to put any actual work into improving the parks?

Glad Disney is finally fixing the parks. Should have been done long ago. Disney does not deserve a pat on the back for doing what they should be doing in any case. No more add on fees. Disney executives are living too high on the hog as it is. Don't give those pigs more.

December 11, 2017 at 10:06 AM · I can only report on my personal experience and the experiences of those that choose to share in public forums. I'm sorry if you've had poor experiences at WDW, but between what I've personally experienced over our past couple trips as WDW continues to soar in popularity and attendance, and what I've read on other fan sites/message boards, guests that take the time to understand the system and plan ahead tend to have enjoyable visits with minimal waits. Those that just show up at the MK parking lot (Ticketing and Transportation Center - TTC) when MK is scheduled to open get what they deserve. They can complain all they want about long lines and attractions not having enough capacity, but will get no pity from me. While they're waiting in line just to get on the Monorail, I've already ridden Space Mountain twice and have 3 FP+ reservations for later that morning.
December 11, 2017 at 1:25 PM · So basically WDW and DLR now are like Tokyo Disney has always been, packed every day. Popluation grows, society changes, boo hoo

At least WDW has the high capacity version of all the rides (whereas Tokyo Disney has the low capacity versions of Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, Star Tours, etc...even though the park is always packed).

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