Walt Disney World's gondola system reopens after incident

October 14, 2019, 11:27 AM · The Walt Disney World Resort this morning reopened its Disney Skyliner gondola system to guests, following an incident earlier this month that left some riders stranded for three hours.

Disney still has not acknowledged what happened to literally leave hundreds of people hanging for hours on October 5. Fans published photos to social media showing three gondolas crunched together in a station, but DIsney at the time only called the incident a "malfunction."

In a statement today, Disney said, "[f]ollowing a complete review with the manufacturer, we’ve made adjustments to our processes and training, and we are improving how we communicate with guests during their flight with Disney Skyliner. We again offer our deepest apologies to the guests impacted by the malfunction that resulted in extended operating delays on Oct. 5."

The Disney Skyliner will run (fingers crossed?) today and tomorrow from 8am to 10:30pm, before a limited operational schedule for the next three days, as Disney continues to update the system. On Wednesday, the line connecting Disney's Hollywood Studios to the Caribbean Beach will be closed while the other lines run only from 1pm to 10:30pm. On Thursday and Friday, all lines will run from 1pm to 10:30pm.

There's no official word on operating hours after that,. But, as always at Disney or any theme park resort, operating hours are subject to change. Even if they usually don't, this situation provides a reminder that they can.

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Replies (16)

October 14, 2019 at 5:54 PM

I’m sure it’s safe, but there isn’t enough money in the world to get me on one of those things. I would’ve been hesitant even before the incident.

October 14, 2019 at 7:10 PM

They just need some new branding: "The Twilight Zone Skyliner of Suspense." How's that sound?

October 15, 2019 at 1:23 AM

I’m on holiday in Austria at the moment and suspended transport is simply everywhere here - chair lifts, cable cars, cabin lifts, gondolas. Today I’m going to take one to the summit of a 9000ft mountain and whilst I’m really not good at heights (feel queasy looking down drops), I have absolutely no hesitation in using these modes of transport. They have superb safety records all around the world and they afford vistas and access that I woudl otherwise not be denied.

I get that some people don’t want to use the Disney system but I really don’t get the rabid hatred we’ve seen, nor the sheer schadenfreude of delight when the problem occurred last week. I’ll be using it next autumn when we visit DisneyWorld and look forward to it.

October 15, 2019 at 9:25 AM

Of course Disney would simply call it a "malfunction". But it may be a malfunction that caused those cars to crash together in the first place. What the public wants to know is exactly what happened, how it happened, and how they will prevent this type in "incident" from ever happening again. I'll be they will never tell.

Robert: "The Twilight Zone Skyliner of Suspense" may be an appropriate name, but... what's in a name...

There's too much construction going on all over WDW, But then again, I would be disappointed if they didn't have something new each time I go. I do get tired of the construction though.

October 15, 2019 at 10:39 AM

Fifteen years ago when Michael Eisner was basking in the glow of being Michael Eisner, and the only things going up at Disney World were the ticket prices and Michael Eisner's salary, the theme park community was begging for new lands and attractions.

Now we're getting them, and construction walls and cranes are the price we pay. So, just like the old adage that you can never be too rich or too thin, there never can be too much construction at Disney or Universal.

October 15, 2019 at 11:16 AM

I’m just here for the comments section...

October 15, 2019 at 12:53 PM

I think there are definitely places where gondolas are the perfect forms of transportation, particularly when highly variable topography and difficult to span bodies of water are concerned. The issue with WDW is that a gondola system was not the right solution for the resort's transportation problems. Because of that, Disney is essentially fitting a square peg into a round hole. The problems compound when the flaws of the system are pointed out by critics, and logical, well though out solutions are not offered by designers. Disney was getting criticized left and right for the issues of guests being stranded, hot cabins, and long lines, and within 2 weeks of its opening, the Sweatliner dealt with all of these potential "nightmare" scenarios with the savvy of a 3 year old having a temper tantrum.

I don't think people will refuse to ride the system because it's not safe, they will abandon it because it's not any better than the buses that Disney is trying to replace. For me, that's where Disney has failed. They've undoubtedly spent tens of millions of dollars for a system that many people simply won't bother riding because there are better and faster transportation options. Why take a chance with the Sweatliner to get between DHS and EPCOT when you can make the walk in 20-30 minutes or take a boat?

October 15, 2019 at 1:22 PM

I have to disagree with Russell on a key point - the fitting of a square peg into a round hole. When viewed only as a transportation solution, sure, that makes sense. But Disney is constantly looking for unique experiences to offer guests who cross their threshold. Where else can guests hope on a gondola at/ or near their hotel and end up at a theme park? As such, I think the gondola system knocks it out of the park (given it can stay operational).

Now, I'm no gondola fan, and I only use them out of necessity here in Colorado to access ski runs, adventure parks, and, earlier this year, to say "I love you" to my girlfriend for the first time at the top of the mountain! (high-five, Clayton!). But for the majority of US residents gondolas remain unique, and that novelty will likely draw plenty of folks.

October 15, 2019 at 1:36 PM

It's one of the safest modes of transportation, and even than Disney manage to make it have an accident within 1 week.
Safety is clearly not a priority at the mouse.

October 15, 2019 at 1:47 PM

I can see where you're coming from Clayton, and Disney's desire to offer something "magical" for their guests to get around the resort. However, practicality and efficiency should supersede all other considerations when transportation is concerned, and it appears that Disney's effort to try to find a unique solution to their problem has resulted in a novelty that's more of an attraction than a mode of transportation.

Ultimately, Disney can do what they want with their money and land, but I think when transportation at WDW is concerned, they could have gone in a lot of different directions that would have produced a better result than the Sweatliner.

October 15, 2019 at 1:58 PM

Congratulations Clayton!

October 15, 2019 at 2:18 PM

One time, I wrote a letter to Disney suggesting a transportation system that consisted of a roadway to every park and hotel and many other places. People would get in a car and select their destination. Something like the WEDway People Mover, but smaller cars. If a family got into a car, they could swipe their ticket/badge/magic band, and go anyplace on the system. It could be on the ground, over a bridge over or under any roadway... What happened to my letter? I got it back from their legal department stating that they cannot accept ideas from the public.

This could allow guests to go from one hotel to another, without going to a Park first. Disney could set the allowable destinations based on their own rules. Cast members may have additional locations where they can go.

This kind of system could take alternate routes based on crowding (traffic). This would NOT be on the streets with other vehicles...

I know Disney needs a better transportation system that just buses. They just need to use MORE imagination than the Skyliner.

October 15, 2019 at 3:39 PM

I rode it today from Epcot to DHS, and back.
It worked flawlessly and was actually quite refreshing on a warm Orlando afternoon. Lines were non-existent so it was a cabin with 3 or 4 people at most.
More importantly I got my Remy magnet ... LOL ... :)

October 15, 2019 at 5:55 PM

Russell you can’t be more wrong. This is a system that people will use and like. Has a bigger fun factor than any bus. If you think people will ride a bus over this system, then I just don’t know what to tell you. Can’t be more wrong.

October 15, 2019 at 9:09 PM

I think the Skyliner is a great way for WDW to extend the “local areas” of the resort in a somewhat novel manner (I mean, it’s mass gondola transit; they’re not exactly breaking new ground here.) It’s probably NOT best for the backbone of WDW resort wide transit, but it’s an effective way to extend the “local” range of the Epcot Resort Area to encompass four (formerly three) resorts that aren’t on the lake nor the path to Studios.

It’s smart. It’s relatively cheap. It makes transit a ‘ride’ to some degree, and they can probably charge more per room per night for the perk. I suspect that it’s the Epcot line that’s going to be an ongoing challenge for them, as it’s the most complex, with two turn stations, one of which loads and unloads passengers.

They should make their next phase the following lines, with Coronado Springs as the main station:
Epcot-CS (basically a parallel of the Epcot line on the other side, but with one turn station in lieu of two, in effect doubling the existing Epcot Station)
Studios-CS (the invert of the line above, with one turn station heading south to double the existing Studios station.)

I vacillate between adding Animal Kingdom Lodge or not, in that it’s a Deluxe Resort, If one did, it would be its own line from DAK. You could, in theory, have a long line from CS to the TTC, but that seems extra.

For relatively minimal expense, WDW could link seven resorts to three theme parks via “premium” transit, nine if we count the All-Stars as separate motels. (Plus the six around the lake by the Epcot station, now with a non-bus option to DAK.) Not too shabby, all things considered.

Realistically, the way they built WDW suggests that buses will remain the backbone of their transit efforts, but they probably should rework their strategy to mimic bus rapid transit and have "lines" of BRT, rather than less frequent, but more direct site-to-site bus transit.

October 15, 2019 at 10:54 PM

Eh, it had an operational hiccup that has been resolved. In the grand scheme of things, an unfortunate incident but not a big deal. Let us not forget how many theme park attractions have malfunctioned in much more spectacular ways (often resulting in severe injury or death) and still remain in operation to this day.

As for the system's popularity, if you survey guests a year from now I've got a feeling you'd find 90+% of Walt Disney World visitors either enjoy the Skyliner or are at least neutral toward it. Operated properly, it will get you between Epcot and Hollywood Studios in under 20 minutes at most times of day, and other than rush periods in the morning and evening lines will likely be minimal.

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