Universal Studios Hollywood opened reservations for its annual passholders this morning. And it, uh, didn't go well.
Many fans logged onto the Universal website at 12:01am, prompted by the reopening FAQ on the website that said passholders could make one reservation per day, starting at 12:01am. However, a Universal team member later clarified that the 12:01am window was to start on Tuesday, April 6 and that the park did not intend 12:01am to be the launch moment for initial reservations on the fifth, which was the announced date for reservations to open to passholders.
Eventually, Universal Studios Hollywood tweeted at 9:28am that the reservation link was available. However, many fans who had been hitting refresh on their browsers all morning missed it because Universal did not configure its website's homepage to expire immediately, meaning that many fans were just reloading the same old, cached page - without the reservation link.
Based upon replies on Twitter, a few fans who were hitting the site in incognito mode, or with caching disabled, managed to get in and snag a reservation for one of the designated "Bonus Days" for passholders before the tweet went out. But many site visitors were greeted by an "Unknown Client" error every time they tried to click the reservation link on the USH website.
The Universal Studios Hollywood homepage linked to a reservation page that offered options for passholders and people holding day tickets they had not been able to use before the parks closed for the pandemic in March 2020. The passholder link sent visitors to a redirect that was supposed to lead you to the reservation selection page. If you got that final URL from someone who did get in, trying to access it directly redirected you to a login page that seemed to be intended for Universal team members.
But for many USH website visitors, the redirect instead threw them to the Unknown Client page instead of to the date selection page. It's an inelegant way to handle overwhelming customer demand. Other theme parks (okay, Disney) have set up virtual queuing systems to handle an overflow of website visitors trying to make reservations, rather than just throwing errors that lead to people clicking again and again, perpetuating the overload of the website's servers.
I joked with some fellow fans who'd also spent hours clicking away without getting in that perhaps Universal at least could have served us some pictures of Minions screwing things up a different way each time we failed to make it to the reservation page. But an orderly queue with an accurate wait time to get in would have been better yet.
By early afternoon, Universal posed this statement to the reservation page: "We appreciate your patience as we experience high volume. If you are not immediately able to make a reservation, please continue checking back."
I have reached out to Universal Studios Hollywood for additional comment and also asked what availability remains for the designated passholder Bonus Days, including the April 15 preview. So far, I have received no reply, but I will update just as soon as I hear back. (Update: I got in! See comments. There did appear to be availability for all days, but I didn't linger to check every date between the 15th and May 17. I wanted to get that preview date booked ASAP.)
Universal Studios Hollywood opens officially on April 16, but passholders may not use their passes for admission until May 17. Until then, passholders must instead reserve one of the designated bonus days to visit, at no additional cost. Single-day tickets go on sale to the public on April 8.
Update 2: Universal posted another update this evening.
We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with reservations. We apologize for the inconvenience as we work to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. We anticipate the system being down until at least tomorrow morning. Please continue to follow us here for updates.— Universal Studios Hollywood (@UniStudios) April 6, 2021
April 6 update: Universal issued this statement on Tuesday afternoon: "We have resolved the technical difficulties and reservations are open. We sincerely apologize for the delay, but look forward to your visit and to providing you with an amazing experience at the Park. See you soon!"
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