There's no shortcut to preventing line jumping

June 6, 2024, 8:08 AM · Let's talk about line jumping.

It's in the news again because of Knott's Berry Farm's latest attempt to crack down on the selfish practice. [See my colleague Brady MacDonald's report at Knottā€™s Berry Farm cracks down on line jumping: What you need to know.]

There is no policy change. Like all theme parks, Knott's long has banned the practice. But now the park is posting new signs warning against line jumping, as well as offering a phone number - 714-650-8125 - that park guests can text if they see someone skipping ahead in a queue.

That has caused a bit of a local media frenzy, though. I got an email to do a radio interview this morning about the Knott's news, which I had to decline since I am on the road. But I have thoughts, so let's get into this.

First, I am not a fan of hotlines at venues. To me, giving people a phone number to call or text is an admission that a venue does not have enough staff on site to take reports in person. Inside a theme park such as Knott's, there always should be an employee in sight to whom you can report a problem, no matter where in the park you are.

Fully staffing a venue also helps to deter mischief such as line jumping. If people know that there are eyes on them at all times, they are more likely to behave. A park that isn't staffed well enough to deter line jumping is one that's going to need to rely on a gimmick like a hotline to try to address its problems.

But what if you were to text that number? How long would it take for someone to respond to the scene? And would they be able to do anything about it? Are the jumpers long gone by then? How will they handle it if the jumpers claim that they are innocent? How many people are going to abuse this number as a prank?

Ultimately, line jumping is a sign of bad attraction operations. [See Here is the number-one reason not to visit a theme park.] People are less likely to jump a queue that is moving swiftly thanks to an ops team loading and dispatching ride vehicles close to theoretical hourly capacity. They also are less likely to jump a queue that is staffed by an active, engaging greeter and that hears from the ops team throughout their wait. Fans have been complaining about Knott's ops for months now. So it's no surprise that they have a line jumping problem now, too.

There are valid reasons why people sometimes have to skip a line, with the top one being the potty break. But good ops have ways to handle that situation without sending a group of people to push back through the queue, unescorted.

Finally, the most effective way to deter line jumping is to kick offenders out of the park - and to make a scene while doing it. But to do that, park employees need to see the infraction - in person or via video - and intervene immediately. Heck, have park staff record the ejection and post it to TikTok. Then let's see if that video goes as viral as the line jumping videos that likely promoted Knott's management to take this most recent move.

Preventing and punishing line jumping are essential parts of providing good service in a theme or amusement park. But, as I have said many times before, providing good service demands investing in employees to provide that service - paying them enough for them to stick around and develop the experience they need to do that difficult job well.

And that costs more than just printing signs and taking some phone calls.

* * *
To keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

And to help support Theme Park Insider while saving money on discounted theme park tickets, please follow the ticket icon links on our Theme Park visitors guides.

Replies (3)

June 6, 2024 at 8:28 AM

November, 2003, Knotts Berry Farm, Jaguar queue, a woman reports ME to security for refusing to allow her to cut in line. She was literally grabbing me and trying to physically shove me out of the way. And, unbelievably, security is waiting for me at the exit instead of kicking her out of the park. Nothing came of it, but only because we had already decided that that was our last ride of the day. Otherwise, I'd have gone off on this moron, pointed out the no line jumping signs, and some security people would have a memorable encounter.

June 6, 2024 at 10:54 AM

I completely agree about parks advertising hotlines for guests to report line jumping. Not only is it a lazy way to address a problem, but it potentially creates adversarial situations pitting guests against each other (line jumpers and reporters/tattlers). It puts everyone in a tough spot, which in my view creates a security risk that shouldn't exist in a theme park queue. If parks want to be lazy with their management of queue jumpers, they can use signs similar to these hotline signs, but instead of providing a hotline, show the picture of a camera and state that queues are under video surveillance, and that observed line jumpers will be ejected from the park. Heck, parks don't even need to have working cameras (many companies make real-looking surveillance cameras, complete with blinking lights) to help deter line jumping.

Robert also makes a good point about using staff to deter line jumping. The simple presence of a team member at the queue entrance is typically enough to deter most line jumping. For parks that have some form of upcharge queue avoidance system (Fastlane, FlashPass, etc...) you need someone to manage that anyway, so in addition to coordinating that merge of guests, they would also help to observe an organized standby queue. Most parks include this person as part of the ride ops crew, so they rotate positions typically in a way where a team member is walking up/down the queue every 20-30 minutes to perform this rotation.

In addition to having efficient ops so that guests feel like the line is progressing to the load platform, parks need to have better designed queues that mitigate the opportunities for line jumping. The over-reliance on cow-pens/switchbacks gives line jumpers far too many opportunities to get ahead. I understand the need to maximize space, but in my view, these features should only be used for overflow.

I think it's also important for parks to be more accurate in displaying wait times for attractions not only at the ride entrance, but also in their app (frankly these two displays should be synchronized, but rarely are). There's nothing worse than entering a queue that says the line is 5-10 minutes long and seeing that it's definitely more than that - this happened to me a couple of weeks ago at Hersheypark where the app and line entrance signs to one of the popular coasters showed a 5/15 minutes, respectively, only for the actual line to be nearly 120 minutes long. I recognize there's going to be some variability, but the team member managing the queue entrance and queue avoidance system merge should be responsible to update the displays every 5 minutes and should be trained to know how long it will take based on current operations (particularly if a coaster is not operating at optimal capacity). Frankly, I think that some parks (especially Disney) deliberately underestimate wait times in order to "push" guests to specific attractions as a way to "balance" the park, but in my view this creates more frustration from guests that creates situations where line jumping can occur.

Ultimately, if parks took a little more time and invested a bit more money into design and staffing, lines would move at a reasonable pace, guests would not be tempted to line jump, and this entire phenomenon would play itself out.

June 6, 2024 at 7:09 PM

This is something I've seen in use at other Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks, and it pretty much falls into the category of "better than nothing, but far from ideal." I will say that the complaints regarding the current state of Knott's are not's my home park, and of the four visits I've made to the property this year, three have been merely satisfactory and one was flat out unacceptable (to the point I would have complained if I was there on a day ticket). Line jumping is atrocious (especially among the teens that populate the park even with the chaperone policy), one train operations are the standard (with Silver Bullet seemingly the only coaster immune), and I have yet to visit without at least two of the park's major attractions being down for the day (which is exacerbated by half of Camp Snoopy being closed). For those not from the west coast, I would highly advise not to plan a theme park trip to SoCal this year.

Regarding line jumping in general, I get that it is often impractical to staff parks to the extent necessary to eliminate the problem, but I do wish parks would be a bit more active in policing it. For example, if there are queue line cameras, train operators to watch those and make announcements regarding the policy with the same intensity they tell people to get off the handrails. Should you have to warn the same person/group more than once, call security to have them removed from the park. Any employee stationed in a queue position should also be watching for potential line jumping and intercept those who attempt it. If a line is sufficiently long (say over an hour) to the point where it may be necessary for members of a party to leave and reenter the line, there should be an established system to ensure everyone actually entered the line together. Lastly, clearly establish through signage what is and is not line jumping, because with different policies at different parks, what may be allowed at one park is against the rules at another.

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

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive