Lightning Lane Suffers a Shaky Start
Disney wants you to pay up to $15 for its new service, and I don’t mean Disney Genie+.
Lightning Lane represents a return to 1955-style Disney pricing. Guests must pay to experience eight different attractions at Walt Disney World.
This service has operated for a couple of days now, and it hasn’t gone smoothly.
Let’s talk about Lightning Lane’s shaky start.
What Is Lightning Lane?
Lightning Lane currently has two meanings at Disney theme parks. On the one hand, it’s the shorter line queue for attractions.
We’re more concerned with the other definition, which is the subject of today’s conversation.
Lightning Lane represents two attractions per park where you can skip the lines. All it’ll cost you is $7-$15 per person, depending on the ride.
In fact, Disney added needless complexity to an already confusing topic. Lightning Lane utilizes a form of tiered pricing.
The cost for a ride fluctuates, depending on the day. So, I can’t even tell you a finite price for any attraction. It…depends.
Still, the basics remain the same. You can skip the lines for the following eight rides as long as you’re willing to pay for the privilege:
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Expedition Everest
- Frozen Ever After
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
On most of these attractions, you’ll enter the Lightning Lane and enjoy a shorter wait to board the ride cart.
However, some maintenance issues could cause changes. For instance, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance suffered downtime with both its pre-shows on October 19th.
This led to a strange scenario where people skipped to the First Order Star Destroyer almost immediately after entering the Lightning Lane.
We also learned a few unexpected twists about Lightning Lane. For instance, the stated price doesn’t include state sales tax.
So, $15 for Rise of the Resistance turns into $15.98 when you submit the order.
Also, there are no refunds when you miss your Lightning Lane reservation window, which lasts for 60 minutes.
Disney will automatically refund in the event of ride closures.
Suffice to say that Disney Guest Services lines were long at the parks the past two days.
The Bad about Lightning Lane So Far
The first thing that has surprised people (beyond the prices and policies) is that sellouts occur for Lightning Lane.
In fact, both Slinky Dog Dash and Rise of the Resistance booked all Lightning Lane availability by mid-morning on opening day.
Remember that when you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can schedule your Lightning Lane orders at 7 a.m.
Crazily enough, you should do this immediately. Within minutes on opening day, the first available time slots were in the 3 p.m. range.
Demand remained high on day two as well, hinting that this may be the rule, not the exception.
Also, the snafu mentioned above at Rise of the Resistance caused the ride to close for a time.
When Rise of the Resistance reopened, Disney didn’t operate the standby line queue because so many Lightning Lane guests were waiting.
That’s the first setback of note. At one point, the line for Lightning Lane rivaled anything you’d notice elsewhere at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Those guests paid to skip the wait in line, only to find themselves trapped at Rise of the Resistance for more than an hour.
Obviously, maintenance issues remain unpredictable at the parks, but those guests didn’t get what they paid for with Lightning Lane.
Similarly, attraction wait times come into play. To wit, Expedition Everest and Space Mountain inexplicably offer Lightning Lane options.
On October 20th, the average wait for Expedition Everest had a median of ten minutes. So paying $7 to skip the line would have been self-defeating as a strategy.
Similarly, the median wait at Space Mountain was 22 minutes as opposed to a cost of $7 for Lightning Lane.
The Good about Lightning Lane
Spoiler: this section will be much shorter. Read into that what you will.
Anyway, anecdotally, the ride that paired the best with Lightning Lane the first two days was Avatar Flight of Passage, followed by Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Both those attractions required standby waits commensurate with justifying the cost to skip the line.
Avatar Flight of Passage averaged a 50-minute wait on day two, while Seven Dwarfs Mine Train required 60 minutes.
Those two rides cost $11 and $10, respectively. They may be worth that cost to save yourself the aggravation, depending on your vacation budget.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure also allowed one pleasant surprise. You CAN schedule a Boarding Group and buy a Lightning Lane for it if so inclined.
This strategy allows you to ride Ratatouille twice in one day.
The other positive I’ll add is that guaranteeing yourself a ride on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance might be worth the $15 $15.98.
Beyond that, Lightning Lane seems like an occasional indulgence rather than something most people will rely on heavily during their visits.