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End of The Line?


If you are standing in the front of line, it’s fine. But if you are near the back, it’s bad.

Simple as that?

Sure.

But polls prove that visitor’s No. 1 complaint about theme parks is just that.

Long waiting times to get to the rides.

It’s not just the concern of visitors, either.

Park officials are also worried about it.

But where are they now about the long lines?

And what’s planned for the future?

Amusement park lines get longer every year, according to Los Angeles-based engineering and consulting firm AECOM.

Park-goers Share their Concern

Lines and waiting times have long been concerns for park officials.

No secret why.

Amusement parks are in business to keep customers happy. Customers waiting in long lines are not a happy image.

But there are practical reasons as well for parks not to want long lines.

Those people standing around using I-phones or trying to find ways to keep the kids amused are not doing much else but waiting.

What they are not doing: spending any money on souvenirs or hamburgers.

Lost income chances.

So looking at this from the park perspective, they wonder: can we cut lines drastically or eliminate them entirely?

What if park-goers did not have any lines at all?

Moving Towards No Lines

That is where they are moving:

Parks all have their own arsenal of crowd-control tactics. The best known may involve Disney.

At Disney World, the emphasis is on good planning. Anyone can request up to three free FastPasses at a time for select rides. They are assigned one-hour windows during which they can walk into the ride in almost no time.

Disney has shunned the idea of charging for the passes because "they felt it would disenfranchise a group that couldn't afford to upgrade," according to a spokesperson. "They just felt that within their culture, it just didn't fit."

Instead, Disney has tried to encourage more widespread use of the passes. Guests reserve rides and shows up to two months before their visits. And the number of attractions eligible for FastPasses has doubled in recent times.

Seventy-five percent of Walt Disney World guests use FastPasses now, compared with fewer than half who did so when they could only reserve them in the park, say newspaper accounts.

The Wait Can be Short

The parks' arsenal of crowd-control tactics also includes distractions, which have grown increasingly elaborate. Disney is among parks using paging systems. One example is at Disney World’s Fantasyland. Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride. Parents and children are given pagers and spend their wait time playing in a giant circus tent. When the pager buzzes, they enter a short line. The wait for a ride on Dumbo is only a matter of moments instead of long minutes. A pilot program was so successful that a second carousel was added to handle more riders.

“These kids in this tent, playing, they don’t have the perception that they’re waiting in line, but that’s what they’re doing,” Kathy Mangum, creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, said in an article published by ABC News. “And their parents are having a ball because they’re escaping the heat for a while, their kids are having a good time, and they’re enjoying that,” she said.

A big part of the strategy, however, is allowing a certain number of people to skip lines altogether.

Skipping all Lines?

Disney has taken a different approach to this than its primary competitor, Universal Orlando.

Universal says you can “get the celebrity treatment” with its all-access pass that includes priority access to all rides. It guarantees “Front of Line” privileges but has a high price. From USD $148.99 to just short of $200, depending on the time of year.

Universal's program "was designed based on feedback from our guests and a great deal of research from our team," spokeswoman Alyson Lundell said in an email. "It helps guests experience everything our destination has to offer at their own pace during their visit."

|SeaWorld has its own Quick Queue Unlimited. “You can skip the regular lines and enjoy front-of-the-line access at our most popular attractions as many times as you want – all day long! “ says the attraction. Guests can save hours of “waiting time” at popular attractions such as Journey to Atlantis, Sky Tower, Kraken and Manta. Prices start at $19 for ages three and up. Prices vary by season.

Can ALL Lines Disappear?

Park officials are aware of consumer complaints about long lines. But they are hesitant to move too quickly to eliminate lines entirely.

Why? Park-goers may get bored. They may see everything too fast. And during busy times, they might end up packing stores and restaurants (instead of lines).

"The flow within a park assumes a certain number of people will be standing in line, more so during peak periods than nonpeak periods," said Joni Newkirk, a former senior vice president at Disney who now runs a consulting firm called Integrated Insight. "You take them out of line, and where do they go?"

But technology is unrelenting. It will help park executives continue to find ways to make lines shorter. Not immediately, perhaps, but it’s something to look forward to: the end of the line is getting to be the bottom line. ###