How Will Virtual Queuing Work at Disney Parks?
If you’ve read any Disney sites over the past few weeks, you’ve already heard. When Disney theme parks return, they’ll likely employ virtual queuing for most attractions.
So, you’re probably wondering. How will virtual queues work? Here’s everything you need to know…
What Is Virtual Queuing?
People don’t use the word ‘queuing’ much in regular conversation. As such, it sounds a bit off-putting. However, Disney fans know the process well. You’ve used it for many years now.
The most famous form of virtual queuing at theme parks is FastPass. Each time you’ve grabbed a physical FastPass or signed up for FastPass+ on My Disney Experience, you’ve entered this virtual queue.
In theory, the service works the same as when you’re on hold with telephone customer service. You’ve asked the system to speak with a live agent. So, it assigns you a virtual ticket number, and you wait until it’s your turn.
Yes, virtual queuing is quite similar to when you grab a ticket number and wait in line at the DMV. The only dif
ference is that you can’t see your number. The system keeps up with where you are in line and when it’s your turn.
The entire FastPass system employs this method, although it’s more modernized. Disney segments attractions into five-minute intervals. Then, it allots a set amount of these digital tickets to park visitors. Once that allotment runs out, the system moves to the next five-minute window.
For customers, FastPasses display as one-hour windows. During this time, you have the right to skip the longer line and enter the shorter FastPass queue.
The system is seamless and effective, which is why Disney has emphasized and refined it over the past 20 years.
With FastPass in place, customers can enjoy more attractions in a day. Meanwhile, Disney can reduce line queues and keep people wandering the parks, where they’re more likely to spend money.
Does Any Ride Use Virtual Queuing Exclusively?
Many of you already know the answer to this question. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance garnered headlines when it opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and, later, Disneyland.
This attraction became the first one at a Disney theme park to rely exclusively on virtual queueing.
To ride Rise of the Resistance, guests must attempt to schedule a Boarding Group. That’s a new, themed term for a FastPass for this attraction.
Park officials understood that demand for Rise of the Resistance would surpass anything that Disney has ever experienced before. And guests who booked a FastPass for this attraction wouldn’t settle for anything else.
So, the Boarding Group became the optimal solution. Anyone who failed to acquire a Boarding Group in the morning would know that they wouldn’t ride Rise of the Resistance that day.
In some cases, it led to harsh feelings, as guests sometimes arrived hours before the park opened. Then, they realized that this decision didn’t help them any, as the start of the park day was when the Boarding Group assignments began.
Still, the strategy succeeded overall, as it removed any confusion about a guest’s Rise of the Resistance status. That’s ultimately the goal for a virtual queue. Guests possess the confidence that they’ll get to experience the attractions that they desire.
Can Disney Expand Virtual Queuing?
Since Disney already has the methodology in place, the company should have no problem switching to a more extensive FastPass system.
We also know that Disney intends to do so. Before Disneyland closed, its smartphone app added a new option on the Boarding Groups page. It said, “My Queues.” And the system appears to work the same as for Rise of the Resistance.
When someone selects My Queues, they can enter Boarding Groups for more than just the Star Wars attraction, though.
However, Disney apparently didn’t intend for this update to go live and has since removed it. Still, we can draw conclusions from this enhancement.
At Disneyland Resort, the most likely attraction to employ Boarding Groups is the Spider-Man experience at Avengers Campus. When it opens later this year, two Boarding Group virtual queues in place at the parks.
With the technology already coded into the app, it’s easy to expand, though. And Disney officials have decided that exclusive virtual queues for popular attractions are viable. If so, the concept can work for anything.
How Will Expanded Virtual Queuing Work?
Because of the pandemic, Disney must speed up the timeline on this sort of change. When the theme parks return, they’re likely to employ a virtual queue for almost all attractions.
In other words, we’ll show up at the parks but not rush to a regular line. Disney will modify those for now. Instead, guests will wait until their turn arrives in the virtual queue.
Then, when the FastPass/Boarding Group window triggers, people enter the FastPass queue. It will look different than you remember, as Disney will display marks where guests should stand.
These updated line queues will emphasize social distancing. And they’ll answer the question about whether Disney has done away with lines.
The company can’t eliminate the entire idea of waiting in line because a walk-up system isn’t in place yet. Over time, park strategists may investigate that, though.
For now, the return of Disney will mean that guests approach the parks differently. With virtual queuing available at most attractions, people won’t rush from one line to the next.
Instead, everyone will use their phones/tablets to visit My Disney Experience or MaxPass. From there, guests will book FastPasses or enter Boarding Groups. Virtual queues will replace real ones.
The idea here is to keep people out of physical lines as much as possible. Long term, this premise isn’t solely for the pandemic, either.
Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort started exclusive virtual queues for some of its attractions when it opened in 2017. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge copied the idea once it became clear that demand for Rise of the Resistance was unprecedented.
Eventually, Disney would have transitioned to virtual queues at all attractions anyway. Coronavirus has become a stronger impetus to do it quickly.
Unanswered Questions about Virtual Queuing
Some questions remain about the implementation. Will guests sign up for FastPasses ahead of time, or will everything be first come/first served on the date of the park visit?
Also, how well will guests honor the social distancing practices in the FastPass queues? If people don’t behave, the whole premise falls apart. And what happens if My Disney Experience performs sluggishly?
These questions aren’t ones I can answer. In fact, they’re the same ones keeping park officials awake at night right now.
All I can say for sure is that many people want the parks re-opened. For that to happen, virtual queuing is a must. So, Disney will need to go through a period of trial-and-error to find the best deployment for the technology.
Reducing wait-time in lines has always mattered mightily to Imagineers. Due to the pandemic, it’s a societal imperative now.