Walt Disney World has announced that the Skyliner gondolas will take flight and officially begin transporting guests between the parks and resorts exactly one month after the official debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, on September 29, 2019.
In this post, we’ll offer some thoughts on the official opening date, possibility of soft openings before then, and offer a quick recap about all things Disney Skyliner gondola-related for those who haven’t followed our monthly construction reports on Walt Disney World’s innovative transportation system. (The most recent of which is our Summer 2019 Skyliner Update.)
As we first covered in our Disney Skyliner Gondola Announced for Walt Disney World post almost 2 years ago, the Skyliner connects Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four resort hotels: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort, which is a DVC property scheduled to officially open on December 16, 2019.
Somehow, this state of the art Doppelmayr gondola system installed in thousands of other places, including both extreme hot and cold climates, has been an endless well of controversy among Walt Disney World fans.
We’ve used similar gondola systems in a similar range of locales, from the hot and humid Hong Kong to Switzerland. Our experience with them has made us avid gondola enthusiasts. We’ve previously (and repeatedly!) expressed that, along with various defenses of the Skyliner in previous construction reports.
In this update, we addressed potential safety issues. In an even earlier Skyliner progress report, we tackled the topic of (the lack of) air-conditioning. For our thoughts on the impact to sight-lines around Walt Disney World, see last summer’s Skyliner Construction Update. Finally, for a non-controversial look at the 55 character wrapped gondolas, there’s this photo report.
Judging by reader comments to each of those posts, nothing we’ve said has made any difference. Many people are steadfastly against the project and preemptively convinced of its failure. In fairness, we’ve also been pretty unyielding in our opinions. Going forward, we’re also more than willing to admit if we end up being wrong. If somehow this established method of transport ends up being a catastrophe we’ll accept it. (Hey, the new character wrap buses could also be a disaster.)
Anyway, as for the announced opening date of September 29, 2019…this comes as a surprise. Although it really shouldn’t be at this point, given that the Disney Skyliner has moved at an astonishingly lethargic pace throughout this calendar year after going up at a pretty brisk speed prior to 2019.
Before this year, Summer 2019 had been the target date for the Skyliner opening. With pretty much everything ahead of schedule, expectations moved forward to this spring or early summer. Obviously, that didn’t happen (for a variety of reasons, ranging from additional safety modifications needing to be made on the ground around resorts to slower pace of work on a couple stations).
For a while, the assumption has been that the lines of the Skyliner connecting Pop Century and Art of Animation to Caribbean Beach, and that resort to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, would debut in time for the August opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
In that scenario, the Riviera Resort to Epcot line would open later, as both the new Disney Vacation Club resort and expanded International Gateway entrance are both still under construction, and unlikely to wrap up in the next month. We didn’t really have an expectation for that line, but if you told us “after October” it would’ve come as no surprise.
Now, we have an official opening date. This late September date is presumably for the entire transportation network, although it doesn’t expressly state as much, so perhaps not?
The announcement by Walt Disney World also doesn’t state whether a soft opening period will occur with the Disney’s Hollywood Studios line in August, which isn’t particularly surprising, as that’s not how soft openings tend to work.
Given that so much of the Skyliner project has not gone as expected, we are hesitant to make any predictions concerning an early debut of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios line, particularly in time for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on August 29.
That would be a full month ahead of schedule, which is a long time for a soft opening. Nevertheless, it certainly doesn’t seem out of line considerably the duration of operational testing/Cast Member training or visible state of the stations at Pop Century/Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios–all of which look like they could drop their remaining construction walls any day now and be ready to go.
It stands to reason that Walt Disney World would want this system ready to go in time for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge if at all possible. That’d really help alleviate the burden on other forms of transportation. Then again, it’s also possible that Disney doesn’t expect crowds to be bad until October, or anticipates the new infrastructure will handle the influx of crowds with ease. Or that debuting by August 29 simply isn’t possible.
It’s also possible that debuting by then is possible–and the plan–but Walt Disney World doesn’t want to overwhelm the Skyliner during its first few weeks of operations. Having the Skyliner soft open for the grand opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would fulfill the goal of it helping with the transportation burden while also avoiding Cast Members and the system facing a ‘trial by fire’ scenario.
Ultimately, this is a lot of thinking out loud without any definitive predictions as to when the Disney Skyliner gondola will actually open. Admittedly, this is by design. The Skyliner has defied pretty much every timeline prediction to date. All I’ll say is this: we could easily move our resort reservation for the grand opening of Galaxy’s Edge to the Swan & Dolphin (to be within walking distance), which currently has ~$175/night rooms. We’re going to stick with Pop Century.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What’s your prediction…will the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Skyliner open before September 29? What about the Riviera to Epcot line…on or after September 29? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts about the Skyliner? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!