Skyliner Gondola Update: August Soft Opening?

We’re back with another Skyliner gondola update from Walt Disney World! Here we have new construction photos, progress on the stations, and more. Most importantly, we’ll discuss the big question of whether the Skyliner will soft open in time for the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge before the Skyliner’s official September 2019 grand opening date.

For the most part, the construction update photos here speak for themselves, and there’s not much ‘new’ to say with regard to the visible progress, with the exception of the main station at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. As such, we’ll simply sprinkle new photos throughout our Skyliner soft opening commentary, and then do a quick stroll around Caribbean Beach at the end.

We’ve said for a while that there seemed like a reasonable probability of the Skyliner debuting one full month before its official opening. We’ve put our money where our mouths are, so to speak, by keeping our own reservation at Pop Century. Even though we conceded that the “Skyliner has defied pretty much every timeline prediction to date” we decided to roll the dice, figuring there was a 50/50 shot of the Skyliner quietly debuting at the end of August…

Our basis for thinking this might occur is based upon a couple of things. First, the Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Art of Animation & Pop Century Resort stations are both clearly ready to roll, and have been for some time. Aside from finishing touches that could be completed overnight, both could’ve opened a month or even longer ago.

Second, because it seems to make sense as a way to alleviate traffic and bus congestion that could arrive with Star Wars Land. Opening the Disney’s Hollywood Studios portion of the Skyliner (in other words, everything except the Riviera and Epcot stations) would help transport the thousands of guests staying at those resorts to the park via the gondolas instead of buses.

However, we’ve also said countless times that we don’t think September is going to be nearly as busy as many people fear. This was well before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland proved to be a lower draw over the summer than anticipated. In fact, our 2019 Walt Disney World Crowd Predictions: When to Go & Avoiding Star Wars Land Lines (first published back in April) ranked September 2019 as the #1 month of the year to visit.

Despite getting our initial Disneyland crowd prediction wrong (erroneously anticipating chaos there), we’ve stood by our take that September will be a good month to visit. We’ve further prophesied that crowds will get worse beginning in early October and progressively build to a peak in December.

Assuming all of that to be accurate, what incentive would Walt Disney World have to debut the Skyliner at the end of August 2019? To alleviate the spike in opening weekend crowds that may (or may not!) materialize before an otherwise slow month?

After last quarter’s results and the cuts made (hiring freezes plus a reduction of labor hours, entertainment, and operating hours for some attractions at Disneyland), it would stand to reason that Walt Disney World would likewise be reticent to open the Skyliner, and incur those operating costs, before it’s strictly necessary.

If Disney’s Hollywood Studios can ‘survive’ opening weekend of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge without using the Skyliner, it’s smooth sailing until October.

As much as I’d love for the Skyliner to be open by August 29, it’s difficult to fathom opening weekend at DHS being chaotic when it wasn’t at Disneyland. That version opened first and in an area with a significantly higher local population. Hence the September 29, 2019 opening date for the Skyliner, right before October crowds begin to arrive.

Perhaps this is just a way of covering our bases here. If it opens early: hey, that’s what we bet on with our own hotel reservation! If it doesn’t: yeah, the justification for that is totally laid out via our crowd predictions!

In reality, we are basically clueless either way. Both views are semi-informed, but also fueled by rampant speculation. I’d love to will the Skyliner opening date into late August for personal reasons, but obviously I cannot. (Plus, if I did have the power to actually influence Disney’s decisions, I wouldn’t waste that on Skyliner opening dates!)

As such, I’ve resolved myself to the likely reality that late September is more consistent with Disney’s recent moves, post-Star Wars Land opening at Disneyland.

I still will maintain a sliver of hope that the Skyliner is running when I wake up at the crack of dawn on August 29, and fully intend to walk over to the Pop Century gondola station just to double-check. If it’s not open by early morning on August 29, I don’t have much hope that it’ll debut at any point before the end of September.

Okay, now for a quick look around Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, where there actually is still work being done.

Above is a wide view of the main station from over by Spyglass Grill.

Turning to the right, we can see the bridge that leads to the resort entrance and, soon, that Skyliner station.

On the bridge, workers are visible installing a new sidewalk. A few more views from another perspective:

As you can see from the later photos, most of this sidewalk is now finished.

In fact, these photos were taken over the weekend, so it very well might be entirely done by now.

At least in terms of visible work, that sidewalk and some minor landscaping around the entrance/exit walkway (to the left in the above photo) is all that remains to be done.

After that, it’s safe to assume that construction crews will hand the system over to transportation Cast Members, who have already been training on it at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for about a month. This station is larger and more complex than the one at DHS, so there will likely be a learning curve, but we’d expect that to be relatively short.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

What’s your prediction…will the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Skyliner open before September 29? Think it’s a matter of the work not being done, or Walt Disney World management wanting/not wanting to open it earlier? 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!


28 Responses to “Skyliner Gondola Update: August Soft Opening?”
  1. Jill September 2, 2019
  2. Marybeth August 24, 2019
  3. Michael August 22, 2019

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