As we reported in our Star Wars Land Info & Galaxy’s Edge Guide, Disney plans to use a timed entry “boarding pass” system that guests can book via the app on their smart phones after the initial reservation period ends rather than waiting in a physical line. In this post, we’ll cover how that will work and offer analysis on what to expect.
This boarding pass system is currently being planned for Disneyland, and this in-app feature will debut on June 24, 2019. While Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open in California on May 31, 2019, the first wave of guests from opening day until June 23 will gain entry only via free reservations made online. Those opened last week and “sold out” within 2 hours.
Presumably, many Disneyland locals and tourists who want to visit Star Wars Land were shut out of that online lottery. As such, Disney is bracing the park for a second wave of visitors descending upon Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge beginning on June 24, 2019. This also roughly coincides with the start of more aggressive Annual Passholder blockouts and the beginning of peak summer tourist season.
Disneyland indicated a while ago that this “boarding pass” system would be utilized post-reservations, but the specifics of the mechanism have not been articulated until an interview of Disneyland VP Kris Theiler by Brady MacDonald in the OCRegister.
Per that interview, beginning on June 24, early morning “rope drop” visitors will be able to head directly into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge without securing a boarding pass via the virtual queuing system. Once Star Wars Land reaches capacity, admission will be restricted via boarding passes.
A status bar in the Disneyland app will show guests whether Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is full and boarding passes are required. Guests will then wait in this virtual queue while enjoying the rest of Disneyland, and push notifications will be sent via the Disneyland app when it’s time for their boarding group to enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Additionally, kiosks throughout the park will issue paper boarding passes to visitors not using the Disneyland smartphone app. These two systems are expected to be akin to MaxPass and paper FastPasses, respectively. You must be inside the park to select a Galaxy’s Edge boarding group using the Disneyland app or via the paper kiosks, which means valid admission is required in both cases. (Unlike the reservations system, which simply required a Disney account.)
Once their boarding group is able to enter, guests will have two hours to arrive for their Galaxy’s Edge boarding pass. Again, this is just like FastPass/MaxPass, except with a 2-hour return window instead of a single hour. Via this system, there will be no time limit on how long visitors may spend in Galaxy’s Edge.
Per the interview, late night visitors may also find that boarding passes are not required to enter Star Wars Land. While this addition is 14 acres, we’re incredulous of this statement. Even with only one attraction, people are going to linger in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Disneyland’s hardcore local audience is nothing if not obsessive, and we think the park is underestimating this.
Also per that article, Disneyland plans to stop using the virtual queuing system as soon as crowds dissipate. This open-ended timeframe is smart; “as soon as crowds dissipate” could be September 2019, it could be January 2020, or it could be sometime in February 2022.
When discussing Star Wars Land on this blog, we’ve frequently cited the timed entry system for Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan as the model that Disney should use. Well, this is one-upping that, with both physical kiosks and an in-app option instead of just kiosks and paper return slips a la USJ.
It’s worth noting that Universal Studios Japan is one of the busiest theme parks on earth, but has annual attendance significantly below Disneyland. Even almost 5 years after the opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter, that park still uses its timed entry system on busy days.
It works excellently, but when the first year that system first began, there was a rope drop race to the kiosks, as return times to Wizarding World often ‘sold out’ for the entire day within the first hour (or less) the park was open. Thankfully, it’s now much easier to enter, but we’d expect similar demand for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
If anything, we’d expect more demand at Disneyland. Just as paper FastPass return times for Radiator Springs Racers would often be gone within an hour of park opening that ride’s first few years, we’d expect Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as a whole to deplete its daily supply of boarding passes by 10 a.m. throughout at least this summer. Even with so much physical space in the land, demand is sufficiently high to make those return times a hot ticket.
At present, nothing has been announced for how Walt Disney World will handle admission to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge once that version of the land is at capacity. Disney announced Extra, Extra Magic Hours that would open the park at 6 a.m. to resort guests, so that’s a start for helping address crowds…but there’s a good chance that means Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be at capacity by the time day guests are admitted into the park at 9 a.m.
The big difference between Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is that Disneyland has attraction capacity around the park to soak up crowds waiting to enter Star Wars Land, but not the space for a physical line. By contrast, DHS has the space for a physical line in Grand Avenue (and beyond), but not the attractions necessary to soak up crowds.
We still think some type of virtual queue would be a good idea for Walt Disney World, or perhaps a hybrid approach with both a physical standby line and a priority entry virtual queue. This is hardly an unprecedented idea–it’s exactly how FastPass+ works. This approach would allow Walt Disney World to do something of a balancing act, creating a physical queue to absorb some of the crowd, but keeping that line in check and preventing it from stretching all the way to Crescent Lake.
Disneyland will certainly be the testing ground for whatever plans Walt Disney World might implement, but the parks are so radically different that it’s tough to say to what degree the wisdom gleaned from Disneyland’s debut might be applied to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
What do you think about the ‘boarding pass’ virtual queue for Star Wars Land? Do you like this, or would you prefer a physical queue? What approach do you hope Walt Disney World will utilize? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? 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!