No one likes waiting in line, especially at Walt Disney World. In fact, this is the single quickest way to a Disney Meltdown that I know! Outdoor lines are hot and uncomfortable, but even lines indoors, nothing makes your feet feel every single mile you’ve walked that day like suddenly standing still. Discomfort breeds discontentment.
Related: “How to Survive the Dreaded Disney Meltdown”
When Disney announced Genie+ and Lightning Lane, they promised it would reduce lines. Fast pass is inefficient, they said, because everyone has access to it. If everyone could get a FastPass, then there was no difference between that line and standby, except the priority given to boarding, which in turn, made standby lines longer… allegedly.
Lighting Lane was supposed to solve this problem. Its exclusive nature (i.e., the fact that it costs money) would mean that not everyone would have it. Disney argued that this was a win-win: those who coughed up the money got short wait times, and fewer people in that line meant that standby lines would be able to board faster, resulting in shorter times there too. That seems logical and makes sense…on paper.
The reality is, wait times have increased all around since adding Genie+. Disneyland Resort has seen wait times increase by an average of 5 minutes per ride between 2019 and 2022. Walt Disney World has seen wait times increase by an average of 10 minutes per ride in the same time frame.
With Disney’s latest “charge more and allow fewer guests” strategy, you can’t chalk that up to the Parks being more crowded either. So what gives? Lightning Lane’s logic checks out, and there aren’t more people in the Parks, so why are lines longer?
I wish there was an easy answer to this. Maintenance seems to be a big reason. According to Twitter account @WDWStats, average ride downtime increases the wait time by between 30-60 minutes. That’s significant. With more maintenance issues than ever, this could be a big factor in the increased amount of time you’re waiting for your favorite attractions.
Related: “Lightning Lane Line’s are so Crowded, Line’s Now Extend Through Entire Lands”
Lightning Lane also plays a big role, though. The “exclusivity” of it on paper doesn’t work out in reality. Reports say 50% of Guests are purchasing it. This means half of the Guests are getting priority access while leaving the other half to wait. That is going to create a backlog of would-be riders. Cast Members have a ratio when boarding Guests, X number of Lightning Lane Guests are admitted for every standby Guest. When half of the Park is Lightning Lane, those who didn’t purchase are going to wait longer.
Genie+ and Lightning Lane have also changed how Guests use the service. It’s simple psychology that when you pay for a thing, you’re more likely to be more intentional about how you use it than if it’s free. This means most people use their selections on the same popular rides rather than spreading them out like they did with FastPass. The absence of a tier system (like FastPass had) also contributes to this. The most popular rides are set aside for Individual Lightning Lane (which costs extra), but many popular rides are included in your basic Genie+. When everyone is choosing the same thing, it’s bound to get crowded. FastPass recognized this and forced Guests to choose from a mix of rides that varied in popularity.
Disney Parks on both coasts recently began enforcing limits on how many Guests could purchase Genie+ per day to alleviate that, hopefully. Guests are also reporting Lightning Lane attractions being “sold out” more frequently, which suggests that Disney is also limiting how many of these “skip the line” passes are available. Time will tell if this will help the situation or not.
Related: “Sorry, Iger is not going to get rid of Genie+”
While 5 or 10-minute increases don’t seem like much, when you consider that is just an average, it paints a clearer picture. Not all rides are seeing increases that small (or that large)…the less popular rides and rides with higher capacity drag the average down. I could tell you that the average wait time for Carousel of Progress and Space Mountain is 36 minutes, but the reality is Carousel of Progress has a wait of 5 minutes, and Space Mountain is 68 minutes. So no, you’re not imagining it. Wait times have increased, and Genie+ is primarily to blame.