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Are boarding groups and virtual queues a good guest experience? – DePaoli on DeParks

by Jeff DePaoli

The virtual queue was first used in Disney Parks when Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened in Galaxy’s Edge. For an attraction of unprecedented size and length — whether or not you liked the idea of a virtual queue — it seemed to be accepted as necessary, considering the attraction’s grandeur and popularity. Although it’s sometimes hard to remember, this was in the pre-COVID days of theme park compromises.

virtual queue

Now with the opening of Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure as part of Avengers Campus, we’ve learned that this attraction will also require guests to join the virtual queue in order to experience the ride. But does the boarding group and virtual queue system really make for a good guest experience? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

boarding group

If you’re unfamiliar with the process, guests with proper theme park access are able to join a boarding group for free through the Disney Parks’ mobile apps on the day of their visit. These boarding groups become available at specific times of day (currently 7 a.m. and 12 p.m.). The boarding groups are typically completely booked within minutes, if not seconds.

If you’re lucky enough to get a boarding group, you’re now officially part of the virtual queue; if your boarding group number comes up, you’re lucky enough to get to ride. The purpose of this is to stop people from standing in a long line all day as that would presumably make for a bad guest experience (while also stopping people from spending additional funds on food and merch while standing in line).

The good news is that if you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll avoid waiting in a tremendously long queue. But the reality is there is a good chance you will not get a boarding group, therefore having absolutely no chance of riding the newest attraction. If Disney Parks feels that a virtual queue is necessary, there really should be a stand-by queue option of some sort. Would this likely be an incredibly long line? Potentially, yes. But if that single ride is the priority for the paying guest, that should be their choice.

In a world where annual passes for Disneyland Resort no longer exist, there’s no longer this mentality of “Well, I’ll just try another day.” You’re now dealing with everybody spending hundreds of dollars to visit the parks, and I’m sure the priority for many would be to experience the newest attraction, no matter how long the wait. If the queue were to get to an unmanageable length, temporarily shutting down the line is one thing — but telling paying customers that they don’t even have the option to ever get in a line simply feels wrong.

To add insult to injury, you also can’t hold a boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance and Web Slingers at the same time. It’s as if they’re trying to dissuade guests from purchasing a Park Hopper ticket.

When FastPass was first introduced at the Disney Parks, there was the option to use the FastPass or the stand-by queue. This was a win/win scenario. FastPass was available for free to every paying guest and there was also the stand-by queue for folks who wanted to enjoy a more carefree and spontaneous day in the park.

Full Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure Ride-Through, Queue and Preshow POV in Avengers Campus

Although I haven’t personally ridden it yet, from everything I’ve read and heard, Web Slingers isn’t an unprecedented attraction that should require an unprecedented boarding system. It’s a slippery slope if everything new will require this process. Having unhappy customers by noon every day doesn’t feel like a good guest experience for the unlucky percentile.

Speaking of a bad guest experience, I can say that I’ve never been more stressed in a Disney Park than the day I first tried for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. I’ve been very lucky and have always been able to get boarding groups when I tried, but the possibility of not getting to ride after paying for parking and a pricey theme park ticket causes stress and disappointment. Pretty much the exact opposite emotions one would expect to feel in the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

I personally wish we could have the best of both worlds, where a virtual queue did exist, but there was also a stand-by line — like FastPass offers — for the guests who weren’t able to gain a boarding group. My fear is that when and if that day arrives, the boarding pass will cost money, similar to a MaxPass, creating a “have and have nots” situation.

velocicoaster - virtual queue

The thing that I can’t get out of my head is how Universal’s Islands of Adventure has soft-opened the highly-anticipated Jurassic World VelociCoaster with a stand-by queue and no problems. Sure, it may sometimes have a long line, but no longer than any other popular attraction. If a long line is reason enough to have a virtual queue, then there are many Disney attractions that fit that bill.

Overall, while a virtual queue system may feel like a great thing if you’re one of the lucky ones, using it with no other options to ride takes away the choice from guests to prioritize what they paid to experience in the parks. The reality is that stipulations like this will make some guests feel like the cost to visit isn’t worth the risk, therefore causing the Disney Parks to lose business.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the virtual queue system? Do you think that it’s a fair system? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.


jeff depaoli

Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.

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1 comment

Steve Voller June 7, 2021 - 1:06 am

When the park hours are less and you cannot park hop until later in the day, having to always pick the park with the virtual line attraction first causes issues if you do not get in the first queue. My party knows from experience in Disney World at Hollywood Studios. It is not fun to pick that park, not make the queue, and then miss in the 2nd queue as well. Then, to see later that you could not stand in line to try, even though the queue line became real short, really frosted us. There has to be a better way.

I was an annual passholder for years, but did not renew because these last 2 years have been so frustrating.

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