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We rode the Disney Skyliner in the hot Florida sun; here’s what you need to know

by Tharin White

The Disney Skyliner gondola is a brand new form of transportation for the Walt Disney World Resort. The Skyliner gondolas take up to 10 guests per cabin high above the Disney property on an expedited trip to Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and some nearby resorts.

Disney Skyliner

UPDATE – 09/29/19: The Disney Skyliner is now officially open to all guests at Walt Disney World Resort!

Disney Skyliner Dedication Moment at Walt Disney World Resort

The Skyliner has stations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort that will open Dec. 16. Today, during limited testing, we were able to be among the first to check out this new system.

Temperature

As soon as it was revealed the gondolas don’t have air conditioning onboard, everyone has been wondering how hot they will get. We took this to the test. The outdoor temperature today at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was 91 degrees Fahrenheit, with a real feel of 104 degrees in the direct sunlight. So, can these wind-cooled hanging glass boxes keep you relatively cool? The answer is yes!

We took a thermometer into the gondolas while riding them and saw 91 degrees as the average cabin temperature, the exact same as the exterior temperature. But, the real feel was significantly cooler, as the thermometer could not account for the strong breeze inside the cabin. These gondolas were built with lots of ventilation ports and windows. The best way to compare the real feel would be standing in full shade with a medium-to-strong wind blowing. For as hot of a day as it was, the gondola was honestly very comfortable for its temperature which was a relief to me. It isn’t as cool as AC, but it is certainly cool enough for the relatively short trip times.

But, what if you happen to get stuck in the air for a technical delay? On one trip, we were held in the air without movement for six minutes and 12 seconds and had one degree of temperature increase. But, this number also fluctuated from 91 degrees to 92 degrees in that time, and quickly went back to 91 degrees when movement began again.

gondolas

Sizing and Safety

While the gondolas don’t appear very large from the ground, they are actually pretty roomy upon boarding. They are sized for a maximum of 10 guests, or six guests with a wheelchair or ECV onboard. Ten full-sized guests would fully fill the cabin, but the advantage of the gondolas are their capacity. The cabins are constantly loading and unloading, allowing for less cramped space and more privacy for families. That is a significant improvement over the monorail system, which could have numerous families taking up the same area.

As with all things Disney, safety is a huge concern that is clearly the forefront of this project. All cabins are equipped with an emergency call box and a speaker system to relay messages from the cast members to the guests onboard. Other than entering and exiting stations the gondola was very smooth and didn’t appear very affected by the wind. The wind speed during out trip today was 10 miles per hour on ground level. The cabins do have some tilting that happens when they enter and leave a station and get fully attached to the wires.

In the Skyliner stations, guests are held in a waiting spot until an available cabin has entered the loading area. From here, they’re guided to the cabin and quickly reminded of the safety rules, like no rocking or standing while the vehicle is in motion. The cabin is also equipped with graphics that will allow the rules to be understood by people of all languages.

Disney Skyliner

Accessibility

The Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Caribbean Beach Resort, Art of Animation and Pop Century stations each also have a section of runoff track specifically built for guests that may need more time to embark. The Riviera Resort station may have this, but we were unable to see during testing to know for sure.

This track area allows the gondola cabins to leave the regular loading area to come to a complete stop. This allows guests plenty of time to board. The only negative would be for parties with numerous ECVs, which would then require numerous cabins to accommodate everyone. This special track has its own loading area with separate cast members and track controls to allow for an easy transition on-and-off the gondola cabin.

gondolas

The Views

What use is an elevated form of transportation without a good view? Today we were able to test ride the gondolas from Hollywood Studios to the Caribbean Beach Resort, and then over past the Riviera Station to Epcot and back. The only line not testing today was the route from the Caribbean Beach Resort to the Pop Century and Art of Animation station.

While we weren’t able to take any personal photos or videos of the experience, Disney provided sample footage of the experience and we hope to return soon for a full-ride POV video.

First Look Aboard Disney Skyliner Gondolas at Walt Disney World Resort

The views above the Caribbean Beach resort are stunning, with looks out towards Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Bonnet Creek, Riviera Resort and much more. This will soon become one of the best ways to watch a sunset on Disney property.

Our ride into Epcot was one of the highlights of the trip, as we flew directly over the construction for the upcoming Ratatouille attraction and expansion of the France pavilion. We also flew by the Boardwalk Resort and right over the waterway at the Epcot International Gateway.

One issue with the views is that they show everything, including areas that are usually cast member-only areas backstage. These areas may need to be modified to hide the workers backstage who could be on break, or doing work that is deemed less appealing to guests such as garbage disposal.

Disney Skyliner

The Speed

A new transportation system is safe, fun and offers good views, but is it actually a time-saver over buses, the Minnie Van service or driving yourself? The answer is a definitive yes. We timed our trips to each station and got around the Disney property in record time. The longest station-to-station trip was from the Riviera Resort to Epcot at six minutes and 16 seconds.

We stopped only once during our test for those six minutes and 12 seconds that we mentioned earlier. But, Disney is still testing this new system and therefore we will not add that to our times. Our exact times to each station are as follows.

  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – 2:33
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Riviera Resort – 2:17
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Art of Animation/Pop Century Resorts – 2:57
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort to Epcot – 6:16
  • Total time in the air from Epcot to Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 11:27

Guests must disembark at Caribbean Beach Resort to transfer lines to another location. But guests may stay on to bypass the Riviera Resort station and continue on towards Epcot. We also gauged our average speed on the gondolas, which was 11 miles per hour in the air and one mile an hour around turns or in a station.

gondolas

The Experience

We think this will quickly become a fan-favorite Disney transportation option. From sporadic themed character cabins (which offer a somewhat obstructed view) to unbeatable sights, the Disney Skyliner gondolas should be the first transportation choice for guests in any of the connected resorts. The privacy of the cabins allows for quiet time or for the kids to get some excited screams out on the way to the parks. The high capacity should allow for quick access and less waiting for the next bus or boat to arrive. And, fans of Disney facts will love to hear some of the quick tidbits that are talked about on the overhead speaker during the trip.

We also believe that guests should be allowed to bring food and drink onto the ride. There is no signage against it and there is a Joffrey’s Coffee shop at the entrance to the Caribbean Beach Resort station.

The Disney Skyliner Gondola system will be fully operational on Sept. 29, 2019. Keep an eye on our socials for more coverage leading up to the grand opening of this new transportation option at the Walt Disney World Resort.


How do you feel about the Disney Skyliner transportation option? And, do you have any other questions? Leave your comments below so we can update this article with more info as questions arise.

You can watch our entire playlist of Skyliner videos, including an on-ride POV of every route here.

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63 comments

Disneyfan September 17, 2019 - 9:11 am

Was there still a breeze when you were stopped for the 6 minutes? Curious as to how the temp is when there is no movement.

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Tharin White September 17, 2019 - 12:26 pm

Yes, because the gondola cabins are quite elevated a natural breeze blew threw. When we stopped it became a slight bit warmer, but no significant change.

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Joseph Merchante September 19, 2019 - 11:49 am

Wait, I’ve lived in central Florida for 45 years, I drive to work every day. When the temperature and the humidity reaches its max in June, July, August, and sometimes September the air is stifling. Driving to work on 98F day with 98% humidity with my car windows down going 50 miles per hour I’m still sweating, you’re saying travelling 11MPH will be cooler than travelling at 50+ MPH? You had one trip on one particular day, I do not feel that can merit a definite opinion on the coolness factor upon the Gondolas. I’m excited to ride them, but they have yet to have this in operation on those really warm, hot, humid central Florida days.

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Angie September 21, 2019 - 5:47 pm

Totally agree, 91° is hot, i’m sure I wouldn’t find that comfortable in a small space with nine other people.

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Beast September 22, 2019 - 12:31 am

How about you ride them yourself before you come to a conclusion. The windows are reflective all around you not like the windows in your car so maybe this makes the big difference? I don’t know how this article is an opinion when they described how they were feeling while riding. It could be different per rider but jeez just ride them before you come to a conclusion.

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ajaynejr September 17, 2019 - 12:11 pm

Do the cabins have vent louvers in the floor or under the seats? This, together with open windows higher up, will greatly increase ventilation compared with just the windows.

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Tharin White September 17, 2019 - 12:27 pm

Yes! There was ventilation from windows, side vents and numerous ventilation ports around your feet.

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Ray Sharpton September 17, 2019 - 2:30 pm

Mr. White, thank for your article and photos and wheelchair information. I am a wheelchair user and I appreciate your inclusion. It has been my experience that most reporters don’t include that information. Not to fault them, but maybe those reporters have less personal experience knowing anyone that uses a wheelchair at WDW. I for one really appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Ray

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Elizabeth M September 17, 2019 - 7:35 pm

I was coming to offer the exact same feedback! As a paraplegic mom with two kids, planning fun for them that accommodates my wheelchair can be tricky at times. WDW itself is great once we’re there, but information beforehand can be hard to find. Such detailed coverage of this new system is greatly appreciated.

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 9:04 am

We strive to offer the most info possible, Elizabeth, and hearing that it will make such a difference in planning for your trip has made my day. I hope that you and your kids have a wonderful vacation next time you come to Walt Disney World.

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 9:02 am

I am so glad to hear that! I knew it was important to include this info because the gondolas themselves are a unique form of transportation that have their own loading procedures. I was very happy to see that Disney had plenty of forethought in this matter to make it a smooth process for guests.

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Lillian September 18, 2019 - 1:13 pm

my mom uses a scooter, so I too appreciate the info.

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iFarva September 17, 2019 - 6:00 pm

Maybe I missed it, but did you get a time from Art of Animation to Hollywood Studios?

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 9:06 am

They were not testing the gondola line that went from the waypoint at Caribbean Beach Resort to Art of Animation that day so we were unable to get exact timing. Based on the distance we could guess that it would take a little over 3 minutes but we are not sure exactly.

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Guy Newlan September 17, 2019 - 8:53 pm

I was dubious on the concept but with this review and the video I am looking forward to utilizing the Skyliner. Looks really cool.

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 9:08 am

It’s great to see that this review has swayed you towards trying this new experience! It is certainly a uniquely Disney form of transportation that gives you a better appreciation of the surrounding areas.

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Jenna Augustine September 17, 2019 - 9:38 pm

Will this be like the monorail where you do not need to fold up strollers? Would a double stroller fit without folding?

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 9:15 am

We were not told specifically if strollers would be required to be folded up. Your average sized stroller could easily be pushed in, but extra-wide or double-seater strollers may have to be folded to fit.

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CB September 18, 2019 - 11:52 pm

I’m thinking this could be kinda scary in one of those almost daily FL afternoon thunderstorms. Wonder what the experience might be like in pouring rain, wind, thunder and lightning?

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Barry Moss September 19, 2019 - 10:28 pm

I wonder if there will be back up bus transportation during thunder storms, or if guests will just be expected to wait out the storms at a station?

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Norm September 18, 2019 - 11:13 am

If your stroller meets the current park restrictions it will fit in the gondolas without folding.

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The1000thGhost September 18, 2019 - 12:05 am

I’ve been curious, if you’re staying at one of the resorts serviced by gondola, and board a gondola there to go to a park, do you need to wait in line at the park, or do they do all the ticketing/security checks on the resort end, so you can just walk into the park when you disembark? Thanks for the great article and any info you can share on this!

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 9:14 am

You will be dropped off right at the security checkpoints for Hollywood Studios and Epcot with all the security screening happening at the parks. But, with Hollywood Studios recent upgrades the security checkpoints are way more efficient and great at keeping low waits. And, you land at the International Gateway side of Epcot next to World Showcase which has significantly less guests than the normal park entrance.

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Julie September 18, 2019 - 3:35 am

Do you have to go through security before you get on the gondola’s – like you do to enter the parks, and the boats at Universal resorts? Not sure I’d want to go on them if there is no security before boarding.

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 9:09 am

You do not go through security to board the gondolas and instead are dropped off right next to the security checkpoints at Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Much like how the buses and boats do not do screening before hand, the Skyliner gondolas take you to the checkpoint instead.

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Gail Hoffman9 September 20, 2019 - 1:49 am

If we have a group of 4 adults & 2 children, would we be able to board with 2 mobility scooters?

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Tharin White September 22, 2019 - 7:39 am

No, each ECV scooter will need to take its own gondola because of the size of the cabins. There was always two cabins in the ECV accessible area that we saw, so it should be easy to board right after each other.

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Bill Calamita September 18, 2019 - 9:28 am

Will one be able to ride dust for fun, like the monorail, or will one need to show they are staying at one of the hotels? I can see these being _very_ popular. More so than a bus.

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Matt Roseboom September 18, 2019 - 10:39 am

You will be able to ride for fun.

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elizabeth goolsby September 18, 2019 - 12:53 pm

Thank you for the info! We will have a double stroller and scooter in our group so I was wondering how this would work. We will be staying at AOA, will we be able to the take the Skyliner to Epcot for a dinner reservation at Cape May or would bus be quicker? After our dinner we plan to go to Hollywood Studios for Jingle Bell Jam. What would be the best option to get there from Cape May? Thanks

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Matt Roseboom September 18, 2019 - 1:13 pm

We think the Skyliner would be the quickest option to get to Epcot from AOA and to Hollywood Studios from Epcot.

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Jay September 18, 2019 - 1:00 pm

Oh man ..so we have to take individual cabins if we have ecv?? It’s a group of 4 all with ecv .. I’m surprised none fit 2 at least??? Staying at pop in November just so we could do this together. This is Extremely disappointeing cause all the reports kept saying wheelchair accessible .. would of been great to know only one per cabin ahead of time B4 booking. Thanks for the info tho 👍

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Matt Roseboom September 18, 2019 - 1:11 pm

It’s one ECV per cabin. Family members can ride inside too. Watch the video above.

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Craig McConnell September 18, 2019 - 2:57 pm

Is this intended as a direct service between studios and Epcot like Epcot/MK monorail? I was a bit unclear if you’d have to get off and on again thanks.

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 6:38 pm

The Skyliner can go to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, but you will have to disembark at the Caribbean Beach station and transfer to a different line. There is no straight shot from park to park.

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Craig McConnell September 19, 2019 - 3:11 am

Thanks!! Very helpful. So more intended as a resort guest option than a park to park transport I guess.

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orangebird September 18, 2019 - 5:21 pm

Has anyone mentioned operating hours? Can we have a late dinner at one of the online resorts and get back to our car parked at DHS? Will the EC line close with the Park?

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Tharin White September 19, 2019 - 1:33 pm

We are currently unaware of the operating hours for this option, but it will most likely follow other transportation options and stay open at least one hour after park close for whichever park closes last.

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Lea September 18, 2019 - 5:45 pm

What about wait times to get on? I’m assuming the times you listed were the time in the air. What are anticipated wait times to board during peak times like before magic hours or at park close?

Also I heard that these don’t work when there is a thunder storm in the area. Is that true?

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Tharin White September 19, 2019 - 1:32 pm

The lines for to board the gondolas were very short, so I assume Disney knows that the wait won’t be extensive. There isn’t a “rope drop” type experience for this, so the continually running cabins should keep waits to a minimum.

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Randy September 18, 2019 - 5:47 pm

Great report! Thanks for all of the details on loading, unloading and travel time. One question, how many were in your group in the cabin?

Thanks again!

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Tharin White September 18, 2019 - 6:37 pm

We had 2 people on our test flight.

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Jeffrey September 19, 2019 - 12:55 am

I’m not sure having food and drinks is a really good idea. The vents certainly look big enough to toss food and garbage out of the cabin. The cabins could also get dirty and sticky really easily with the carelessness of guests.

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Tony September 19, 2019 - 5:32 pm

The vents are covered with a screen to prevent that.

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Tara September 19, 2019 - 7:11 am

We are staying at Pop. So if we have to get off at CBR and transfer to another do we have to wait in line again? I can see this being significantly slower if you have to wait in multiple lines.

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Matt Roseboom September 19, 2019 - 10:28 am

Yes you will have to get back in line. Each line only has one switch back so we assume Disney thinks the queues will be minimal.

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Ashley September 19, 2019 - 8:01 am

These look so fun but i have some major anxiety about riding them! Do they seem pretty safe as far as the cables and not falling or malfunctioning? And to think about being stuck up there 😱

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Tharin White September 19, 2019 - 1:31 pm

I have personally ridden on numerous cable-suspension style transportation options from large gondolas with 30+ people to small ski lifts. This is the smoothest and most secure system I have ever experienced. I have no doubt in my mind that they will be safe. There is even an emergency call box if you ever feel you need to talk to someone.

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Catherine September 19, 2019 - 12:16 pm

We cannot wait to ride this!!! Just returned from Pop on Monday and watched them float above us the entire 10 days we were there. We jokingly told the CM manning the door during the CM preview that we were just out of costume but it didn’t work. LOL!

Next time!!

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JustConcerned September 19, 2019 - 7:38 pm

I realize that a chance of an accident with these is very remote, but have seen they do go over water at times. If they were to actually fall off the track into a lake is their an emergency exit to get out. Ever since the boating accidents in Branson and recently in California I find myself much more concerned about stuff like that.

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Lee Holden September 20, 2019 - 12:06 am

In the UK Alton towers has a very similar system. However on hot days when its busy the gondola start to get uncomfortable especially when out in the open area above the trees. This happens due to stopping to allow guests with mobility issues or prams on safety. I get the feel that when fully up and running the Disney system will have similar issues for guests. However with that in mind it will still benefit the park especially first thing in the morning and at night after the fireworks due to the temperatures being cooler and the amount of guests it will be able to transport.

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Tharin White September 22, 2019 - 7:37 am

Hey, Lee, yes it is possible that all systems may have to stop from time to time. But, this gondola system has a way for guests in wheelchairs to board and disembark in a separate area so that the process isn’t stopped time and time again.

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Angie September 21, 2019 - 5:44 pm

There is no way I would ever describe 91°F as cool. Yes it is cooler than the 104°F real feel but it’s still incredibly hot. I can’t imagine being stuck on there with nine other people. I guess I should stick to the buses, or only ride in winter.

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Tharin White September 22, 2019 - 7:34 am

We agree that 91° isn’t a cool temperature, but we also mentioned that it was the temperature in the cabin and not the real feel. 91° in the covered cabin with more than enough breeze is what made the cabin a comfortable ride. The combination of the shorter ride, the open ventilation ports and the sufficient winds made for a trip that felt way below its actual temperature.

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Dolewhip head September 29, 2019 - 3:25 am

I still think these gondolas are a huge mistake. They not only ruin the skyline of the resort…. especially the once peaceful international gateway to Epcot….but also are a safety risk. When the first person has a heat related issue while up in the gondolas,they will start to realize they didn’t plan ahead. There will be people who have cardiac events, people who vomit, people who fight,it will break down,it will be shut most days for lightening and people will be stranded, there will be garbage and food spillage, …..a huge mistake. Sweaty seats and all……

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Charles October 12, 2019 - 10:08 am

You had no idea how right you were when you said that did you?

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James October 13, 2019 - 2:24 pm

It took Disney over 2 hours to rescue just one family in one gondola when it broke down shortly after opening., The other people trapped were not rescued, Disney finally got it moving again after 3 hours and they were returned to the station. What happens when it breaks down in the middle of the day in July or August filled with hundreds of guests? These gondolas are potential death traps. There’s a reason why they are using only installed at ski resorts. It’s like leaving your pet or a child locked in a parked car 60 feet above the ground.

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Sam January 9, 2020 - 12:51 am

Go karting pollution, noise and smoke emitting looked third world in Magic kingdom. A better upgrade would have been to use Hydrogen fuel cell and batteries in gasoline burning mobility products in theme parks.

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Michelle Strother January 21, 2020 - 10:15 am

Walt Disney did not plan on having gondolas throughout the park. The monorail was supposed to be expanded to reach all of the parks. Mr. Disney did at one time have a gondola ride at the Magic Kingdom, a ride not transportation throughout the parks. Why Disney purchased these without air conditioning is beyond me. Air conditioning is and was available when they purchased these gondolas. The same model is also used at a Colorado ski and it has air conditioning. There is no excuse for this. They don’t even keep up with the maintenance on the rides. Do you really trust this company to leave you hanging by a wire safely?

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W Nixon January 27, 2020 - 5:02 pm

I did not read all the posts but one minor issue I noticed when riding Skyliner is that if you are in one of the character gondolas your view from the inside is significantly reduced from that of a “clear” one. It is like looking through a material mesh with the doors providing the only unobstructed view. The doors are quite narrow. If there are not many in line the staff will usually let you wait for a clear one. You need a clear one for decent photos.

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Matt Roseboom January 28, 2020 - 8:16 am

This is very true.

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Karen Joyce Bailey February 11, 2020 - 12:25 pm

Do they allow motorized wheelchairs on them

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Matt Roseboom February 12, 2020 - 9:27 am

Yes they do.

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