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Disney World’s new Skyliner opened Sunday, and we took a ride

The high-flying gondola system is a cool way to get to the theme parks, but will it stay that way without air-conditioning?
The new Disney Skyliner began carrying guests high above Walt Disney World on Sept. 29. The custom cabins glide through the air, transporting guests between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four resort hotels: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort, scheduled to open in December.
The new Disney Skyliner began carrying guests high above Walt Disney World on Sept. 29. The custom cabins glide through the air, transporting guests between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four resort hotels: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort, scheduled to open in December. [ David Roark, Photographer  ]
Published Sep. 30, 2019|Updated Sep. 30, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA — With the motto “Dreams take flight,” the Disney Skyliner opened to the public Sept. 29 as a new mode of transportation for guests throughout Walt Disney World.

“It rivals the monorail,” said Alison Armor, vice president of Disney transportation operations. “With 10 people per cabin at this frequency, it’s a huge people mover.”

With 300 cabins, five loading stations and 22 character themes, the Skyliner runs 90 feet off the ground and connects four resorts (an additional five are within walking distance) and two theme parks: Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

And then there’s this fact: The cabins aren’t air-conditioned.

Each cabin of the new Disney Skyliner can carry 10 people. The Skyliner line has 300 cabins, five loading stations and 22 character themes.
Each cabin of the new Disney Skyliner can carry 10 people. The Skyliner line has 300 cabins, five loading stations and 22 character themes. [ KENT PHILLIPS | Kent Phillips, Photographer  ]

We checked out the Disney Skyliner during a recent media preview, and we were particularly curious about that.

The cabin designers, who are from Switzerland, have come up with an air flow system for the cabins that move at 11 miles per hour: Six windows, cracked at an angle, and two floor vents circulate air throughout the cabin.

“The temperature inside the cabin is cooler than ambient temperature outside,” Armor said. “It’s like being in the shade.”

That did seem true during the preview. A breeze that cast members jokingly said causes “Disney Skyliner hair” blew through the cabin. If you were facing forward, the breeze came through windows above and hit you in the face. Passengers facing backward got a slightly warmer ride, with those floor vents offering less air flow in their direction.

So if you’re moving, it’s fine. But when the cabin slowed or stopped, it quickly got uncomfortably warm. The first time we stopped, feet away from the terminal, the sudden temperature rise was a bit jarring.

Plus, the media preview of the Skyliner was at 9:45 a.m., with a Florida fall-like temperature of 81 degrees outside. What will happen in the summer?

“Just like Florida weather changes, it’s going to be impacted as the temperature changes in Florida,” Armor said.

Disney Skyliner line runs at 11 mph with an average height of approximately 90 feet off the ground, double the height of the monorail line. The highest tower is more than 100 feet tall.
Disney Skyliner line runs at 11 mph with an average height of approximately 90 feet off the ground, double the height of the monorail line. The highest tower is more than 100 feet tall. [ DAVID ROARK | David Roark, Photographer  ]

Aside from heat, the Skyliner may also face problems from other typical Florida weather elements. Armor said sustained winds and thunderstorms could likely cause a shut down.

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“Similar to the monorail, we will be cycling it out and offering other modes of transportation,” Armor said. When conditions require the Skyliner to close, Armor said they will “up the game” on other modes of transportation.

Otherwise, the ride was smooth, speedy and quiet, with a view over the treetops of Disney property. The panorama revealed lakes, hotel rooftops and a backstage glimpse of the new Ratatouille-themed ride under construction at Epcot and other previously hidden areas of Disney property. Sounds from below seemed to be amplified by the angled windows, a lovely touch.

Disney added a feature to make life easier for disabled riders. Every 10 to 15 cars can be pulled off the line individually to allow more time for the disabled to board. This keeps the rest of the line moving, while these passengers board at their own pace.

The Skyliner is a solid option for quick, continuous service to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. A one-way trip between Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Hollywood Studios took five minutes; a one-way trip from the Caribbean Beach Resort Skyliner terminal to Epcot took 15 minutes. On opening day, the longest reported wait time was 15 minutes. We can see it being a more popular option than the buses, which currently shuttle guests to and from the various resorts and theme parks.

The new Disney Skyliner offers a smooth, speedy ride with a view over the treetops of Disney property as it transports guests between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four resort hotels.
The new Disney Skyliner offers a smooth, speedy ride with a view over the treetops of Disney property as it transports guests between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four resort hotels. [ DAVID ROARK | David Roark, Photographer  ]



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