Rope Dropping Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on a Busy Day with an 8am Flight of Passage FastPass+ – 3/15/18

We return to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to rope drop Pandora – The World of Avatar. We’ve arrived with similar ambitions a number of times since the Land opened back in May of last year. We started out shortly after Pandora opened with a Flight of Passage rope drop in this post. When that didn’t go so well, we tried again a week later in this post. After Animal Kingdom moved from 8am opens to 9am opens, we returned to see how things changed here. Since those all focused on the unpleasant situation that is rope dropping Flight of Passage, we visited Na’vi River Journey first thing instead in this post. We last considered Flight of Passage in this post, when we tried riding last thing at night with hopes of finding less stress than rope drop and lower waits than the afternoon.

I’ll mix things up again this time around as we’ll be visiting on a presumably busy spring break day with an 8am regular open. The plan is to visit Na’vi River Journey first thing, which should be easy. I’ll then use an 8am-9am Flight of Passage FastPass+ that I was able to acquire shortly after Disney moved Animal Kingdom’s open from 9am to 8am. When Disney extends hours, they release FastPass+ experiences for each available attraction during the new operating hours as well. Because those changes are typically made within 30 days of a given date, it’s possible for anyone with a ticket attached to their My Disney Experience to snag one of those newly-available FP+.

This is 7:02am and a total of about 150 people are waiting in three separate lines in front of the ticket booths. Disney is not allowing anyone any closer.

I trotted around to the side to see what things looked like in front of the tapstiles. A security guard was standing right around where I snapped this and asked if I was headed to the bathroom, which is off to the right. He looked disgruntled when I said that I wasn’t and asked if I could take a picture. He said, “I guess, but I’m not sure it will come out.” He probably shoots Nikon.

As someone that typically rolls out of bed around noon, I had no idea that it was still dark at this hour, but we were on our way forward at 7:08am.

We then filled in all of the available space in one large clump in front of the tapstiles.

Knowing I was headed to Na’vi River Journey, and thus, in no hurry whatsoever, I got in line in the middle for a better view of everything in front of me. This is the worst place to be.

You want to be in the far right line as you look towards the Park entrance so you can move over to any additional lines that end up opening.

For Flight of Passage, you need to arrive at least 75 minutes before Park open and have the ability to move quickly to the holding area next to Tiffins and in front of the main entrance to Pandora. Above is 7:22am and the lines for each tapstile are backed up well past the ticket booths.

This is the number of people in front of me with my 6:57am arrival at bag check. Almost all of them are headed to Flight of Passage.

At 7:23am, the tapstiles opened and everyone was allowed to enter the Park. It took me seven minutes to arrive just inside of the entrance.

On a whim, I shot a video of my walk in (direct link), which turned out to be far more popular than I was expecting with more than 19,000 views and 750+ likes. You’ll notice that virtually everyone runs and there are no cast members to stop them. Even kids bouncing along on shoulders are passing me left and right. My favorite moment is the girl that looks towards me and says, “I’m with this guy,” only to see what I look like, cough, and keep hurrying along.

It’s not the first time that’s happened to me.

There they go.

There was no rope up in the other direction, so the few guests heading to DinoLand or Asia were free to do so at their leisure.

If I had arrived here ten minutes sooner, there would have been more color in the sky.

The website reiterates that you’re only in a hurry if you’re headed to Flight of Passage. If you’re headed elsewhere and don’t want to deal with the initial rush, but still want to maximize your early morning time, first hang back at the main entrance behind all of the people pushing forward. They’ll clear out in ten minutes and you can saunter up to the ticket scanner of your choice. Then take the right path through the Oasis and continue on. You’ll only run into a handful of people that way, even if your first attraction is Na’vi River Journey.

This is 7:34am or one minute before the masses were let go towards Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.

The mass of humanity was originally backed up past where I’m currently strolling along.

Those headed to Flight of Passage will file in to the right.

Na’vi River Journey is pretty much reserved for those that are lost or have kids too short to ride Flight of Passage. And even then, you might try to stand them up one on top of the other and put a long trench coat around them to try to avoid going to Na’vi River Journey.

This is 7:38am and if I was going to get in line for Flight of Passage now, I’d probably wait 70 to 100 minutes depending on theater downtime and how many FastPass+ returners arrive. With an 8am open, that isn’t the absolute worst thing in the world considering I’d be on my way around 9:15am, but it’s far from ideal either.

One wonders what Pandora would look like if Disney had been able to create two rides that people wanted to ride relatively equally.

Nobody from the Flight of Passage queue is running towards me screaming that they accidentally got in the wrong line.

A 5-minute posted wait for Na’vi at 7:39am.

That seems doable.

I walked the queue and was on the boat three minutes later.

Because it was 50 degrees outside and considerably warmer inside, my lens had fogged up.

This post will largely contain images from the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens that I picked up last week.

I shot just about everything at f1.4.

That means just about everything is going to be “more zoomed in” than either of us would like.

With a shallow depth of field.

Just outside the exit to River Journey, the queue for Flight of Passage is visible outside as it winds around the Valley of Mo’ara.

At least they have some time to enjoy the morning glow of the sun on the mountaintops.

On my first ride through, my total experience time was 12 minutes.

Without a whole lot of people coming towards the attraction entrance.

So I got back in line with the 5-minute posted wait.

And I was on-board again in three minutes.

The shaman has an incredible amount of detail.

Pirates of the Caribbean has over 120 Audio-Animatronics while River Journey has exactly one. I guess you can pay a lot more attention when that’s the case.

I was back out front at 8:03am for a total experience time of 12 minutes again.

It’s 8:04am, which means the Park has “officially” been open four minutes and I’ve ridden River Journey twice already.

And the posted wait is now 10 minutes.

My Flight of Passage FastPass+ was for 8am so I could head over there now and use it.

But I was interested in what the actual wait would now be.

Especially because this is around the time you could hope to arrive if you were to ride Flight of Passage first thing in standby.

And also around the same time that you might get in line a second time if you’re running a little late or choose to stay well behind the crowds.

I got in line at 8:04am and would have been back out front at 8:26am if I hadn’t taken a couple of extra pictures.

It’s 8:27am and Na’vi River Journey is up to a 45-minute posted wait, which is probably about accurate.

The backup at Flight of Passage is stupid. That’s it to the left, but it’s not even close to the back of the line.

It might be hard to see, but there are two cast members holding up ropes in front of us. That’s because the Flight of Passage queue, including the extended portion outside of the entrance, isn’t long enough to contain all of the people waiting to ride. They’re backed up across the way way out of frame to the right.

At 8:28am, or 28 minutes after official Park open, the posted wait for Flight of Passage is 180 minutes. That’s forty minutes longer than one hour and eighty minutes.

Flight of Passage joins Mission: SPACE as one of the two attractions where a cast member will hand you a warning card before riding:

This started about two weeks ago.

The CAUTION and WARNINGS probably detract a little from the immersive quality of the experience, but some number of complaints probably piled up from riders that weren’t sure what to expect.

I arrived with FastPass+ in hand at 8:28am and was past the merge point with standby just five minutes later.

And in the first pre-show room less than five minutes after that.

I was back out front at 8:58am for a total experience time of just 20 minutes, which is around eight minutes less than average.

People are still filing in from across the way somewhere. The people you see in line here have a 2-hour wait in front of them.

The line goes all the way back towards the bridge that connects Pandora with Africa. And that’s still not even the end of it. Remember that the entire regular and extended queues are full.

Even where that guy is standing near the entrance to Pandora is not exactly the end of the line since there are people backed up behind him. Forever out of frame. And even with the guy quoting a 3-hour wait, people still continue getting in line.

Here’s a look at wait times over the course of the day in question, Thursday March 15, 2018:

Larger: Here.

If you have to wait the three hours for Flight of Passage, it’s much smarter to do so later in the day when waits are prohibitive elsewhere.

If you were to wait three hours at 9am and disembark the ride around 12:15pm, you’d be looking at a wait of 70 minutes for DINOSAUR, 75 for Safaris, 40 for Primeval Whirl, and 60 for Expedition Everest. You could walk on any of those other than Everest by getting in line for them at 9am instead. Na’vi River Journey’s average wait for the day is 94 minutes. Over my three rides first thing, I waited a total of about 15 minutes. If I were to ride three times later in the day, I’d wait a total of 4.7 hours. The peak wait was two hours and ten minutes at 11:15am. For River Journey. One time.

Despite oppressive afternoon crowds – above is the scene outside Kilimanjaro Safaris at 1:45pm – the rest of my morning is going to continue to go swimmingly.

We’ll continue with Part 2.

Comments

  1. Mike says

    What would have happened to wait times if Disney would have built two rides that people wanted to ride equally….Boy! Ain’t that the truth, it’s a real shame that all that money and hype went into a Land with only ONE good ride. Disney should reimagine Navi into the que for flight of passage, and put into its place a trip through pandora similar to Dinosaur. A whiskey and coke stand out front would probably help too!

    • Mike says

      Wanted to add that that overly crowded pic above looks TERRIBLE. Disney should start doing Citizen only week every other week of the year. Maybe some walls would help?

  2. MA says

    Great post Josh, as always !

    We did the exact same thing on Friday 03/09/18.

    We were at the turnstile at 07:35am and in front of Na’Vi River at 07:45am.
    We rode it twice (07:45-07:55 and 07:56-08:06), for a total time of 21 minutes.

    Then, we headed to Dinoland and that area was all us, where Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl were walk-on (total of 24 minutes).
    That was a great start for our day (and we returned to Pandora for our FOP FP+ early afternoon)

    • Jeff says

      That is what we plan to do in mid April. Rope drop Na’Vi River, then Dinosaur, the fast pass Everest 10:00 – 11:00, then we have a FOP fast pass from 11:00 to 12:00. I am hopeful we breeze right through this.

  3. Erin says

    So Josh, can you just review for me…where is the sweet spot for arrival time at the gate if you are 1) going to Na’vi first standby and 2) don’t want to get caught in the mass of humanity throwing elbows to get on an amusement park ride?

    • josh says

      There’s enough space around the Animal Kingdom entrance that you can stay away from the crowds regardless of when you arrive. But in order to not wait around unnecessarily, I’d look at arriving 30-40 minutes before official park open for Na’vi River Journey. You could do 20 minutes early for Safaris or Everest or something. Almost everyone heading o Flight of Passage will take the left path through the Oasis, so you can take the right path to avoid a lot of the people streaming in too.

      • Erin says

        Awesome. Thanks so much, Josh! (I see you haven’t used my “sleep in your car overnight” touring plan yet.:)

      • dusty cheatham says

        thought I read where Disney was collecting over $1 billion $$$$$$$ dollars a year in parking fees @ the theme parks. . and frankly I am tried of everybody else does it . I don’t spend my money 4 to 5 times a year everywhere else. will I visit any other theme park probably not . but I will tell you between family & friends appx 20 people visit Disney multiple times a year. with passes going up, rooms, food, & now parking fees and don’t think this is the end of any hidden fees. the idea that I will continue to visit 4 to 5 times a year is not $$$$$ feasible. by the way that’s 4 to 5 times a year for the past 24 years.

  4. Erin says

    Great post! Question for you – with an 8am regular park open, if they let guests in at 7:23am, is the rest of the park and attractions open besides Pandora at that time? Everest, Safari, etc?

    • josh says

      Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey opened around 7:35am. The rest of the attractions would open closer to official park open and probably right around that time – perhaps a couple of minutes early but it depends on a number of factors. As long as you’re inside the park 30 minutes before open, you should arrive at the non-Pandora attraction of your choice in time for it to open, whether that’s 7:45am or 7:57am with an 8am open.

      • jz says

        These are the choice pieces of information that make reading your website invaluable.

        From this Post and blog-entry, I’ve learned that Rope Drop at Animal Kingdom is worth the effort to start in Pandora if a.) you first attempt Na’vi ride and then, b.) go on to the other E-ticket rides & attractions….with the hope of holding a FP+ for Flights of Passage (FoP), or to then wait the 2+-hours for FoP after completing all the other rides & attractions.

        Personally, I have a difficult time waiting for anything for 2-hours (I could fly home from Florida in that time, almost), but my family met a number of folks who were ready, willing, and able to wait for 2-hours on our last visit because they enjoyed FoP so much – ‘different strokes’, as they say.

        Josh, seemingly, you previously provided similar information for mapping touring plans for that last visit – and that too made our journey all the better.

        I don’t read it here enough, but I attempt to say, “Thank you,” for all that you do for all of us.

    • Mike says

      Standard practice now is to let people enter the park, but only so far, up to the Tree of Life at AminalKingdom, but cast members will hold the crowd there and only let you proceed to actions at official park opening.

  5. Jackie says

    If you are parking at animal kingdom do they let you park early or is it better to take the buses? I will be staying at the campground and hoping to go on avatar early morning.

      • Not that Josh says

        What about for EMH days where the park then opens at 8:00? Would we expect pretty much what you’ve shown above in that situation? We won’t have a car, but I suppose Minnie Vans might be an option? I know it’s not recommended to visit on EMH days, but it’s either AK with EMH or the Ghost of Hollywood Studios.

  6. says

    Two things. “This is the worst place to be.” AND ” I have an 8am Flight of Passage FP. I’ve never walked anywhere more smugly in my life”
    Cannot stop laughing

  7. Shelly says

    We are going to AK the second week of April, where they changed the opening to 9am and have just extended evening hours. How do you think that will affect the morning Pandora pandemonium? We don’t have a FP for FoP, and are contemplating rope dropping for it. But, we have a toddler and 2 small kids who can ride and I’m a smidge concerned about our strollers and the rushing. Any tips or advice?
    Thanks for your detailed posts!!

  8. Glenn T. says

    “You want to be in the far right line as you look towards the Park entrance so you can move over to any additional lines that end up opening” is the statement you made in this post concerning where you should stand while waiting for the tapstiles to open. In a previous AK rope drop posting, you mentioned that the best place to stand while waiting for tapstiles to open is to the left side.

    Has the best side to wait changed from the left side to the ride side?

  9. Ezra says

    One can only hope that Star Wars land does have 2 rides that people want to ride roughly equally. Josh, do you have any guess as to which of those two rides will be the bigger eticket? Regardless, my guess is that it will make the crowds at animal kingdom look quaint by comparison.

    • Disney Fanboy says

      Everyone will want to fly the Millennium Falcon…. Not everyone will want to do the attraction where you dress up a Leia mannequin in the Jabba the Hut throne room outfit.

      Fanboy OUT!

  10. dusty cheatham says

    and who will mortgage their house to stay @ the STAR WARS HOTEL . cant wait till josh checks in .will he go all out and wear star wars clothing ???

  11. Disney Fanboy says

    Not to be a Debby Downer, but I don’t think Flight of Passage is “worth it”. If my choice is to ride Everest twice, DINOSAUR twice, ride Safaris and then watch Festival of the Lion King all between 8-11 (which I think you probably could) vs riding Flight of Passage once…..I’m going to go with my first choice.

    But that’s just me

    Fanboy OUT!

  12. Johanna says

    Is the chaos any better on EMH mornings? I reallllly don’t want to arrive an hour before opening if I can avoid it.

  13. Linda says

    I agree with Natasha! The “walked so smugly” comment was great! Thanks for all this detail, Josh! And I absolutely love how in each of your posts you remind people how to tell time regarding the wait times!!

  14. Rachael says

    Hey Josh! thanks for all the awesome info. Quick question for you or anyone who can answer….is there Rider Switch for FOP? Just curious as we have a short 4 year old and wondering if it’s worth a shot or just get a single FP and the others go out on their own?
    Thanks!!

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