By now you’ve probably heard that the Disney Skyliner was evacuated on October 5, 2019. As I type this, crews are working on getting guests down from their gondolas one at a time. Some have been trapped up there for hours.
If there is any sort of “good news” to come from this? There hasn’t been any injuries as a result of the incident (that we are aware of thus far). Plus, it seems that the evacuation is going somewhat smoothly. We have no idea when the Disney Skyliner will reopen. When it does, I think paying guests deserve to see some changes from the lessons learned from what happened on October 5.
How Did This Happen?
Before we dive in, it’s important to know what happened. While we don’t have official word from Disney yet, we think we have a pretty good idea.
While we know operations is on the ground ready to greet weary guests who have been dangling in the air for hours, we believe there are some lessons that can be learned from this incident. Here they are in no particular order.
Based on the above photo and information we can gather, this is what we think happened. As a gondola was supposed to leave the Disney’s Riviera Resort station, it didn’t actually attach to the cable and rolled backward. Based on all the other gondolas continuously moving, this caused them to bunch up and get pushed around in the station. When this happened, it also caused a backup for gondolas coming into that same station. Thus, no gondola could be dispatched or descend into the station. Which is why they needed to be evacuated.
We see this over and over on social media. Those that are stuck in the cabin, many are not being told what is going on and what to do. They are sending messages to Disney World’s Guest Relations twitter account with no response. Most are figuring out what is happening via social media. Some called local news stations to find out what is happening and others called 911.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to have some protocol for letting guests know what is happening and having a way to communicate with someone on the ground. Monorails all have phones that can talk to the driver. This system has zero way to communicate with Disney Cast Members or emergency teams in this type of situation. The call buttons don’t seem to be designed to handle multiple calls at once. You can’t expect guests to have cell phones and/or know who to contact. We have heard incidents of panic attacks and even vomiting within the cabins as a result of this. This has to change.
Some Form of Air Conditioning
When the Disney Skyliner is operating normally, you’ve got a nice breeze flowing into the cabin and it’s quite pleasant. In the case on October 5th, this happened at night. The sun had gone down and as luck would have it, a cool front is headed into Orlando this evening. In terms of an evacuation of this nature, it’s about the best case scenario you could have had. Now it’s time to play “what if?”!
What if this happened at 2 pm in the middle of July? An evacuation that takes several hours could end up being downright dangerous. Passengers with no air flow not only could pass out from heat stroke, some absolutely will. With as many people who can travel the Disney Skyliner at once, it’s just a law of averages. We recognize that the cabins aren’t equipped for formal air conditioning. Yet some sort of fan that can be used even in emergency situations could mean a major difference in the health of those guests onboard.
What if this happened and it started to rain and/or lightning? It could be dangerous for crews to evacuate during those kinds of conditions, not to mention, we assume it can’t be for guests to be on board while it is lightning outside. While we know the system shuts down in inclement weather, who’s to say it wouldn’t come in to play during an evacuation that could take several hours?
Preventing This From Happening Again
Assuming the above information on the twitter account above is correct, why did this happen? Why isn’t there an anti-rollback system in place if the gondola doesn’t attach to the cable? If one was in place, why did it fail?
Also worth noting, why didn’t the other gondolas in the station stop immediately? It seems that they did keep moving for at least a few seconds after this happened. What we don’t know is if the system automatically stopped the load area from moving or an operator hit an emergency stop button manually. Regardless, I don’t see the Disney Skyliner reopening until this is addressed and it is ensured that an incident like this can’t happen again.
Alternate Form of Transportation
Like it or not, when it comes to consumer’s viewpoints on a certain situation: perception is reality. No matter how well you personally may think that this situation was handled, there will be plenty of guests who are wary or downright petrified to set foot on the Disney Skyliner once it reopens as a result of what happened.
At the end of the day, even if the gondolas are running fine and the weather is great, Disney should offer those who just don’t trust that a brand new system had to evacuate a week after opening some form of alternative transportation. Busses should be an option. Can you blame those families who have anxieties about a gondola system to begin with? At least for a while, you should give them another way to travel to the same destinations that the Disney Skyliner does just to give them peace of mind.
To be clear, we believe that Reedy Creek and Disney Cast Members are doing the best they can with this situation during the evacuation. We have yet to hear of any incidents where any Disney employees who are “boots on the ground” aren’t doing everything within their power to resolve the situation smoothly and efficiently. However, we do hope that there are some changes made from lessons learned whenever the Disney Skyliner reopens. Your thoughts?
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