Disney World has a long history of inflating posted wait times. We’ve written articles and recorded videos talking about this behavior and why, to a degree, it’s necessary. Disney has to control crowds to a certain extent, and they are motivated to under-promise and over-deliver in order to make happier customers. It can be frustrating to know that people are being misled on purpose, but it wasn’t necessarily going to negatively impact anyone’s vacation. But with the advent of Genie (and, specifically, Genie+ and ILL), this sort of wait time inflation becomes a whole new kind of problematic. Now, on top of issues of crowd control and customer satisfaction, Disney is financially motivated to make customers think standby waits are longer than they actually are. Higher posted wait times may encourage you to think more positively about paying $15.98 per person to use Genie+ for a day, or to drop another $15.98 just to skip standby for Rise of the Resistance, or any of the other Individual Lightning Lane Attractions.
Disney has put out messaging that wait times shouldn’t be used for purchase decision-making. So there’s that. But given that the current posted wait time is displayed pixels away from the option to purchase your way around that wait, it’s unrealistic that most humans aren’t going to let that factor into their decision. It’d be nice to at least know that Disney is being responsible with their posted wait times – maybe getting more accurate, especially on attractions where it matters the most. Or at least not getting worse. So since we’ve had nearly a month of data-gathering, let’s see if that’s the case.
Explain the Math!
In order to judge the “fairness” of posted wait times, we need to have comparison groups. These are ways to slice and dice all of the standby wait time data to see when/where it might be different. To get meaningful information in this analysis, we’ll want to slice two different ways, to give us four comparison “groups”:
- Pre-Genie vs Post-Genie
We want an equivalent number of days pre-and post-Genie launch to see if wait time inflation behavior has changed. Certainly, we’d hope that overall it has gotten more accurate post-Genie, but at the very least, we’d want to see that it’s not significantly less accurate.
- Individual Lightning Lane Access (ILL) vs Non-ILL
Similarly, the biggest out of pocket cost for WDW visitors would come from purchasing ILL access for two rides each day. Just skipping Rise of the Resistance currently costs the same as a whole day of Genie+, and there’s reason to believe that cost could easily be increased. So, ideally, those ILL attractions are where Disney would be focusing its effort to best predict and accurately reflect the actual standby wait time. Logistic realities mean that there will always be some inflation in the posted times. But it’d be nice to see less inflation where pay-your-way-around is an option, compared to other attractions.
The Pre/Post Genie slice could prove slightly problematic, because there’s not a direct comparison there. Crowd levels were different in late September and early October than they were in late October and early November. Higher wait times generally means that Disney proportionally increases their posted wait times even further. So to account for that, we’ll introduce another “control” group of data, which is standby wait times from the exact same dates in 2019. 2020 was an anomaly, so we don’t want to use that as our comparison.
The metric we’ll be interested in here is the Actual Wait Time (the wait time the user timed from when they entered line until when they got in the ride vehicle) divided by the Posted Wait Time (which is captured when the user enters the line). If everything were perfectly predictable, the Posted Wait Time would be exactly equal to your Actual Wait Time, and that means Actual/Posted = 100%. In a totally wacky scenarios where every ride was a walk-on (essentially a 0 minutes wait, plus any walking and pre-shows), but Disney was still wildly inflating Posted Wait Times, Actual/Posted would be 0%. And Actual/Posted could go above 100% if you ended up waiting longer than what was posted. To summarize:
- Actual/Posted < 100% : The Posted Wait Time is longer than your Actual Wait Time
- Actual/Posted = 100% : The Posted Wait Time exactly predicts your Actual Wait Time
- Actual/Posted > 100% : The Posted Wait Time is shorter than your Actual Wait Time
Are Posted Wait Times More Accurate Post-Genie?
Let’s start with the good news! In the month leading up to the launch of Genie, actual wait times at non-ILL attractions were averaging just 57.3% of what was posted when the user entered line. That means, at those attractions, you could expect your wait to be almost half of what was posted when you entered line. In the month since Genie launched, actual wait times have averaged 62% of what was posted at the same attractions. By looking at the number of wait times submitted, and the standard deviation of the proportion, we can also get a confidence interval for each of those averages. Here, the confidence intervals don’t overlap. That means we can be significantly confident that posted wait times are more accurate than they were pre-Genie at non-ILL attractions. 62% still isn’t great – there’s a lot of room for improvement to get closer to 1. But it’s improved – inflation isn’t statistically as much of a problem.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the good news ends. Over the same time period, we’ve also been collecting actual wait times for ILL attractions. Remember, these are the attractions where you’re given the option to buy your way around the standby line immediately below where you’re told what the posted wait time is. The more inflated that standby time is, the more people are going to be convinced that they should pay their way out of it.
Pre-Genie, posted wait times at ILL attractions were much more accurate than their non-ILL counterparts. In the month since Genie launched, that all changed. Statistically, posted wait times at ILL attractions are no longer any more accurate than posted wait times at non-ILL attractions. And they’ve gotten significantly less accurate compared to pre-Genie. That means, on average, there is a lot more inflation of posted wait times at ILL attractions compared to when you couldn’t pay your way around the standby line.
To give an example of the problem – let’s say that your actual wait in standby for Rise of the Resistance was 60 minutes. If you visited in early October and that was your actual wait, the posted wait time when you entered the line was probably something like 80 minutes. That’s a decent amount of inflation, but it could be necessary because of operational issues and unpredictability. But in late October or early November, that same actual wait of 60 minutes would have meant a posted wait time of something closer to 95 minutes. Same exact actual wait, with two rather different sets of expectations based on what was posted. Let’s look at some data from specific attractions to explore this further.
What Are Some Attraction-Specific Examples?
Frozen Ever After
At EPCOT, Frozen Ever After is one of the Individual Lightning Lane attractions. It’s not immune from the decreasing accuracy of posted wait times in the era of Genie. For this example, let’s say your wait at Frozen Ever After from the time you got in line until you boarded your boat was 30 minutes. In early October, that means the posted wait when you got into line was close to 40 minutes. But in late October or early November, that same 30 minute wait would’ve meant a posted wait time of closer to 50 minutes when you got into line. Would the difference between a 40 minute wait and a 50 minute wait mean you would decide to pay to skip standby? Maybe not. But it’s still misleading.
Runaway Railway is an attraction that has a pretty steady capacity, and should therefore have rather predictable wait times. But it too has seen a decrease in posted wait time accuracy with Genie. For this example, we’ll assume a 45 minute actual wait for Runaway Railway. In late September or early October, that actual wait would have meant approximately a 60 minute posted wait. But in late October or early November, it would’ve been more like 70 minutes. Now we’re getting into the realm of tipping decision making. Maybe I’d wait for an hour in standby, but anything over an hour I know my kids will get antsy and I consider paying my way around it. But if I pay to skip 70 minutes of line, it’d be unfortunate if I found out that I really would have only waited 45 minutes. I still save those 45 minutes, but not the 70 that I thought I would.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Time for our last example, and it’s an eye-opening one. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has long held the least accurate posted wait times of any of the attractions that are now Individual Lightning Lane Access. Even before the advent of Genie, if you actually waited for 60 minutes in line, that meant that on average the posted wait time when you entered line would have been 110 minutes. 110 minutes! For an hour long wait! So surely since there was so much room for improvement, things would have gotten better with Genie. Yeah? No. Instead, now that same 60 minute actual wait will mean that when you make the decision whether to get in line, your app and the sign will show a 130 minute wait. That’s huge, and I’m willing to guess it would absolutely influence some decision making regarding an ILL purchase.
But Maybe This Is Explained By Crowd Levels, Right?
Maybe it could be. We know that with high crowd levels, Disney increases posted wait times even more. It has to shift people around more, and make absolutely sure that you don’t wait longer than you expect. And late October/early November have certainly been more crowded than late September/early October. But we can give ourselves a control (comparison) group by pulling the same exact dates from 2019. Crowd levels saw similar trends throughout that time period and this year. And we can split the attractions into their same groups.
Interestingly, both non-ILL and ILL attractions saw increases in posted wait time accuracy when comparing late October/early November to late September/early October. It’s almost the exact same proportional increase that we see in the non-ILL attractions in 2021 – about 5% more accurate for the second half of the time period. But in 2019, that increase happened for the non-ILL attractions and the ILL attractions, instead of the ILL-only decrease in accuracy that we see in 2021.
So, we could still give Disney the benefit of the doubt and say that predicting ILL purchases and capacity/use has made just those attractions more difficult to predict in the era of Genie. And so they’re hedging their bets by giving the posted wait time some wiggle room. But it’s hard to explain away across-the-board decreases in accuracy, especially when those inflated times are displayed immediately adjacent to the option to pay your way around what appears to be a really long standby line.
What Does This Mean For You?
- Be a savvy consumer. You know that Disney has always and will always inflate their posted wait times. Take that into consideration before balking at a posted standby time and purchasing Individual Lightning Lane access.
- This doesn’t mean that you should never pay for Individual Lightning Lane Access. Even if I see Flight of Passage with a posted 100 minute wait time, it might be worth it for me to pay my way around what would still likely be a 60 minute wait. Just do some math in your head before blindly accepting the posted wait time.
- Help us to continue helping you by submitting your wait times! iOS users can now downloaded an updated version of Lines that will let you time both standby and Lightning Lane (Genie+ or ILL) waits. Then we can start understanding actual time saved and generate better recommendations.
Have you visited WDW in late October or early November? What was your experience like with Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane Access? Let us know in the comments!