With the reintroduction of a skip-the-line offering, many guests are wondering how many guests are allowed to go through the Lightning Lane versus a traditional standby queue. It’s no secret that a skip-the-line pass will slow down the traditional standby queue, so just how much does Lightning Lane affect standby? We’ll dive in. (Updated February 24, 2024)
Any attraction that has a Lightning Lane queue will have a “ratio” that Cast Members will need to maintain between the number of standby guests let into the attraction and the amount of Lightning Lane guests. There are three phases for each attraction that depend on the amount of Lightning Lane demand.
Phase one is considered the normal operating phase for an attraction. This phase is enacted when there is normal to light demand for the attraction. Normal operating procedure calls for a 1:4 ratio of standby guests to Lightning Lane guests. That means if a Cast Member lets a family of four through the standby line, they should let up to 16 people through from the Lightning Lane queue. This is assuming that there is a line of guests waiting in the Lightning Lane queue. If there is nobody in the Lightning Lane queue, the Cast Member can continue to pull from the standby queue at the merge station.
When there is elevated demand, an attraction moves into phase two of the Lightning Lane merge schedule. This phase is meant to work hard to prevent stage three but does have a more extreme ratio in some cases than all of phase three. In phase two the ratio varies from 1:14 to 20:90. This means that the standby queue has anywhere from 7% to 18% of the Lightning Lane. If we use the example of a family of four from phase one, the amount of guests allowed to enter through Lightning Lane jumps from 16 Lightning Laners per family of four in the standby to 56 Lightning Laners. You can see how the scales start to tip heavily toward the skip-the-line offering.
In a worst-case scenario, an attraction will be met with nearly overwhelming demand from the Lighting Lane and move to phase three. In phase three, ratios range from 1:10 to 1:5. Using the same example of a family of four from the standby queue, Cast Members would let 40 guests in through the Lightning Lane queue in a phase three scenario after the family of four before pulling more guests from the standby queue.
In total, anywhere from 80% to 93% of capacity at an attraction is devoted to Lightning Lane guests if Cast Members are running ratios correctly and if there is a constant flow of Lightning Lane users. Of course, both of those variables are rarely met for a full day of operations at all attractions. For example, if there is nobody waiting in the Lightning Lane, that’s a pure 100% pull from standby for the 3-5 minutes (or longer) before the Lightning Lane has another guest. So while the ratios on paper heavily favor Lightning Lane users, the actual daily capacity for an attraction will have a significant number of standby queue users as well. It’s also important to note that there is a limit to the number of Lightning Lane riders allocated to an attraction per hour or per day. While the merge ratios above are relatively easy to obtain and verify, we have no data or insight as to the number or percentage of attraction hourly capacity dedicated to Lightning Lane.
We’ll close by departing from our fact-based information above to something more of a gut feeling. Ever since the skip-the-line offering went from a free service in FastPass+ to a paid offering in Genie+, there has likely been a shift in priority to hit correct ratios and preserve the skip-the-line experience. When it was free, FastPass+ was something nice that all guests could use, but because it was free, if ratios were off or you waited a little longer than expected, you could shrug it off. Now that it’s paid, if ratios are off or Lightning Lane waits are longer than acceptable, you have a leg to stand on and a receipt to prove it. This has probably led to a conscious or unconscious operational adjustment at the attractions. So while the ratios above may look quite familiar to some longtime guests or former Cast Members from the FastPass+ day, I’d be willing to bet a TRON Lightcycle Run Individual Lightning Lane that there is more stringent enforcement on operations than in years past. But that’s just a guess.
For more on Disney Genie, Disney Genie+, and Individual Lightning Lane attraction selections, check out our articles below!
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