You’ve probably heard of or seen some cars flying through the air on the Walt Disney World grounds. If you haven’t, now you have! Regardless, those flying cable cars are the Walt Disney World gondola system, more commonly known as the Disney Skyliner. This transportation system is expanding rapidly in many big cities as the cost to dig subway tunnels or build light rail above ground is ever increasing. With the projected cost per mile for expansion of the current monorail system at Walt Disney World, expect the Disney Skyliner to increase around the grounds.
Where does the Disney Skyliner go?
Epcot – International Gateway Entrance
Caribbean Beach Resort
Art of Animation & Pop Century
Disney Skyliner Route Map
What time does Disney Skyliner open?
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9 AM to 8:30 PM
EPCOT International Gateway: 10:30 AM to 8:30 PM
Disney’s Pop Century Resort & Disney’s Art of Animation Resort: 9 AM to 8:30 PM
Without further ado, buckle up because we are going to cover a lot of ground in this post. You’ll learn about the origins of the gondola, why its cheaper to build for somewhere the size of Walt Disney World, projected costs of building the Disney Skyliner, where it goes currently, and where we expect it to go! We’ve got a lot to cover!
Why did Disney build a gondola system?
I know what many of you are thinking, “I’m not going on a ski lift around Walt Disney World.” I had the same initial thoughts as that is where many gondola systems are used. Some of the earliest uses to transport people in urban areas include the Roosevelt Island Tramway (1976) in New York City, U.S. and the Metrocable (2004) in Medellin, Colombia. While both are fundamentally different from the Disney Skyliner for their economic use, they are the same in that they quickly move people around congested or geographically challenged areas.
Disney has a problem that is common in Florida, traffic. The traffic on Disney property is downright nauseating for someone from the suburban/rural Midwest where we tell distance by time. How far away is Domino’s from my house? About 10 minutes. The truth is that it is about 8 miles, but because our traffic is light at its worst, we talk about distance as if it were time. When you get to Florida, and Disney especially, it might take you 90 minutes to go that same 8 miles.
Disney has a very outdated mode of moving their guests around their property. In the 1990s as Disney was booming in attendance and building hotels like crazy, they just added more bus routes. Why? Because it was cheap, easy, and quick at the time. Never mind the fact that they had 3 parks relatively close together, and an aerial monorail system that moved people to and from the parks furthest apart.
Enter 1998 and the Animal Kingdom Park. This park was built on the far western border of Disney World property and away from everything else. Sprinkle in new resorts that were more spaced out, 58.3 million people in the 4 theme parks (2018 numbers) and you arrive at today’s issue: it takes forever to get around property by car or bus.
Let’s now talk about the second issue at hand: the monorail is EXPENSIVE. Both to build and maintain. Let’s not forget the famous door opening incident in 2018, that caused both panic to guests and embarrassment to Disney. If we look at the numbers for building a new monorail line based off of recent monorail builds in Las Vegas and Sao Paulo, Brazil, we’re looking at anywhere between $50 million to $150 million PER MILE. Now, Las Vegas had its own issues with construction so we can assume they were way over budget and Sao Paulo likely has lower than expected costs (labor, environmental, etc.).
So it is probably reasonable to assume a cost of $100 million per mile to build a new monorail line at Walt Disney World. Let’s estimate a new line to say, Animal Kingdom, since that is the park furthest away. And we add stops at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Coronado Springs Resort (which would upgrade it from “Moderate” to “Deluxe”), and the end of the loop being the Transportation & Ticket Center, you’re looking at roughly 8.68 miles of new track to be installed. A little bit of math would tell you it would cost roughly $868 million to build this.
A little high of a number, even for Disney who will spend billions to acquire other companies. This is why the Disney Skyliner was built. Eugene Flotterton designed a gondola transportation system for New York City in 2018. His cost to build estimate for that system was $3 million to $12 million per mile. We know that Disney paid Carter Electric $3.8 million for the electrical system alone, so his numbers make sense. The roughly 2.75 mile, 3-route, 5-stop gondola system should be easy to do some rough math to figure out how much it cost to build. On the low end it cost $8.25 million and on the high end $33 million to build the Disney Skyliner. As always, it is probably somewhere in the middle.
Update: I did more research that warranted a single post. How much did the Disney Skyliner cost?
When did Disney start building the Disney Skyliner?
Disney announced they were building the Sklyiner system at the 2017 D23 Expo. This is where we got our first look at the cars and where it would be going: Art of Animation/Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Riviera Resort (also announced at that time), Epcot, and Hollywood Studios.
When did the Disney Skyliner open?
The Disney Skyliner opened to the public on September 29th, 2019. This was announced by Disney on July 15th, 2019. If you want to see the announcement video just watch below!
How do I ride the Disney Skyliner?
All you have to do to ride the Disney Skyliner is walk up to the station, wait in line, and hop into a car when the Cast Member says it is ok to do so. Friendly reminder that the Skyliner is continuously moving, so if you need extra time to board notify a cast member. From there, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the aerial views of the Walt Disney World Resort.
Where do I go to ride the Disney Skyliner?
The Disney Skyliner has 3 different routes that all meet at one “hub” at Caribbean Beach Resort. From here you can ride to and from Art of Animation/Pop Century, to and from Hollywood Studios, and to and from Epcot/Riviera Resort. Below is a map and a list of the stations/routes. Be sure to read our guide to the best hotels on the Disney Skyliner route.
Disney Skyliner Stations:
Epcot – International Gateway Entrance
The station at Epcot is located at the International Gateway Entrance (between United Kingdom and France). This location is right on the loop of resorts on Crescent Lake. This means guests staying at the Walt Disney World Swan, Walt Disney World Dolphin, Disney’s Boardwalk, Disney’s Yacht Club, and Disney’s Beach Club Resorts are all within walking distance of the station. Please be advised if you are using this station to get to the parking lot at Epcot, you MUST have a valid ticket to enter the park. The only way to get to the parking lot from here is to go through the park.
The Riviera Resort is a Disney Vacation Club Resort that opened December 16th, 2019. As part of the opening of the resort, the Disney Skyliner station opened with it. This resort is on the Epcot Park Route and is not a transfer station. It is located between Epcot and Caribbean Beach Resort on this route.
Caribbean Beach Resort
This is the “hub” station that all 3 Disney Skyliner Routes converge into. If you are riding into this station from the Hollywood Studios or Art of Animation/Pop Century Stations, you must exit your ride vehicle. It is located at the front entrance of the Caribbean Beach Resort and features a Joffrey’s Coffee stand outside the station.
This Disney Skyliner station is the only stop on the route to Hollywood Studios. If you ride here from Caribbean Beach Resort, you must exit your vehicle. If you wish to ride back, you may do so, but will have to wait in line again. It is located at the front of the park between the disabled/elderly drop off spot and the bus loop.
Art of Animation & Pop Century
The last Disney Skyliner station services both Art of Animation Resort and Pop Century Resort. It is located in the middle of the pedestrian bridge over Hourglass Lake. It is the only stop on this route and again, guests must exit their vehicle as it is a transfer station. Both resorts are a short walk away from the Skyliner exit.
What hotels are connected to the Disney Skyliner?
There are 9 hotels directly connected to the Disney Skyliner system. They are:
Disney’s Yacht Club
Disney’s Beach Club
Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Disney’s Caribbean Beach
Disney’s Pop Century
Disney’s Art of Animation
Walt Disney World Swan
Walt Disney World Dolphin
How long does it take to ride the Disney Skyliner? (Skyliner Travel Times)
We timed the Skyliner on our last trip and found that the trip from Epcot to Riviera is 10 minutes, Riviera to the Caribbean Beach Resort is 3 minutes (13 minutes if you’re going from Epcot to Caribbean Beach). The trip from Caribbean Beach to Hollywood Studios is about 5 minutes, and the trip from Caribbean Beach to Art of Animation/Pop Century is also 5 minutes.
|Stop One||Time||Stop Two||Time||Stop Three|
|Epcot||10 minutes||Riviera Resort||3 minutes||Caribbean Beach Resort|
|Caribbean Beach Resort||5 minutes||Hollywood Studios|
|Caribbean Beach Resort||5 minutes||Art of Animation/Pop Century Resorts|
Am I forced to get out at Riviera Resort when riding from Epcot or Caribbean Beach Resort?
You are not forced to get out as the Riviera Resort station is not a transfer station! Similar to the monorail loop at the Magic Kingdom Resorts, guests who wish to get out at Riviera just need to stand up as they are moving through the station. Guests who wish to continue on their journey may stay in their seat and keep riding.
How many people are in each Disney Skyliner car?
The maximum capacity for a Disney Skyliner car is 10 people. If you have a stroller, wheelchair, or ECV it drops to 6 passengers. The six passengers includes the passenger in the stroller/wheelchair/ECV.
Do we have to ride with other passengers on the Disney Skyliner?
This will depend on how busy the Skyliner is. If you are riding at peak times (opening or closing of the parks) you will likely have to share a car with other guests. We rode in the middle of the day on our last trip and were able to get our own car multiple times, even with other groups in front of and behind us.
Are strollers allowed on the Disney Skyliner?
Yes! The maximum stroller size is 30″ by 48″ so if yours is bigger than that, kids will have to disembark and the stroller will need to fold. If your stroller is small than that, you can roll it right onto the Skyliner with your kids still inside. Reminder that capacity drops to 6 passengers when you add a stroller, so plan accordingly if traveling in a large group.
Are wheelchairs and ECV allowed on the Disney Skyliner?
Yes! Just like strollers, you will just roll right onto the car. If you are in a wheelchair or ECV, you will go to a designated area after waiting in line. There is a special loading zone so that you can have extra time to get on and off the lift. Again, if you are traveling with a wheelchair/ECV the capacity drops to 6. If you are in a group larger than 6, plan who will be traveling in a separate car before you get to the front of the line.
What is the procedure for bad weather near the Disney Skyliner?
Just like every other area of Walt Disney World grounds, there are procedures in place that prioritize safety. There is nothing posted about this procedure, but a cast member operating the Skyliner assured us that they would not be running if it wasn’t safe (it was a cold and very windy day).
Can you eat and drink on the Disney Skyliner?
There are no rules posted about this, but I got a hot coffee at the Joffrey’s stand right outside Caribbean Beach and then boarded with no issue. I saw numerous people with food from the stand or resorts as well. It is safe to say that food and drink are allowed on the Disney Skyliner.
Is the Disney Skyliner air conditioned?
It is not air conditioned. There are vents across the top and the bottom of the Skyliner cars that allow air to freely move through the vehicle. Due to the speed of the cars and the height that they sit, it is very comfortable when riding.
How fast does the Disney Skyliner go?
The Disney Skyliner soars through the sky at a lightning speed of 11 mph. This is the top speed throughout the entire system and most times you will only reach it once while on board (the cars tend to slow down to assist with boarding).
How high is the Disney Skyliner?
The Disney Skyliner goes to a maximum height of 60 feet from the ground. If you’re afraid of heights, it might be best to sit this one out and take the bus or boat around the grounds.
Is Disney building more Disney Skyliners?
As of now, we have not heard of any official plans to expand the Disney Skyliner. However, this doesn’t mean that they are not working on a plan to do so. If we had to guess, or maybe just dream, a Disney Skyliner expansion route connecting Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs would be the next move. Doing so would alleviate A LOT of road congestion from Buena Vista Drive and Osceola Parkway (the main east-west roads through Disney property).
Have you ridden the Disney Skyliner yet? If you have, give us your thoughts below! We know lots of people are not happy about the lack of air conditioning in the Skyliner cars. Personally we didn’t mind when riding in February (around 60 degree temperatures) but it may be worse in higher temperatures. If you think we missed something, go ahead and add it in a comment below!