OpinionOpinion L.A.

The rich can still skip Disneyland lines. Just pay Disney.

Amusement and Theme ParksTour Operations IndustryRecreational and Sporting Goods IndustryTourism and Leisure Industry

Now that we’ve all had a chance to be shocked by the dirty rich rats who hire a special tour guide so they can get onto the most popular Disney rides without waiting in a long line, let’s remember that the rich already had this ability, fully sanctioned by the parks, and will continue to do so.

There’s been a lot of justified outrage that a program at Disneyland and Disney World for disabled visitors has been discontinued because people were taking advantage of it. Sometimes these apparently were people who rented a wheelchair or whatever to get their disabled pass, which allowed disabled customers and their parties of up to six to gain quick access to the rides via a separate entryway. Disney parks personnel didn’t demand medical evidence for the disability; even the Imagineers wouldn’t like to fantasize about the high-profile controversies if the parks got nosy about people’s specific disabilities.

What really upset the public were the wealthy people who hired tour guides who were disabled at about $130 an hour to get them the backdoor access, when they signed up as the tour guide's "party."

Disney will still offer a separate program for disabled customers, but it will involve assigned times to visit their favorite rides rather than free access all the time. It remains to be seen how well that will work out; for parents or other family members trying to navigate a large and crowded amusement park with someone who has a serious physical or mental disability, it could be a real problem to get to just the right places by certain times; the timed passes could end up being almost as problematic as the lines.

Obviously, hiring a disabled person to get through lines quicker is a slimy and fraudulent thing to do (the disabled person’s companions are supposed to be family and friend, not paying clients). But this would be an incomplete story without the information that the disabled tour guides also have served as competition for Disney’s own wait-avoidance scheme, its VIP tour guide.

The tour guides offer similar jump-the-line abilities, along with reservations at the most popular restaurants, special seating at the parades and a few other perks. But they’re far more costly, at $315 an hour for non-holiday visits. Wealthy tourists aren’t so much trailblazing a way to skip lines at Disneyland as they are doing it on the cheap. The disabled might find it less easy to avoid long waits; the rich will likely just pay more.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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