By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Review: Avatar Flight of Passage in Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

By Dave Shute


Avatar Flight of Passage, otherwise known as Flight of Passage or “The Banshee Ride,”, is a new ride that opened in the Animal Kingdom’s new land, Pandora: World of Avatar in late May 2017.

Flight of Passage is a motion simulator set in front of a 3-D screen that imitates the experience of flying on the back of a living banshee (think Dragon) through the wildernesses of Pandora, the moon on which Avatar is set.

A technological tour-de-force, Flight of Passage is the best ride at Disney World. The sense of motion is uncanny and thrilling; the visuals are incredibly sharp from edge to edge and just as incredibly interesting (even if you don’t care about, have never seen, or don’t remember the movie); the other effects—from sea spray to the fragrance of an old-growth forest after rain—are expertly carried off.

Some have compared the ride system to a combination of Soarin’ Around the World and Star Tours. This gestures towards the neighborhood of the truth, but underestimates the power and quality of the ride—like saying that Splash Mountain is based on the ride system of it’s a small world.

Flight of Passage has instantly become the hottest ticket in Disney World, with standby waits exceeding five hours early on and still not uncommonly hitting three hours.

The best way to see it is via FastPass+, but they have been hard to find even for those who can book their FastPass+ 60 days ahead. Those eligible for morning Extra Magic Hours and trying to see it then will be competing with thousands of others aimed at the same concept, so should arrive at security well before open. Ditto for those attempting to see it first thing on a non-EMH day.

The standby queue is long, lovely, and interesting.

Some photos from it:

My co-author Josh has dozens more photos from it here.

The FastPass+ queue is brief and uninteresting. This is the point where the two lines merge.

Once you are through the queue you are sectioned off into one of several waiting areas, and then go through two pre-shows.

One pre-show introduces (or re-introduces) you to the concept of the banshee and “links” you to an Avatar (only Na’vi and Avatars can ride banshees, right?).

There actually three variants of this pre-show

  • The standard one
  • A longer one with variable timing that goes on if guests in another pre-show area headed to the same ride system as you are delayed, and
  • A third that shows during the first ride of morning EMH, and skips major parts of the standard or alternate pre-show because the cast member at 6.30a forgot to light the can of sterno that warms up all the computers running the pre-shows.

I saw all three.

The matching to an Avatar is pretty cool. Among other things, you can see a stylized version of your party on the screen ahead of you as you are “matched.” In the shots, I’m on spots 7, then 12, then 16 (our ponchos add to the mystery of these shots).

On the other hand, frankly it gets a little old after you’ve ridden a few times. I found myself yearning for the simplicity of Space Mountain, where you go from the queue to the stars with no intervening 20 minutes of explanations…

The second pre-show introduces you to more of the ride concept and the ride system.

It ends with the request that there be no images or videos on the ride. This is partly because you kinda need both hands to hold on, and partly because the ride’s swoops and turns create a fair degree of likelihood that you’ll drop your phone or camera. In honor of that, I have no photos from the actual ride experience–and still have my camera! But trust me—don’t miss it.

Not everyone will fit the ride restraints—and those in chairs need to be able to transfer themselves. There’s a test version of the ride seat outside. If you are at all concerned, see if you’ll fit the restraints on the test version before you get into line.

Getting on the ride vehicles is like boarding a motorcycle, in rows of eight. After you are on the vehicle, restraints will capture your back and the back of your legs (leg shape seems to be the key issue when people don’t fit).

And then you are off on your banshee ride through the skies and forests of Pandora!

I have a slight degree of motion sickness, and a slight fear of heights—both of which at times can make, for example, Tower of Terror a bit of a trial. Despite the motion and drops of Flight of Passage, I found no issue with either of my troubles.

The minimum height for Flight of Passage is 44 inches. The youngest of kids who are tall enough to ride it may be frightened by the ride, and because of the distance between individual ride vehicles, it may be difficult to comfort them.

But for those tall and mature enough to enjoy it, it will be one of the best things they do at Walt Disney World.

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1 Jennifer { 06.11.17 at 4:21 pm }

The only word we could say when we first came off that ride was “WOW.” That word went on for a VERY long time. I did have to close my eyes during a barrel roll, but had no other issues. So incredibly beautiful and realistic. I’ve read and heard multiple people say this is the result of Universal’s Harry Potter rides forcing Disney to step up their game. What do you think?

2 Dave { 06.13.17 at 8:26 am }

Jennifer, first I’m still sorry I missed yo, we could have waved ponchos at each other! I think every breakthrough ride gets the attention of designers, and the first Harry Potter ride certainly was such a ride!

3 Jeff { 06.13.17 at 5:47 pm }

It’s gotten great reviews, but when Dave Shute says it’s the “best ride at Disney World”, not much else needs to be said.
I can’t wait to ride it multiple times in September.

4 Dave { 06.15.17 at 8:53 am }

🙂 Jeff. Be sure to let me know what you think!!!

5 Lorene { 07.26.17 at 1:20 pm }

Dave, I am a 53 y.o. child who cannot WAIT to get on this ride! Going in September and sucking up all the information I can before we go. It’s a one-day trip to Animal Kingdom for us and want to make the most of it. Riding a Banshee is top of my list! Thanks for the review!

6 Dave { 07.27.17 at 11:51 am }

Lorene, I hope you love it!! Let me know what you think after your ride! Also see Josh’s post from today on how to handle AK:

7 Taylor { 08.01.17 at 2:29 pm }

Dave, it seems that so many new rides (not just at Disney) utilize motion simulation. I get that this is great new technology, and it saves on space, but my stomach just can’t handle it. I somehow convinced myself to try Star Tours on our last Disney trip, and I almost lost it twenty seconds in. Even with the glasses off, gripping my armrest, I barely made it out. My son can’t handle them either. I know that not every guest is going to enjoy every attraction, but motion simulation seems to be the way of the future. Soarin’ was closed for refurb on our last visit, but I’m thinking I should steer clear next visit, despite all the amazing reviews, and I don’t think I’ll be riding a banshee. I guess this isn’t a question, but I’d love a reassuring pat on the back…at least this will help narrow down the FP choices.

8 Dave { 08.02.17 at 7:37 am }

Taylor, I have slight motion sickness–on a bad day I don’t like Star Tours, Tower of Terror, or DINOSAUR. Mission Space Orange is impossible for me. That said, I had zero issues with Flight of Passage. One of the keys is that the motion of your body from the vehicle is perfectly matched across your entire filed of view with the motion in the image, so you don’t have the body-mind miscues that are the main cause of motion sickness.

9 Jasmine Rosa { 10.11.17 at 10:41 pm }

I LOVE THIS RIDE. HANDS DOWN THE MOST AMAZING EXPERIENCE. BUT I DO HAVE A QUESTION!!!!!! What are are the fragrance on the ride. Importantly the fragrance from the cave. I cant get it out of my head!!! i love the smells felt like i was really there. so please get back to me at let me know this fragrance

10 Dave { 10.12.17 at 8:03 am }

Jasmine, I love the fragrances of Flight of Passage, especially the earthy-foresty one. But I don’t know what they are!

11 Craig { 10.16.17 at 9:22 pm }

I’m 6 foot, 320 lbs with calves like tree trunks,I’m told. I fit easily in the test ride outside. When I got in though, I barely fit into the actual ride but the attendant was very accommodating and helpful. For me it was a game of inches. Waist up wasn’t a problem. Butt down was the issue. Lol.

12 Dave { 10.17.17 at 7:29 am }

Thanks Craig–did you like the ride?

13 Rob B { 11.20.17 at 1:01 pm }

I just got back from Disney World. We went with extended family but only my wife, 4 year old son and I went to Animal Kingdom. We lucked out with a fast pass for Passage of Flight…long story. Anyways my 4 year old who is 98 percentile in height for his age was exactly 44 inches, the minimal requirement for the ride. I was hesitant to take him on the ride as I didn’t know what to expect. Space Mountain has a 44 inch requirement as well and although he was tall enough I was familiar with the ride and told him no.) However, for whatever reason I said yes to him for this ride. Throughout the ride I was glancing over to him to see how he was doing and he loved it. (He was an arms length to my side.) I loved the ride as well. It is by far the most immersive ride I have ever gone on. The technology that went into this was amazing. Even the smells and the banshee breathing between your legs added to the ride. I went on this before going on Star Tours at Hollywood Studios and the biggest difference is the screen. In Star Tours you are far away from the screen and the screen has an ending you can easily see which huts the immersive qualities of the ride. In Flight of Passage you are sitting on a simulated banshee with your face right up against the screen. Yes you can look left and right and see other people but you will be so focused on where the banshee is taking you your entire view is the screen. Amazing.

14 Dave { 11.22.17 at 10:46 am }

Cool, Rob!

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