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The Skyliner Price Premium: ~$60 Million in 2020

By Dave Shute

I’ve been curious as to what the premium might be for the Skyliner resorts in 2020–partly as a guide to what Disney sees the incremental value of the Skyliner to be, and partly to illuminate the question about whether bus service will continue at these resorts.

(The Skyliner resorts are Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Pop Century Resort, and Art of Animation Resort. These will all be served by a new gondola system that will connect them to two of Disney World’s theme parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The formal opening of the Skyliner has been announced to be September 29. Disney’s new DVC offering, Disney’s Riviera Resort, will also be on the Skyliner when it opens in later December, but is has no material 2019 prices for comparison.)

I’ve heard glib lines about this on podcasts, e.g. that “the Skyliner resorts will be $10 to $20 more,” but no percentage increases, nor comparisons of the full year of 2020 vs 2019.

Because every year I do charts like the below (from 2020 Disney World Resort Hotel Price Seasons) I have daily price data for 2020 vs 2019 for standard view rooms at all the Skyliner resorts.

So from this data I can calculate what it would cost to stay every night of 2019 and 2020 in one of these rooms, and from that (adjusting for the 2020 leap year) figure average nightly costs over the year, and changes year to year in that number. (I’ve also checked most or all of the higher priced room options at these resorts (see the note at the bottom of the page) and they all follow the same pattern).

So here’s the basics:

  • Skyliner value resort Pop Century standard room average 2020 prices are up 20.1% compared to 2019, and increases at Skyliner value resort Art of Animation spaces are similar–Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms are up 19.6%, and Art of Animation Family Suites are up 18.9% for Lion King and Cars suites, and 19.2% for Nemo suites. Meanwhile, prices at the non-Skyliner All-Star value resorts are up “just” 6.5%. There was already a substantial price gap among these resorts, and after the disparate price increases, Little Mermaid rooms are now ~$80 more, on average, than All-Star rooms, and $40 more on average than Pop rooms.
  • Skyliner moderate resort Caribbean Beach standard rooms went up on average 20.7% for 2020 compared to 2019. Other room types had similar increases. Non-Skyliner moderates Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and Port Orleans French Quarter went up 9.4%, 8.4% and 8.4% respectively. The price premium between the Port Orleans resorts and Caribbean Beach on average over 2020 has almost disappeared, and Coronado Springs is now on average about $20/night less than the other three traditional moderate resorts.

The total 365 day price increase for 2020 for the three Skyliner resorts at 100% occupancy is about 19.7% compared to 365 days in 2019, which translates into more* than $117 million.

If you just use the $117 million figure, and then deduct from it what the other values and moderates went up in total for 2020 (about 6.5% and 8.6%, respectively)—on the premise that without the Skyliner, the Skyliner resorts would have gone up about this much—then you get about $75.5 million.

If you take 15% of this off for occupancy being below 100%, then you get to about $64 million. If you take 10% more off for various discounts and deals across the year, then you get to $58 million. For the reasons explained in the note at the bottom of the page, I know I am actually low in my numbers at Caribbean Beach and Pop Century, so I round this up to $60 million.

So that’s my answer for the value Disney World will gain from the Skyliner resorts–about $60 million a year in new top line revenue.

You will find online a vast number of claims that “the Skyliner is being done to reduce bus costs, so don’t expect buses on these routes at these resorts after it opens.” Well, the revenue premium for the Skyliner would pay for on the order of 1,200 full time bus drivers. Since it takes by my back of the envelope estimates about 20 full time equivalent bus drivers to cover each of the three resorts’ Epcot and Hollywood Studios routes, I’m not entirely sure that the ROI of this project depends on eliminating bus service and 60 jobs.

But I suppose we will see. Disney World has shown remarkable propensity to nickel and dime on costs while implementing  vast price increases.

*At Art of Animation, I modeled all three bookable types, so my number here—just over $50 million–is pretty exact. At both Pop Century and Caribbean Beach, I multiplied the price increase for lowest cost rooms across all rooms of every bookable type. I did this because I don’t have a good source for the number of rooms in each class, especially for Caribbean Beach, which has eight bookable room types. (I did check cross a sample of price seasons for all bookable Pop rooms, and most bookable Caribbean Beach rooms, to confirm that they also saw a comparable ~20% price increase—they did.) The numbers for Pop (~$38 million) and Caribbean Beach (~$29 million) are thus low.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can help you book–or avoid!–one of these Skyliner resorts. Contact her using the form below.

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1 Bill Bo B { 08.07.19 at 9:34 pm }

If the Skyliner recoups $60m in 2020 alone, it could do very well over the next 5 years. Curious what the total Skyliner investment cost Disney initially, maybe $150m? I have no clue.

2 Dave { 08.08.19 at 7:47 am }

Bill, I don’t know either. Note that my $60 million is the revenue number, from which Disney would have to offset operating costs, maintenance, back-up buses, depreciation, etc.

3 Jane { 10.07.19 at 9:27 pm }

Hi Dave, any guess about when the skyliner will come back online? At the moment we’re kind of too scared to ride it even if it does….but this was something I really wanted to do. Our visit starts Nov 25.

4 Dave { 10.09.19 at 11:27 am }

Hey Jane, so the honest answer of course is I don’t know.

It seems for what has been reported that there were three different problems slowing down the evacuation—which is intended to be a simple slow return of all cars to a station where folks can get off

  • A medical emergency in one of the cars was called in, which required for prudence a direct evacuation via the fire department, and absurdly with no visible car numbers it took them a while to pinpoint exactly which gondola car to directly evacuate
  • Unblocking the Riviera station where the collision occurred, and assuring that the system was in appropriate operating condition before they could restart the movement of the cars
  • General communications and problem solving, both among WDW/Doppelmayr/Reedy Creek fire department staff, and between WDW and the stranded folks.

How quickly it returns is largely a function of why the initial collision and subsequent problems happened, and how reliably fixable they are.

E.g. if an automated system had a component failure, then you replace it, inspect every other equivalent of it, and add increased scrutiny of the component to the maintenance checklist.

If, however, it was human error that caused or contributed to the initial problem, then you have to determine how much re-training of what sort is required, and even to what extent you might be able to reduce the decision making load (or pace of required action) that cast members face, through adding new fail-safe systems.

To put this last point a different way, you need to determine how much you are willing to bet on allowing possible human error in the system vs automating that potential error away…which is both a basic operational safety issue and also a liability issue.

One obvious needed change is adding visible numbers to the bottoms of the cars. I’ve seen in discussion forums the claim that this might take months. Frankly, that could be done overnight if WDW was willing to throw enough labor at it…it’s the designed-in potential for human error that is the major issue…

Personally, I would ride the gondola in a heartbeat as soon as it reopens. But I would make sure to go potty first, have a charged cell phone and a bottle of water, and make a note of my car number…

5 Jane { 10.09.19 at 2:03 pm }

Thanks Dave! Those are all good points. At the moment I’m thinking that I wouldn’t want to take my kids on the Skyliner, but that if it’s been operating well for awhile at that point I might go by myself, at night when it’s off time and we wouldn’t be missing anything if I got stuck. However the more I read the more I think it just won’t be available.

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