Ever since Pandora – The World of Avatar opened at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Avatar Flight of Passage has become one of the most popular rides in Florida. Unfortunately, with great popularity comes great lines and long wait times. It’s been several years since Flight of Passage opened, but at times the ride still sees wait times of multiple hours!
Now with Disney World operating very differently for the time being in 2021, Flight of Passage remains incredibly popular. While the ride is worth the wait, why wait if you don’t have to? Here are some strategies you can use to shortcut the long wait times for Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, all updated for the new normal of Walt Disney World’s limited capacity operations of 2021.
(Last updated and fact-checked for accuracy: January 8, 2021)
Avatar Flight of Passage Basics
Before we get into the details about how to avoid long wait times on Flight of Passage, it’s good to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. Avatar Flight of Passage is one of two rides in Pandora – The World of Avatar, a land that opened in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017. The attraction stands as one of the most innovative thrill rides ever created. The best way to describe it is a combination of Soarin’ and Star Tours.
On Flight of Passage, you ride a banshee, a winged dinosaur-like creature native to Pandora – the world featured in James Cameron’s 2009 movie Avatar. Unlike ride vehicles you’re used to, you sit on a motorcycle-like vehicle that truly gives you the feeling that you are riding a flying banshee. The four minute ride features thrills and surprises you’ll never forget. If you like thrill rides, you’ll love Flight of Passage. And even those who aren’t the biggest thrill ride fans often find themselves really enjoying Flight of Passage.
The ride has a height minimum of 44 inches tall. Most children will hit that requirement right around ages 5-6 years old. Of course, always gauge your child’s comfort level with thrill rides before taking the plunge with younger ones. The ride isn’t as overwhelming as most Disney roller coasters, but you will sit on a different banshee from your children, meaning they will be separated from you which may matter if they are scared.
Since the ride is such a hit, you’ll want to ride it as many times as possible. So let’s talk about how to cut down your wait times.
How to Minimize Wait Times at Avatar Flight of Passage During Disney’s Reopening in 2021
Disney World looks a lot different since it reopened its castle gates to the public in July 2020. The good news is that crowds are lower overall due to Disney’s reopening capacity restrictions, but the bad news is lines for Flight of Passage still can get pretty long.
Here’s what you need to know about Avatar Flight of Passage during Disney World’s reopening.
Social Distancing and Changes to Avatar Flight of Passage Procedures You Need to Know
For much of 2020, Disney operated Avatar Flight of Passage with one empty banshee ride vehicle between parties. As of early 2021, however, Flight of Passage is one of the attractions at Disney World currently operating at full capacity again. With the ride running at full capacity and with Flight of Passage running much more smoothly these days, the attraction wait times are lower than ever.
Social distancing on other parts of the attraction are still in effect. One effect of social distancing on Flight of Passage is there no longer are two pre-shows – both pre-shows are now just part of the queue. This detracts from the overall attraction experience a little bit.
Another effect of social distancing at Flight of Passage is the queue looks much longer. Not to worry, looks are deceiving in this instance. You will still see the queue extending into Pandora (and beyond), but due to the spacing between parties the line for Flight of Passage always feels much shorter than it looks. That’s a good thing overall and we actually appreciate the spread out queue because it feels like you’re moving more.
The biggest change during reopening is that Flight of Passage currently does not offer Fastpass+ reservations. That means everyone goes through the queue which again results in the standby queue feeling faster than in the past. The Flight of Passage queue stands out as one of the best themed queues in Disney World so this gives riders a chance to enjoy and appreciate all the detail and love that has gone into making the queue.
Choose the Best Day of the Week to Visit Animal Kingdom
Since Fastpass+ currently isn’t an option, it’s important to know how to minimize your time in Flight of Passage’s standby queue. To start, you want to pick the right day of the week to go to Animal Kingdom.
If Flight of Passage is a priority for you we highly recommend making a Disney park pass reservation to visit Animal Kingdom on a weekday. On weekends, local annual passholders have a significant effect on crowds and wait times but on most weekdays (especially outside of the holidays) wait times at Animal Kingdom are very manageable.
Rope Drop Animal Kingdom to Minimize Your Flight of Passage Wait Time
Since everyone needs to use the standby queue, rope dropping is the most reliable way to minimize your wait time on Flight of Passage in 2021. If you’re driving, plan to arrive at the Animal Kingdom parking lot gates an hour before official park opening. That’s when they generally let cars begin parking, though you may want to ask cast members at your hotel if there have been any updates if you’re staying on site.
If taking buses to Animal Kingdom, line up at least an hour and a half before park opening if you want to be one of the first in line at Flight of Passage. Buses currently operate at limited capacity so expect to wait longer if you’re not toward the front of the bus queue.
You should also familiarize yourself with the new contactless security scanners at Animal Kingdom. Most guests no longer will need to wait for their bags to be checked. Remove any metal objects you have from your bags while you wait in line. When you get to the new contactless scanners you will be asked to hold these items out in front of you while you walk through. You may be asked to step aside for further screening of your bags but most people get to walk straight through!
As long as you have entered Animal Kingdom earlier than the official Animal Kingdom opening time, we recommend you go straight to Flight of Passage. You should experience some of the lowest wait times on Flight of Passage for the day.
Other Times to Ride Flight of Passage
If you miss rope drop, don’t worry. During Disney’s limited capacity reopening, the parks clear out much earlier than normal. Towards the end of the night or sometimes even during the middle of the day you may see wait times at Flight of Passage dip to 40 minutes or even 20 minutes. If you see a Flight of Passage wait time of 20 minutes, it’s essentially a walk on. Go ride!
Towards the end of the night Flight of Passage wait times are much shorter these days, so that’s a good bet for a low wait time as well. And if you visit on a weekday like we recommend, some days the park won’t be crowded at all. We’ve spoken to readers who experienced Flight of Passage three times within an hour. Keep an eye on your My Disney Experience app wait times – as long as Disney World remains at limited capacity and Fastpass+ is suspended, lines at Flight of Passage will be very manageable.
Pre-March 2020 Strategies to Ride Avatar Flight of Passage
So much at Walt Disney World has changed radically this past year. As Disney returns to normal operating procedures (probably later this year), however, that means that some of the old strategies that used to work for Avatar Flight of Passage may come back into play once again.
For that reason, I’ve kept the details of how Flight of Passage used to work in pre-March 2020 times in this article below. If you want to know about the effect of Fastpass+, after hours events, Extra Magic Hours, and more, the following strategies that are currently not in effect lay it all out.
Of course, as the situation evolves, I’ll keep this article updated with the most currently applicable strategies!
Get a Fastpass+ Reservation for Avatar Flight of Passage
The best way to get a short wait time is to obtain a Fastpass+ reservation for Flight of Passage. Of course, that’s easier said than done! But there are things you can do to maximize your chances of getting a Fastpass+ reservation. Here are some tips for getting a Fastpass+ reservation for Flight of Passage. These tips can be applied to any tough to get Fastpass+ reservation, too!
Get a Fastpass+ Reservation for Flight of Passage Before Your Trip
Since Flight of Passage is so popular, it is one of the hardest attractions at Walt Disney World to get an advance Fastpass+ reservation for. You can pretty much forget about getting a Fastpass+ reservation at 30 days out when the Fastpass+ reservation window opens for general ticket holders.
Even the 60 day window for Disney World guests with an on-site Disney hotel or Disney partner hotel reservation may be too late. You can probably get a Flight of Passage Fastpass+ reservation at exactly 60 days, but it may not be at the best times of the day.
One thing many guests don’t realize is that you can start booking Fastpass+ reservations 60 days in advance of the first day of your stay for the length of your stay. So if you have a seven night reservation, you can start booking Fastpass+ reservations 60 days before the first night of your reservation, but you can book all the way through the last night. Put simply, if you have an on-site Disney hotel reservation you can book Fastpass+ reservations for the last day of your trip even if it’s further than 60 days out. In the seven night reservation example, you can book Fastpass+ reservations 67 days before your last night.
Because of this, you can maximize your chance of getting a Fastpass+ reservation for Flight of Passage with your on-site Disney hotel reservation. You should plan to visit Animal Kingdom towards the latter half of your trip. Then you’ll find that there will be many more available Fastpass+ reservation times for Avatar Flight of Passage. In fact, you’ll often get to pick and choose the times that will work best with your touring plan.
If you don’t snag an advance Fastpass+ reservation at first, be sure to check back on the website from time to time. While it’s a longshot, availability does change as other guests rearrange their own travel plans so you might get lucky. But even if you don’t get a Fastpass+ reservation, you still have a chance to get one while you’re in the parks!
Get a Fastpass+ Reservation for Flight of Passage When You’re Already in Animal Kingdom
One insider tip that people don’t know about is that Disney World often releases Fastpass+ reservation inventory during the day. That means while you’re already in Animal Kingdom, there’s a chance that Flight of Passage Fastpass+ availability might become free sometime during the day. This is what some call the “Fastpass drop.”
In practice, what you’ll need to do is constantly search for and refresh Fastpass+ reservations on your My Disney Experience app on your phone. In fact, you should pretty much do this all day! If you diligently search, you’ll often find your hard work being well rewarded. Recently a listener to our Disney Deciphered podcast used this method and got not one, but TWO Flight of Passage Fastpass+ reservations on the same day. Both reservations popped up while he refreshed My Disney Experience searching for Fastpass+ reservations thanks to Fastpass drops. Not everyone will be so lucky, but there’s always a chance to pick up one of these drops.
The nice thing about the My Disney Experience app is you can just swipe down to refresh available Fastpass+ reservations. This is something you should constantly be doing in line because you never know what E-ticket attractions will become available. The strategy works for all rides and in all four Disney parks, not just Flight of Passage.
The timing of these Fastpass+ drops changes all the time, though if Disney is going to drop Fastpass+ reservations, it’ll usually be in the early afternoon (our above listener got one around 2 PM). So make sure you’re searching diligently all day. When the Fastpass drops happen the reservations go fast.
Ride Flight of Passage During Morning Extra Magic Hours
If you don’t have a Fastpass+ reservation and don’t want to risk not getting a Fastpass drop, you can take advantage of Disney’s early morning Extra Magic Hours (EMH) if you are an on-property hotel guest. Since Pandora – The World of Avatar opened, Disney World has been opening Animal Kingdom at least several times a week with the early entry times.
Officially, the park generally opens for EMH an hour before the general park opening. Check your My Disney Experience app for the exact time. In practice, they often let people in even earlier than that. We suggest getting to the Animal Kingdom booths at least thirty minutes in advance (more if you are visiting a peak crowd times like Christmas week). Once they let people in for EMH, make the beeline with the crowds straight to Flight of Passage. Your wait time should be extremely manageable if you get there that early.
If you’re interested in riding both Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, do not ride Na’vi River Journey first. The line for Na’vi River Journey might be significant by the time you get out of Flight of Passage, but you’ll still save the most time overall by riding Flight of Passage first.
Rope Drop Flight of Passage
If you are visiting Animal Kingdom on a day when morning Extra Magic Hours are not available, you should utilize a similar strategy to ride Flight of Passage as soon as the park opens at its regular time.
Like on days with EMH, Disney regularly opens the gates to Disney’s Animal Kingdom earlier than the published opening time – sometimes even 20-30 minutes early depending on crowds. We suggest getting to the ticket booths at the park at about 45 minutes in advance to line up on regular hour days. Then follow the same strategy of making a beeline to Flight of Passage as soon as rope drop happens.
Note that if you are staying off property and do not have access to Extra Magic Hours, you should not try this rope drop strategy on days when Animal Kingdom is offering EMH to on-property guests. By the time you enter the park, the lines for Flight of Passage will already be filled with EMH guests. Use this rope drop strategy only on days when the park does not open early.
Utilize Rider Switch
Another good way to reduce your wait time for Flight of Passage is to utilize rider switch. If you’re not familiar with rider switch, it allows a party of adults who have children who either cannot or will not ride a thrill ride to save time in line by not requiring them to queue twice. You can read more about how to use rider switch in general here.
For Flight of Passage, you can use rider switch to save time in line as long as you have a child who cannot be left alone and cannot ride. Tell the cast member at the front of the queue that you’d like to utilize rider switch. They’ll direct you to another cast member who will put the rider switch allocations onto the MagicBands of the party who will ride second. These rider switch passes are timed, so the second party can’t go in immediately.
Remember, you can have up to three members of the rider switch party. That means if you have an older child who’s riding Flight of Passage (and of course another child who is not), you can give your riding child the opportunity to ride twice. Just make sure to tell the cast member that the child will ride twice – they will be happy to oblige. That way the child gets to ride with Adult 1 and then ride again with Adult 2.
Rider Switch works with both Fastpass+ reservations and the standby queue. Obviously, combining Rider Switch with a Fastpass+ reservation is preferable, but you still can save a lot of time for your overall party even if one person has to wait in the standby queue. Since Flight of Passage cast members won’t make the whole party wait together, the members of the second, waiting group can go enjoy the rest of the park while waiting.
Strategies That May or May Not Save You Time on Flight of Passage
The above strategies, when executed well, will almost certainly decrease your wait time for Avatar Flight of Passage. There are other strategies, however, that you’d think might save you time but do not have as high of a success rate. While these strategies do sometimes cut down your wait time, proceed with caution. They’re not as much of a guarantee and may not decrease your wait time as significantly as you might hope.
Ride Avatar Flight of Passage at the End of the Night
With almost every ride at any theme park, riding at the end of the night is a great way to decrease the wait time. And riding Flight of Passage at the end of the night is no different! However, due to the extreme popularity of the ride, just be warned that Flight of Passage probably isn’t going to be a walk on at the end of the night like a lot of other Disney thrill rides.
If you plan to do this, remember you just have to get in line before Animal Kingdom officially closes. So if it closes at 10:00 PM, just make sure you get into line a few minutes beforehand and you’ll get to be one of the last guests to experience Flight of Passage that night. The wait time will likely be inflated so don’t worry too much. The line should be the shortest it’s been since the morning – it just might not be as short as you hope.
Animal Kingdom After Hours
Disney World recently introduced a new paid event called Disney After Hours for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. For $129 plus tax ($139 when booked same day) , Disney will give you three hours in an almost empty park. The tickets to these events are limited, so at the Magic Kingdom almost every attraction at Disney After Hours is a walk on.
However, Animal Kingdom doesn’t have the same number of rides as the Magic Kingdom. In fact, since Kilimanjaro Safaris is closed for these After Hours events, the only attractions available are Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, It’s Tough to be a Bug!, and Triceratops Spin. I think you know where this is headed and where the majority of guests at Animal Kingdom’s Disney After Hours party are headed!
In practice, this means you still might end up waiting in a half hour line. Add that to the 15-20 minutes the ride takes including the pre-show and you might use up 33% of your Disney After Hours party time riding Avatar Flight of Passage only once. Not every Disney After Hours party at Animal Kingdom will be like this, but it’s definitely a possibility. We’ve heard stories of it taking almost an hour and a half for guests to ride Flight of Passage twice but we’ve also heard some success stories for guests who went at other times.
So while you definitely will cut down your wait time on Flight of Passage by attending Disney After Hours, it may not ultimately be worth the high cost. Definitely keep that in mind when deciding to attend Animal Kingdom’s After Hours party or not.
About the author: Contributing writer Joe Cheung loves traveling with his wife and three children. He has been writing about using miles and points to reduce the cost of family travel on his blog asthejoeflies since his wife was pregnant with their first child. He loves traveling all around the world with a special place in his heart for travel to Asia and all things Disney. When he’s not writing, you can find Joe chatting about Disney World on the Disney planning podcast Disney Deciphered that he and Leslie co-host or chatting about miles and points on his other podcast the Saverocity Observation Deck.