The Skyliner gondolas at Walt Disney World only opened last week, but are already closed due to an unexpected, and pretty extreme, malfunction. On Saturday night, riders were trapped in the air for over three hours after the Skyliner suddenly stopped. The aerial transportation system, which connects Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios with four Disney World resorts, will be closed while Disney investigates what went wrong.
Photos and videos posted to social media show crews rescuing trapped guests from the gondolas, which reportedly travel 11 mph and at their highest hover 90 feet above the ground. The more than 300 cabins (each with a capacity for 10 passengers) which comprise the Skyliner system also, notably, do not have air conditioning.
In a release obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Disney said, “One of the three Disney Skyliner routes experienced an unexpected downtime Saturday evening.” On Sunday, Disney added that they were working with the trapped passengers to rectify their experiences.
Aaron Murray and his girlfriend Courtney Cole were two of the riders trapped on the gondolas Saturday night. Murray tells Yahoo Lifestyle that they got on at around 7:45 p.m. and didn’t get off until well after 11 p.m.
“Our gondola got pretty lucky,” Murray says of the eight passengers who were trapped together, noting that, while a few people were anxious all in all their group passed the time by joking around. “We had a good group.”
Murray adds that worry rose “when they evacuated the gondola that was directly behind us and it took about 30 minutes.” He claims that they saw one of the people in the gondola behind them being taken away on a stretcher.
“It could have been a very, very long night,” Murray notes, but says their gondola eventually made it back to the station which meant they didn’t have to go through the lengthy in-air evacuation like the gondola behind them.
Murray says “it was kind of a weird feeling” when they got off, describing what could be deemed as sea legs. The gondolas move in the breeze, so being sturdy on solid ground took a moment of readjustment. “Our legs felt a little weird at first,” Murray says. “We were just happy it didn’t take as long as it might have.”
Murray also calls out a lack of useful communication from Disney itself while they were stuck. Dispatches from other gondola riders via social media echoed that criticism. Disney guest Katie Koehnen tweeted that stuck passengers were being encouraged to turn to social media for information.
I think we are going to have to be evacuated by firetruck. It’s been an hour and a half now. We’ve been given no information this whole time. pic.twitter.com/ajZvDbPWze— Katie Koehnen (@katie_babylady) October 6, 2019
Spent over 3 hours stuck on #disneyskyliner. We were given no information while stuck except find things by social media.— Katie Koehnen (@katie_babylady) October 6, 2019
Other gondola riders tweeted images from inside the stalled Skyliner.
The gondola riders also tweeted images of the emergency supplies on board the Skyliner, which included bags of water for all on board.
One stuck passenger claimed that after a few hours in the air his mother, who was there with him, became sick.
Update on this:— RecoTheFolf (@RecoTheFolf) October 6, 2019
Still no rescue yet, mother is getting sick throwing up, gave her one of the bags in the emergency kit.
Passengers say that once they were safely on the ground they were given gift cards and day passes from Disney. Murray and his girlfriend, who are pass holders, are hoping to be able to put what they received from Disney towards next year’s passes.
While the event was a harrowing one it seems, at least for some, that it didn’t ruin the magic of Disney. “I’m a huge Disney fan,” Murray concludes. “I’ll definitely compliment everyone working there because it wasn’t their fault.”
As for whether or not he and his girlfriend will take the gondola anytime soon? “Probably not,” he admits, but adds, “We probably will take them again, but we'll give them a little bit of time to get everything worked out.”
Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Disney and the Reedy Creek Fire Department for further comment.