Avatar Flight of Passage – Animal Kingdom – Disney World

Written by Katie Penn

Facts at a Glance About Avatar Flight of Passage:

Park: Animal Kingdom Location: Pandora – the World of Avatar Height Requirement: 44 inches (112cm) Fastpass: Yes
Quick Notes: Fly on the back of a “banshee” through the 3D floating islands of Pandora. Experience the sights, sounds, smells and in some cases feelings of Avatar.
Disney Warnings: Thrill ride. WARNING! For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride. Fly high about the vast landscape of Pandora on an exhilarating flight filled with sudden drops and acrobatic maneuvers. Caution: This flight is a highly immersive 3-D experience. Those who have fear of heights should not fly. The seating and restraints on this attraction may prohibit guests of certain body shapes or sizes from riding. 
Our Additional Cautions: 3D experience where guests must sit astride the ride vehicle. Restraints close over back and behind the calves and may not fit all guests. Restraints may cause distress for those who are not comfortable being pinned down tightly. Attraction spans 3 levels and guests can be on either the bottom, middle or top level. The movie itself gives a feeling of height, even at the lowest level, so may not be suitable for guests with fear of heights. There is a ‘star field’ effect with lights when the riders ‘connect’ to their banshee to hide the view of the compartment screen dropping to reveal the main screen. The ‘star field’ effect begins with bright randomly twinkling lights which develops into lines of lights moving toward the rider from a center point. The entire sequence lasts about 7 seconds and plays in reverse at the end. Guests who are concerned about the lights might want to research by watching a video. The ride dips and rises creating the feeling of flying and falling and may cause motion sickness. The queue and ride are very stimulating. See below for more cautions. 
Length: The ride lasts approximately 5 minutes. 
Special Needs & other info: Queue is wheelchair and ECV accessible. Guests using ECVs who are not able to walk/stand in preshow must transfer to a standard wheelchair. Guests using wheelchairs may stay in their wheelchair until boarding; all guests must transfer to ride vehicle. Audio Description, Assistive Listening. Video in the pre-shows have on-screen captioning. The ride portion of the attraction is not captioned; it includes music and sounds, but no narration. The seating and restraints of this attraction may prohibit Guests of certain body shapes or sizes from riding. Children under age 7 years must be accompanied by a person age 14 years or older.

Overview of Avatar Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom

We frequently see rave reviews for this ride. The fantastic theming of Pandora continues with Flight of Passage. Enter the research facility inside the mountain and after a full briefing by scientists, climb aboard your avatar and soar through the skies of Pandora on this 3D simulator.

The film is breathe taking – beautiful, colorful and full of action. There are also sensory effects. There are beautiful smells of Pandora. As you fly over the sea you can even feel the spray of the waves as they crash around you. Those with sensory issues might find this attraction overwhelming.

Queue, boarding and seating for Avatar Flight of Passage

The wait times for Flight of Passage can exceed 3 hours at peak times. The very start of the line is outside, and beautiful. Every step reveals new and wonderful plants and fantastic views of the floating islands. There are also waterfalls and streams which capture the attention. It is very photographic, and almost impossible to walk through without stopping to take at least one picture.

Flight of Passage

Once the line moves inside the mountain the line winds through a network of simulated natural caverns, with beautiful cave paintings of banshees and Navi. Look up and you can see the roots of the trees above hanging from the ceiling.

Flight of Passage Pandora queue

The ‘research center’ is inside the mountain so the line becomes quite dark and noisy at this point. Signs point you to the Mountain Banshee project and sections of the bioluminescent foliage and sounds of the jungle penetrate the rooms. As you move deeper and deeper inside the mountain you pass past the roots, plants and flowers which illuminate the darkness.

Eventually you pass into the research center and the line meanders around display cases of equipment and the focal point of the entire wait – an avatar in his tank. There is so much to see in this section of the line. The labs are set up with experiments, equipment, and even creatures to study to keep guests busy while waiting. The Fastpass line bypasses this area. Guests in the Fastpass line can see into the research center from a distance.

Avatar in the queue at Flights of Passage

Avatar in the tank in the queue at Flights of Passage

At this point the standby and Fastpass lines meet, and guests are grouped into different lanes on ramps up to the boarding area.

At the front of the line guests are sorted into groups of 16 and are directed to one of a number of doors. Some of the doors take guests to stairways. (Guests should inform Cast Member if they are not using a mobility device, but need to avoid stairs.)

At the end of the passage way is the first of two pre-shows where guests are assigned a number to stand on. Both pre-shows are in very small, dark rooms, with 16 people in reach room standing close together.

Here guests are given a brief talk on the avatar program and the Ikran – the banshees. There is also an important decontamination process to rid you of those pesky Pandoran micro parasites. This involves bursts of air blasting onto the tops of guests heads. There are also slowly pulsating red lights. Here’s what one mom had to say about her daughter’s reaction:

“I wasn’t prepared for the decontamination portion of the preshow and we almost didn’t even make it onto the ride when the air started blowing on her from above – She was also confused about what they were trying to get rid of, and was concerned that it was something really bad…” —Diane Speigle

Once clear of parasites you are matched with an avatar to ride. You are then shown into the second pre-show room where you stand on the same number you were previously assigned. This second show tells you more about the process of linking to an avatar and riding on the banshee. There is a talk from Dr. Jackie Ogden of the Pandora Conservation Initiative.

These two pre-shows are a clever way of presenting safety information and keeping guests entertained while still effectively waiting in line. Combined they are close to 10 minutes long, but at this point the guests still have not reached the ride chamber.

Flights of Passage pre-show

Flights of Passage pre-show (photo by Nathan Rathmell)

For those who with overstimulation concerns: Please be aware that both the queue and  the ride can provide a lot of stimulation. One mom found out that even the queue alone was a problem for her child:

“My son freaked out and had a meltdown in the line going in. We didn’t even get all the way to the queue part where it was cool. We had to be escorted out an emergency exit.” —Cortney Parrent  

Cortney felt that they might have made it through if they tried it first thing in the morning. However by the time they came to this ride, her son was already escalated from the park.

After being issued 3D glasses (which are quite large – even adults with heads on the smaller side may have to hold them in place when looking down) guests are led into the ride chamber. Here the group of 16 divide into two groups of 8. Each room has 8 ‘seats’ and each has a number on the floor which correlates to the numbers guests were assigned previously.

On this attraction the floor moves to provide the motion, so it is not possible to store bags or anything else on the floor next to the seats. The back wall has compartments for the storage of all personal effects. If you look back over your shoulder during the ride, you will see the floor is at a different level to where it started in respect of the wall.

The seats are really unique in terms of ride seating. There is a practice seat outside in front of the ride entrance. If you have any doubt you might fit, or if you are concerned about using the ride seat for any reason, it’s a good idea to practice on this seat. While it doesn’t have the restraints, it can be useful.

Flight of Passage Pandora Test Seat

Flight of Passage Pandora Test Seat

Flight of Passage Pandora Test Seat side angle

Flight of Passage Pandora Test Seat side angle

To board, guests must straddle them like riding a horse (or a bike for those who have never sat on a horse). There is a handle bar like console at the front where the guest can rest their chest. Once seated the cast member will ensure the back and leg restraints are fastened securely. The back restraints pin the guest to the seat, with pressure on the back and chest, so guests need to be prepared to be restrained in this fashion. Feet remain flat on the floor and legs are pinned in place across the calves.

For those with claustrophobia: Many people don’t seem to have an issue because you’re not in a very tight, closed in environment. However those who are sensitive might consider that the ride seat locks you in place on your calves and back.

For those with sensory issues here’s a tip from one reader: “From a sensory perspective I found the back/chest clamp quite restricted which made me feel a bit panicky, like I couldn’t breath – a tip is to arch away from the front restrain slightly as the bar comes down to give breathing room.” —Sarah Chudley.

Flights of Passage ride seats

Flights of Passage ride seats (Photo by Sue Mickelson)

Flights of Passage seat

Flights of Passage ride seat (photo by Katie Penn)

The handle bar console has a small video screen which shows guests how connected they are to their avatar whilst everyone else is boarding. Once everyone is paired you are connected to your avatar and transported to Pandora – the screen in front of guests is replaced by a flashing star scape which replicates the mental connection to your avatar.

Medical equipment/devices/etc: One of our readers shared the following: “If you are hooked up to a device such as a tube feed or IV nutrition it must be disconnected and stored in the storage compartment. There is no place next to you to place it during the ride. If you cannot disconnect, you cannot ride.”  —Heidi Forney

Wheelchair & accessibility information: The outdoor portion of the queue is a long and winding path that leads mostly uphill. Portions of the indoor path are downhill and are fairly steep. The outdoor portion of the exit includes fairly steep switchback ramps going down. Guests in wheelchairs can use the standard queue, but you’ll be mostly on an incline, even when you’re staying in place waiting for the queue to move.

ECV users who can’t walk/stand during the preshow will need to change to a manual wheelchair just before entering the first preshow room. The ECV will be moved to an exit room just outside of the ride room. Wheelchairs can be brought right up to the ride vehicle. After the guest transfers, a Cast Member will remove the wheelchair from the ride room and can bring it back in after the ride.

Here’s an experience with transferring her daughter to the ride seat from contributor Sue Mickelson:

“Our daughter has cerebral palsy and can’t stand or transfer herself, so we need to lift her on and off. We found transfers for this attraction surprisingly easy. We parked her wheelchair directly behind the attraction seat, with her knees nearly touching the back of the ride vehicle. My husband stood on one side facing the side of the wheelchair, with me on the other. We each grabbed one of her legs with our arm closest to the ride vehicle, then put one of her arms over our shoulder with our arms supporting her back. We lifted her off of the wheelchair onto the ride vehicle, then made a couple of small lifts to position her correctly on the seat. She’s not very heavy, but if it had been difficult to lift her, we could have placed her wheelchair closer to the ride vehicle and slid her, rather than lifting (similar to the way the attraction transfer wheelchair works). The ride restraint system held her very securely and we had no concerns about positioning.”

Guests using ECVs who are not able to walk/stand in the preshow must transfer to a standard wheelchair. Guests using wheelchairs may stay in their wheelchair until boarding; all guests must transfer to ride vehicle.

If needed, you can request a special wheelchair transfer device which will allow you to slide to transfer. Let a Cast Member know that you’ll need it. According to Rolling With the Magic, if you wish to transfer to the special transfer device in private, request to be taken to the room with the transfer devices. Visit Rolling With the Magic’s Avatar Flights of Passage page to see photos of the transfer device.

For some who are wheelchair bound this ride feel freeing. Here’s what one reader had to say: “We love this ride. My husband uses a manual wheelchair 100% of the time and the first time he rode this, he said he truly felt free. He loved it! We have been on this since Covid precautions and we appreciated how careful they still were with getting his wheelchair back to him before bringing the next set of riders in to the room. “ —Mary Benhart

For those with upper body control issues and limited mobility: One of our readers had this to say: “Transferring and holding on might be an issue for those with limited mobility or upper body control. You’re sitting on a motorbike style seat, the restraints are to the waist from behind (so the chest is on a pad, leaning forward) and lower legs clamped into place.” —Sarah Chudley.

Additional details about Avatar Flight of Passage

From the second you enter the world of Pandora the sights, sounds and smells are totally immersive. The feel is really like being somewhere other worldly. This helps to build the story for Flight of Passage. The clever use of the interactive pre-shows creates a sense of the wait being over even though guests haven’t yet entered the ride chamber.

The style of the ride ‘seats’ often referred to as ‘bikes’ create a unique experience. The feeling of sitting on the banshee is replicated by the feeling of the lungs of the animal inflating and deflating. As your banshee rests, out of breath, you can feel the rise and fall of its ribs underneath you.

We did not experience jerking movements – the overall feel is a smooth, gliding feeling.

The banshee rises and falls through the air tipping the rider backwards and forwards, and side to side, as the wind blows through their hair. While overall a peaceful and graceful flight, guests can expect two sudden drops. One happens at the beginning of the ride, and another partway through. There is a moment where your banshee is attacked by another banshee and there are sudden, speedy twists and turns as you drop rapidly to escape into a cave. There are times when you will lean very far forward.

Some people find the simulation rides cause motion sickness. Some choose to take medication before riding and/or find that keeping their head still and focused on the middle of the screen helps. The motions of the ride vehicle are very well integrated with the movie, which helps riders to coordinate what they see with what they are feeling.

Tips – Make sure you take the time to look at all of the screen, There is so much to see that you will miss little details if you simply watch the center of the screen. And if you can, ride more than once. Hopefully you will get to sit at different levels where you will see that you see a different perspective with the change of level.

While this ride is often mentioned by our readers as their absolute favorite in all of Disney World, and for many it’s very physically doable, for some with certain conditions it can be challenging.

“My daughter has multiple disabilities, including sensory issues. She very much enjoyed about the first 45 seconds of the attraction, then it became too much sensory input for her. She spent the rest of the ride using sign language to say ‘all finished’. Even though she was not holding on, she was securely held in position on the ride and it never appeared unsafe to us. There were a couple of extenuating factors that probably made a difference – she had had a seizure earlier in the day, which we thought she was fully recovered from. If I had to do it over again, I would probably have asked the CM for an extension of our Fastpasses or a DAS (Disability Access Service) Return Time so we could come back later. She also was not wearing the 3D glasses and we had not known to warn her about some of the sensory items in the ride (specifically water splashes and the creature ‘breathing’ under you.” —Sue Mickelson

The interesting thing about this video is that it gives you a sense of the motion. This guest let his/her camera continue running from behind the ride cars in the storage bins. While you can’t really see the Avatar video being played fully, you can get a sense of the motion of the ride.

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