/ / /

Why Overweight Riders are Unwelcome on Roller Coasters at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Where: Universal Studios [map], Orlando, FL, United States
June 25, 2010 at 10:15 AM | by | ()

The Flight of the Hippogriff ride is okay for overweight riders

Airlines aren't the only ones having issues with the increasingly overweight percentage of the American public; theme parks are just as mired in the mucky area of how to treat those who simply don't fit. The most recent hubbub centers on the three rides at the newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and how random pre-screenings of larger riders are occurring, with some weighing over 250 being turned away from the rides.

Better roller coaster technology has made tracks not so rickety and dangerous, but it has also made tighter and faster maneuvers possible, which can be dangerous for those riders who have health conditions, and being obese is a recognized health condition. Screening overweight passengers and denying ride access to those who do not fit into the seats or appear to be at risk of trying the safety of the ride has been a norm at theme parks for years. And like it or not, this is a good thing. If you think the embarrassment of being turned away from a ride for being overweight is bad, then imagine if you were responsible for breaking the ride or—horror of horrors—falling out of it.

The seats on the Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey ride

When we personally visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter last week and rode the very rides in question, we watched as the couple in front of us was pulled aside for the random testing at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. They were confused, but went along as a ride employee instructed them to sit in the test seats. They were strapped in and asked if everything felt okay and secure. They then rejoined the line and were allowed on because everything did feel okay and secure. Surely if everything was not okay and secure, both rider and ride operator wouldn't want to risk "seeings how things go" by allowing a person potentially too heavy for the ride to be thrust about every which way in a pitch-black space at high speeds?

The seats on the Dragon Challenge ride

That said, there is one ride at The Wizarding World that works well for overweight riders: The Flight of the Hippogriff. It's a traditional coaster, with a latch bar that comes down onto your lap, but the molded seats are big enough for two riders, or one large one. Nonetheless, this is an issue at every amusement park that has rides better than the average up-and-down coaster. We've seen these same sort of random checks occur at Ohio's Cedar Point and Six Flags' Great Adventure in New Jersey.

Should roller coasters should just post signs stating "No riders weighing over 250lbs, depending on build?"

What do you think? Have you seen any of the random overweight rider checks anywhere? Let us know!

[All photos: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

I've never seen this!

But then again, I don't really do roller coasters. (Bit of a fraidy cat here.)

However, I don't think you can put a sign saying no one over 250lbs bc there are some tall men, that are extremely fit but would def. not be classified as overweight.

I also don't think you need to do any specific calling out of overweight people. The seat checks are sufficient enough. If someone can't pull a latch bar down over them because they don't fit, that's obviously not safe and they are, sadly, going to have pass on the ride.

Now you could open up another argument as to whether roller coasters and the likes should make oversized seats....

It's up to the rider...

Having worked for a major amusement park and having moved up over the years to controlling one of the coasters, I'd like to clarify some things. First, my heart goes out to any family who loses a loved one. Having said that, it's important that people be aware that there have been safety signs posted for several years at any and every ride that pregnant women, people with head, neck and back injuries and extremely large people should refrain from riding the "Name of the Coaster". No weight limit is mentioned. A person can weigh 250 and still be able to fit depending on body shape. The warning sign does not focus on weight; it focuses on size, and there's a big difference between the two. These signs are large and posted in several locations throughout the ride kiosks. Secondly, if any seat is not completely secure, the controller will be unable to move the train to the "Go" position, which moves the coaster forward. I don't know if there was 1 click or 3. I just know, from experience, that a ride cannot move forward if a safety bar is not securely closed. Most newer coasters also have a light map of the train that indicates the location of a safety bar that is not securely closed with a red light. It comes down to this: people are responsible for their own decisions. If she felt she was having trouble closing the safety bar or was not comfortably able to sit in the seat, instead of calling the controller over to further close the safety bar, she should have requested to be released from the ride. Embarrassment? Sure, but anyone who works for a reputable park will handle the situation in a delicate manner. Sometimes people get off because they simply change their minds. No one would know her reason for release from the ride. Honestly, she may have been embarrassed, but it's sure better than being dead. Just an honest opinion from a former coaster controller.