Rumor round-up for March 22, 2014: Disney’s FastPass+ controversy – the good, the bad & the indifferent

Rumor round-up for March 22, 2014: Disney’s FastPass+ controversy – the good, the bad & the indifferent

Rumor round-up for March 22, 2014: Disney’s FastPass+ controversy – the good, the bad & the indifferent

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Rumor FastPass+ round-up

All four of Walt Disney World’s theme parks have been switched over to the new FastPass+ ride reservation system for the past two months, while all Annual Passholders’ MagicBands (the all-in-one bracelets that allow one to make her FastPass+ reservations in advance) will ship out next week.

Now that we’ve fully entered the NextGen future that Disney has spent so much time (and money – $1 billion’s worth!) talking about, it seems only appropriate to pause, take stock of the situation, and see just where this big-data era of theme park vacationing may ultimately take us. After all, Disneyphiles are creatures of habit, if nothing else, and the looming phase-out of legacy FastPasses was viewed with so much hand-wringing that it seemed the apocalypse was sure to be unleashed in Orlando on New Year’s 2014.

Did the (Disney) world really end that day?

That, it turns out, entirely depends on whom you ask.

 

Why FastPass+ is a resounding success

There is a surprisingly large number of people who thought the original FastPass system, which was in operation for some 15 years, was, well, broken. The requirement of having to physically run from kiosk to kiosk at the most popular rides was viewed with disdain, particularly for those who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – show up first thing in the morning. Likewise, the inability of either choosing your return times or altering your selections once they were made was seen as positively archaic.

Legacy FastPass kiosk.
Legacy FastPass kiosk.

FastPass+’s reliance on websites and smart phone apps is largely lauded, and the most passionate advocates will gladly tell you how much they appreciate the fact that they can even make their reservations 60 days in advance, or link their ride times with the rest of their family’s. And the fact that a whole slew of additional attractions, such as older or minor rides and nighttime shows, have been added to the FastPass-eligible list is applauded.

FastPass+ kiosk.
FastPass+ kiosk via UndercoverTourist.

There’s one last positive that one can’t help but notice gets repeated in comment after comment: the tying of the reservations to the MagicBands. “Even the touch-to-pay was kinda nice,” one reviewer at WDW Magic wrote. “No need to pull out my wallet to grab a credit card or room key. I didn’t think that was going to be a big positive going in, but it was.”

 

Why FastPass+ is ambivalent

The bulk of public sentiment over the FastPass+ transition, unsurprisingly, is somewhere in the middle, listing the bad with the good (or is that the other way around?). Family Travels on a Budget seems to sum up the ambivalence rather succinctly: “Disney-goers who plan their days can’t rely on paper FastPasses to see more in less time or to avoid lines at the spur of the moment.”

FastPass+ at Disney's Magic Kingdom.
FastPass+ at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

If there is a biggest point of contention – outside of the possibility of longer wait times, which we’ll get to in just a moment – it is the simple fact that Disney limits all of an individual’s FastPass+ reservations to just one park, which would seem to invalidate the added expense of a Park Hopper ticket. However, as Your First Visit points out, “in the ancient regime of legacy FastPasses, arriving at a park for dinner or the evening shows would usually mean that the FastPasses for that day would all be gone by then, anyway.” Furthermore, Disney has been hinting that this may only be a temporary restriction as it continues to work all of the (manifold) bugs and kinks out of the system.

 

Why FastPass+ is an abject failure

There seems to be a dark side to the new system, and it is a doozy – an increase in wait times across the board.

The situation goes a little something like this: since all guests are now limited to just three reservations (as opposed to running around and grabbing as many paper slips as they could), and because, furthermore, the most popular rides are divided into different tiers, all of the other attractions that didn’t used to require any FastPasses are now being heavily booked.

This matters because FastPass+ riders are always given the higher priority when boarding. “If there are 100 people waiting in [the] standby [queue] and 100 people in FastPass,” Josh at EasyWDW explains, “the 100th person in the FastPass line will likely board before the 30th person in standby. That’s how the ratio works.”

Extended FastPass+ queue for Little Mermaid.
Extended FastPass+ queue for Little Mermaid via MousePlanet.

And although Disney denies that wait times have risen at all, Josh actually has some interesting numbers to back his claim of longer lines up. Compiling the standby times of every Disney World attraction every day for the past few years, he reports that the median wait from the first part of 2014 has significantly gone up over the same time period from last year, usually in a dramatic fashion; the standby times for older rides like Journey into Imagination and Maelstrom, for instance, have literally doubled (from five to 10 minutes for the former, and from 15 to 30 minutes for the latter), while Star Tours: The Adventures Continue has tripled (from 10 to 30 minutes).

Interestingly, the wait times for the headliner rides have either increased or decreased at only a small rate (typically five to ten minutes).

 

The future of waiting in line

Change makes for a nasty bedfellow, particularly for vacation planners, so a tidal wave of skepticism, at the least, or unrivaled vitriol, at the most, is to be expected.

Once it does die down, if there is still a great deal of incessant negativity clouding Disney’s endeavors (or if lines continue to get longer instead of becoming shorter), it is easy to see the company making alterations to its reservation system, possibly even restoring a number of the legacy FastPass’s features. But this is assuming that FastPass+ in its current incarnation is fundamentally flawed or hopelessly irreparable – a conclusion that seems farfetched, given its rate of success for a growing portion of Disney guests.

In the meantime, the likelihood of Universal, SeaWorld, or any other theme/amusement park operator tackling a NextGen-esque program in the short-term is extraordinarily low, despite all of their private interest in doing so; they’ll let Disney find all the solutions first, just as they have let it come up with all the problems by itself. Then, given that a precedence will already have been set, expect their eventual turnarounds to be swift, so that Universal debuting its Express Pass+ in, say, 2021 is not at all out of the question.

But for now, it’s just a question of waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more.

 

If you’d like to learn more about using FastPass+, check out our last Magic Kingdom trip report. Otherwise, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

The propose of our weekly rumor column is to provide a window into what might be happening by collecting the latest speculation from sources across the internet (which we always link to). We take that speculation and condense it into one weekly post as a service to our readers, so you don’t have to spend hours tracking down all the stories yourself.

We rarely claim to be the source for our stories. In reality, anyone can do what we do: Google “Orlando theme park rumors” and see what the darker corners of the theme park community are chatting about. But we know you don’t have hours of free time to seek out this stuff – plus, Marc is really good at analyzing it – so we do the heavy lifting for you. Overall, this is a simple premise, and we’re happy to have been executing it every week for almost two years (this is our 104th rumor post).

View all of our Rumor Round-Ups

 

[sws_author_bio user=”msunyata@yahoo.com” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Marc” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

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Marc N. Kleinhenz Marc N. Kleinhenz’s first dream in life was to be an astronaut. His second was an Imagineer. While neither completely worked out, he now works exclusively for Orlando Informer as a writer, editor, and podcast co-host. He’s also written for 32 other sites (including Screen Rant, IGN, The Escapist, and California Informer [OI's sister site]), has had his fiction featured in several publications, and has even taught English in Japan. Imagineering school won’t be too far behind.

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Scott Lewis
Guest
Scott Lewis

We just returned & i was beyond disappointed. Seems like Disney punishes the normal guest that dont want to spend money on a fast pass that really doesnt seem to speed up the wait much. This comes after Disney hikes the ticket prices

Amy Whitenight
Guest
Amy Whitenight

When we stayed at universal, their express pass worked great. The next day we went to disney, it was miserable. The fast passes were stupid, we rarely made it back to the ride on time. I would pray that universal left their’s alone and not follow disney.

Stuart Nielsen
Guest
Stuart Nielsen

Disney’s entire FastPass+ is a fine demonstration of IT feature creep. Instead of making a straight forward plan, sticking to it and making it work with features added later. They have been all over the board and will continue to pay the price for poor planning.

Todd Losey
Guest
Todd Losey

I thought it worked great just need to add one or 2 more attractions u can fast pass!

Marie Saxon Edge
Guest
Marie Saxon Edge

Universal Express Pass works great!! We were there a couple of weeks ago on Spring Break. And the longest we ever waited in line was 30 minutes!

John Sebastian La Valle
Guest
John Sebastian La Valle

Queue/’wait time’ management is an art as much as it is a science. Not everything works like it does on paper. But sometimes, you need to do your homework and in this case I think Disney did not.

KatieCroweJuarez
Guest
KatieCroweJuarez

The facts in this article are not entirely true.  The author stated that you can go around and collect fast pass tickets for everything.  Disney has only allowed one at a time, so you must ride that ride in order to get another fast pass.

Todd Losey
Guest
Todd Losey

I would hope universal express pass would working better since u have to pay for it, at that point u really can not compare the 2 and have level playing Feild.

Fidelius Charm
Guest
Fidelius Charm

I love the new system, works great

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

KatieCroweJuarez I don’t quite think Marc was trying to say you could have multiple legacy FastPasses. I think he meant it more in the sense that, throughout your day, you could go around and collect FastPasses [having used each one before getting another]. This is different than FP+, of course, because in the new system, once you have your three selections for the day, you can never use FP+ for a fourth attraction.

Rosemary Jones
Guest
Rosemary Jones

As you pointed out, it’s better for people who don’t get there at rope drop & missed the option of running around the kiosks.

Rowan Booker
Guest
Rowan Booker

We just came back from a trip where we stayed on site at both disney and universal and honestly, disneys FPs worked fine, and I liked how we could not turn up too afternoon and still have FPs – but touring universal as an onsite guest is certainly more relaxing! But I imagine that was the case even with old FP.

Elizabeth Fernstrom Ramsey
Guest
Elizabeth Fernstrom Ramsey

Scott Lewis fastpasses are free at disney! I love the fast pass system and have never had any issues with them what so ever. It is very easy to make it back to rides in time and you also have the ability to change the times from your smart phone via the my disney experience app if you arent going to make it. I on the other hand was appalled at the fact that I had to pay for express pass at universal. But I also found them unnessecary there. The lines werent nearly as long as disney even during… Read more »

Wayne Walker
Guest
Wayne Walker

Pluses and minuses. I like being able to select ahead but 3 picks/1 park is inadequate for a day. And signed they’ve rolled out widely, ice noticed wait times increase significantly. The old system balanced traffic better. So there is room for improvement!

Joseph Machado
Guest
Joseph Machado

Fast pass plus is a broken system built on incorrect principals but Disney won’t fix it until it starts to effect people coming to the parks.

Pam Nelson Hubert
Guest
Pam Nelson Hubert

Such a disappointment. Made so much more sense the way it was. More congestion blocking pathways with long fastpass people waiting to get in. Much longer wait and in some cases just as fast as standby now. Terrible system from one who has been there so many times. It wasn’t broken and now it is!!!

Sherry Suter
Guest
Sherry Suter

I agree with Elizabeth Fernstrom Ramsey! Do your research, download the app! I loved scheduling all our rides from our hotel room. Not having to rush rush rush 1st thing in the morning made it more like a vacation than any other visit. My lil’ family went in February and I don’t recall any longer wait times than usual. I just wish you were allowed 4 instead of 3 at Magic Kingdom… there are more fast pass rides there than any other park, but I still prefer it better than the old way. Hate that Universal charges for them things!… Read more »

Yolanda Guy
Guest
Yolanda Guy

We used it last week and has no problems at all! Loved it! We got to get fast passes before we left home.

Tammy Shelton
Guest
Tammy Shelton

I’ve used the FastPass+ system 4 times now. I love Disney and hoped I would like the system and have an open mind to the new system but… I HATE it beyond words. My family are Florida Resident Annual Pass Holders and we are NOT renewing.

Brittany Nicole Dobbins
Guest
Brittany Nicole Dobbins

We used it before we left home and had no issues with it. We didn’t have to wait that long at all. I didn’t even use the app and we still did perfectly fine. Also pro-tip: go in the evenings, extra magic hours if you can. If you absolutely hate waiting in lines for attractions, this is one of the ways to get around this. When we went this last time Magic Kingdom was open til 1 AM, and I went around 9 or 10 PM and stayed til the park closed. There’s not nearly as many people or lines,… Read more »

fosterfest
Guest
fosterfest

The article didn’t mention what I think is the most glaring problem with FP+, though several commenters did — 3 attractions is just not nearly enough for one day, when you could get five or six under the Legacy system.  I love the new technology features of FP+ but they have got to bump it up to four or five attractions or they will not see me coming as often.

Troy Shordt
Guest
Troy Shordt

we went last week, we waited in line for 25 mins, and they did not even have any fass pass… and we were there at 10 am for the fass pass…I live just down the road from Disney, well I will not be going back any time soon, im going to stick with universal…. much better place

Holly Semmler
Guest
Holly Semmler

So the 3 fp+ rides you choose once you’ve used them in a day can you fp more rides? Or is it 3/ day and that’s it?
Also when reserving your fp time does it show you how many other people have booked at that time?

Michael Wahrer
Guest
Michael Wahrer

Im annoyed i thought the old way was better and more fair .

David Dixon
Guest
David Dixon

Not to mention they limit you to only 3 FPs per day. A well planned day used to allow guests to easily FP 5 or 6 rides. Now, no matter how well you plan, you are limited to 3.

Tracie Hall Smith
Guest
Tracie Hall Smith

As an annual passholder I have seen wait times increase since the FastPass+.

Mike Souza
Guest
Mike Souza

It has created a theme park by appointment, wait times have increased on rides that never had more then a five minute wait. Now they are testing FP+ for Be our guest for lunch so forget about stopping there for lunch or dinner now and has taken any spontaneity out of the park.

Kathryn Simpson
Guest
Kathryn Simpson

Ugh. Glad we took the year off Disney passes and went with Sea world instead. Hope they’ll have it worked out by next year.

Jaclyn Schnorrbusch
Guest
Jaclyn Schnorrbusch

Hopefully they have the kinks and issues worked out by the next time we go. The old way worked well for us, this doesn’t sound too great, only being limited to 3FPs a day!?!

Beverly Neumann Smith
Guest
Beverly Neumann Smith

We tried the new fastpass+ system in early December. Overall, I feel lukewarm about the new system. In an effort to be fair, I think part of the reason was my own difficulty in adjusting. We were also trying to navigate the new DAS for the first time so that added to my feeling overwhelmed. I think those, like us, who used the original fastpass system to fullest are the most disappointed. But if you like to get to the parks later in the morning and have a “one & done” touring strategy, you probably will probably have a more… Read more »

Rich DeOnofrio
Guest
Rich DeOnofrio

As I have predicted, eventually, people who stay on property will be able to plan an entire day by booking all rides and parades ahead of time, leaving us “spur of the moment” visitors out in the cold.

Kerry P. Kleinbergen
Guest
Kerry P. Kleinbergen

So glad Disneyland is sticking with the paper fast pass for now

cmurray234
Guest
cmurray234

We used FP+ for the first time in February. I like the technology…meaning that the rfid bands did what they were supposed to do. But that’s the ONLY thing I liked. First and worst, the roll-out was terribly clumsy. The website was equipped to handle neither the traffic nor the use cases that come with something that’s relatively complicated. I spent HOURS on the phone trying to iron out the kinks of my reservations. Second, the tiering is ridiculous. There are exactly 3 attractions in Epcot that are worthy of FP, and of those 3 (test track, Soarin’, Maelstrom), you… Read more »

Joseph Brabender
Guest
Joseph Brabender

Time too start going too universal studios and other attractions that do a better job!!

D Marie Jordan
Guest
D Marie Jordan

Not liking it at all. Will certainly decrease the amount if time spent in Disney parks by a huge amount. When I do hi now I will certainly not park hop. I always paid more for this option.

Patti Arnold Rensel
Guest
Patti Arnold Rensel

Universal is very relaxing and yet, still a great theme park. Have done them all — we now prefer universal. The on property express pass they have us was a huge part of why our last trip there was so relaxing.

JoAnn Cremen Cerne
Guest
JoAnn Cremen Cerne

Correct me if I am wrong but doesn’t Universal charge for this plus system? A couple years ago we went to Universal for the day and bought the hopper ticket and the amount we spent for 3 adults and 2 kids was over the top. You get more fore your money with a hopper at WDW. We were there in January and loved the new bands and the new app.

Darren Bown
Guest
Darren Bown

I’m glad people are voicing their opinions about this, I’m still unsure, but when posting my reservations on another Orlando review page, I was swiftly banned!

Andrew Sh
Guest
Andrew Sh

I couldn’t love this more! Decide in advance what rides we want, pick a couple others, show up ten minutes before or so, go on the rides and leave. It makes Disney a lot more pleasant to deal with now than it used to be (at least if you go dozens of times a year).

Tracy Mitchell
Guest
Tracy Mitchell

There is no change and the lines are not longer. The only problem it has is guest go right when the time is set. It’s kinda like they don’t realize they have an hour to use the fast pass. I love it! As an APH I find it very helpful if planned right!

Kellie Gleason
Guest
Kellie Gleason

They need to get rid of this ridiculous system and go back to the fp way before! Longer lines is NEVER a good thing. I’d rather them have totally eliminated fast passes and put everyone on an equal paying field than this!

Puff
Guest
Puff

As a seasoned annual pass holder, I would advise guests to go to the FP+ stations with cast members with iPads.  The new computer kiosks are not so user friendly as you would expect.  I tried them once and it took me 15 minutes of valuable park time, and I was unsuccessful in getting any FP+ passes.  There were no cast members with iPads there, but there was a cast member trying to explain how easy it easy to work the kiosks–not one guest came away with FP+ passes when we were trying to use the machines.

Mark Drysdale
Guest
Mark Drysdale

sounds like Disney really missed the mark this time, I liked the old fast pass, if you were really organised it worked great, we managed to get 8 fast passed in magic kingdom in one day

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

JoAnn, you can stay in any one of three of the best resort hotels at any theme park in the world for almost free compared to WDW resorts. You use an annual pass discount at Portofino and pay around $200 for one night.  If you stay a few times and join the Loew’s First Club, for free, you can upgrade to a 900 square foot suite with 2 full baths. You could’ve had the keys to skip the lines for the entire day you check in and the day you check out. If the fast pass system at Universal cost… Read more »

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

Great news Tammy! This is the only way to get those WDW execs to wake up.
We are begining year 3 of skipping WDW.
No one is leaving Universal for WDW.
Many are leaving WDW for Universal.
Let’s see if we can give these lazy WDW execs a message they can understand.

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

10 to 1 against the new WDW system.
3 passes are good to you?
Got to stay on property at Universal. Then you’ll get it.

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

Stay on property Todd. That’s how you see the difference.

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

I think the folks that like WDW Fastpass- system are not very well informed or are happy with doing about 3-4 rides a day. There is no comparison between staying on property at Universal and WDW. Universal has built more new attractions and lands in the last 2 years than WDW has built in the last 10. Our family can ride a beautiful boat to the front of both parks at any time of the day and skip lines everywhere we go with exception of a couple of attractions from the day we check in to the day we check… Read more »

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

I would advise going to Universal without giving a dime to the current WDW leadership.

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

Not correct Katie. At WDW guests could collect fast passes all day. Therewas a time marked on the pass which told you how long you had to wait to get another fast pass. Castmembers didn’t care if you came back late to an attraction. They only cared if you came prior to your fsat pass reserved time. Guests could  collect passes all day and save them up to ride at night or anytime late in the day.