by Arthur Correa on 8/16/2019
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This opinion might not be popular, but a recent trip to Walt Disney World has convinced me that Disney Fastpass+ is great for Disney's bottom line, but is horrible for visitors to Walt Disney World.

For those that aren't familiar with it, you can read all the details about it at Disney's site here.  The gist of it is you reserve a place in line for up to three rides a day to help shorten your wait time for those three rides. 

Disney tries to sell it as allowing you to get on the rides you want with fewer lines, but honestly, it really doesn't deliver on even that promise.

So why don' t I like it? Let's start at the beginning.  The planning stage.

Fastpass+ can force you to plan months in advance when you don't know what that day will bring.

You can book your fast passes 30 or 60 days before you visit (depending on if you're staying at a Disney Hotel).  At first, that sounds like it's a good thing.  You get to make sure before you even go that you'll be able to get on the latest and greatest ride like Flight of Passage or one of Galaxy's Ege rides.    But what does that really mean?  It means that when you book your rides you have no idea what the day of your Fastpass+ will bring.  Did you get sick from drinking too much Sangria at the Hoop Dee Doo Review the night before?  Is it torrential rains and thunderstorms?  Are your kids just spent and need a rest day at the pool?  You have no idea what is going to happen between the time that you book it and the day of the Fast pass.  

Fastpass+ makes it hard to keep a large group together.

If you're traveling with other people this can really throw you for a loop.  If your fast passes don't happen to line up perfectly then your group will get spread to the four winds to go on their rides.  Now you can have one person in the group manage all the fast passes and set up all the rides for the entire group.  Sounds great, problem solved right?  Wrong!  How often are you going to have the entire group ready to setup passes on the first day you can book them? 

  • Some in your group might be staying on property and some might be staying off property.  Being able to book at 30 or 60 days will mess this whole thing up.  The ride availability at 7AM at the 60 day window will be very different than the ride availability at the 30 day window.
  • Let's say everyone is staying either all on or off property.  Some in your group may not have the money to have their tickets right at the start of the booking window.   Some families have to spread out the costs of the plane tickets, hotel, food budget, and ticket costs.  As a result, they may not all have the ability to book at the start of the fast pass window. Again this will mess up trying to keep a large group together.
  • Not everyone decides to go on a trip at the same time.  I know of a few stories of families joining a group trip at the last minute.  In those cases, all the fast passes for the original group were already booked, and the family jumping in couldn't get the same ones.  Making their sudden group trip more of a hassle than something to be enjoyed.

Fastpass+ makes standby horrendous, killing any spontaneity your trip might have had

If you went to the Fastpass link I provided you saw a blurb that if you want to be spontaneous just go in the standby line.  That is a completely ridiculous statement for because standby lines completely suck because of Fastpass+.   

  • Ride operators don't "appear" to manage the standby/fastpass lines well at all.  Now I'm sure that there are rules for each ride on how much a ride operator is to send through from the fastpass vs the standby queue, and I'm also sure that the Cast Members follow those rules to the letter unless overridden by their managers.  However, I have all to often seen the standby lines get very angry because Cast Members are just doing this job.  If you're stuck in the standby line and you see hordes of people flow through the Fastpass queue while you stand in the same spot for 20 minutes you're going to get a little frustrated. 
  • Ride downtime exacerbates this standby/fastpass queue management problem.  When this happens both standby and fastpass queues can get longer while the visitors wait for the ride to come back up.  Now Fastpassers can also just come back at a later time, so why would the Fastpass queue get worse you ask?  Well, they can come back at any time, and when they come back they weren't part of the original ride capacity calculation so things just get backed up all over.  The problem just shifts to a later time.  When this happens it often seems that the ride operators make an extra effort to burn down the Fastpass queue at the expense of the standby queue.  Making this whole standby line irritation get even worse.
  • Ride standby lines are longer than they ever would be without Fastpass.  When the park is busy this is very true.   For example back before Fastpass when we wanted to ride Splash Mountain it would be maybe a 45 - 60 minute wait.  At that point, you made a decision to get in line or not, and deal with it.  If you got in line the line MOVED and you didn't mind the wait so much because you always felt some sort of forward progress.  Fast forward to today with the Fastpass system.  At similar times of the year I've seen waits longer than 45 - 60 minutes.  The line hardly moves during that time, and can often exceed the posted wait.  You can really see the impact on Fastpass on the standby queue at the end of the night.  Up until the ride closes you'll be in line and the Fastpasses will be going through.  The standby line won't be moving much, while Fastpasserrs are walking right by.  Then, once the park closes and Fastpasses are done the standby line flies through getting processed.  It is really eye-opening.


Fastpass+ makes your time in the park less efficient

Back before Fastpass, you could go to a land and gradually work your way through the land and on from one side of the park to another in a very progressive way.  You can still do that today if you do Standby, but more often than not you can't if you use Fastpasses.  Because of the tiering and availability restrictions on ride Fastpasses, you will all to often have a Fastpass following another one on the opposite side of the park.  This forces you to bounce all over the park as you do Fastpasses and deal with what rides have longer or shorter lines.  It really does waste time.

So if this is so bad you may say, just don't use it.  Believe me, I've considered it, but as long as it's offered and people use it (which they all will).  I'm forced into the same rat race.  If I don't play the same game I'm forced to sit in the same stand-by lines I just complained about.

So why does Disney use Fastpass?  Well there are a few reasons

  • I remember when Fastpass first came out Disney admitted that it was so people would spend more time in stores and restaurants and less time in line.  They don't say that much anymore and just tout the benefits of not waiting in line.  But this is definitely one reason.
  • With the tiering, they get the Ticket feature back.  Back in the day, the parks had a ride ticket system A - E.  E-tickets were the big rides like Splash Mountain, and A tickets would be things like Small World.  People would buy a ticket booklet with a limited number of tickets for that day so how they used them counted. Disney could see what rides in each category were popular by seeing what rides in each ticket class were used the most.   That would let them know what rides to start to think about replacing, what rides might need more maintenance, what rides to advertise more, etc.  When they went away from the ticket system to the single entry fee, ride all ride modes that we had today they lost that a bit.  Sure they knew from rider counts what rides were ridden the most, but they didn't know if they rode them because they liked them or just because they were there.  With the Fastpass tiers they get some of that back and they can see what people are choosing for Fastpasses to ensure they get on the ride.

So how would I fix the system?  Honestly, I'd do one of two things

  • Reduce the overall capacity of the Fastpass system on every ride.  Just lower the percentage used.   This will limit the benefits that Disney gets out of the system, but it will make the standby lines move better.
  • Remove the reservation ahead of time system.  Keep everything else the same, you just can't make Fastpasses until you get into the actual park.  Once in there you can only get 1 at a time (or whatever the rules were for the old paper one).  Keep the digital system, that is much better, but make it less about planning ahead of time and more about being in the park.


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