Walt Disney World testing FastPass Plus

Written by MiceChat Staff. Posted in Features, Orlando Parkhopper, Walt Disney World

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Published on December 13, 2012 at 4:03 am with 47 Comments

The Walt Disney World Resort is holding a third test of its FastPass+ system from December 11th to 15th.  The new reservation system allows Guests to prebook FastPass tickets in advance of their park visit. Guests who are staying at a Walt Disney World resort and utilizing Disney’s Magical Express were pre-selected to participate in this limited time engagement. New with this round of testing is the addition of experiences at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Prior tests were only conducted at the Magic Kingdom. With the addition of Disney’s Hollywood Studios the service will allow the testing of FastPass offerings at live shows and parades. Also, several new locations were added to the list of experiences at Magic Kingdom.  Guests participating will also be able to change their selections from the time they make their initial selections right up until they have utilized their virtual passes.

Your RFID enabled FastPass+ card

How Does the New FastPass Plus Work?

Guest will be able to choose to spend one day at Magic Kingdom with four different prebooked experiences out of 20 and an additional day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the choice of three experiences out of 11. The following locations will be participating in the test:

Currently Available Magic Kingdom FastPass+ Attractions:

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad®
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin®
  • Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Haunted Mansion®
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Main Street Electrical Parade
  • Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor®
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Space Mountain®
  • Splash Mountain®
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Town Square Theater: Meet Mickey
  • Town Square Theater: Meet the Disney Princesses
  • Wishes™ Nighttime Spectacular
  • Under the Sea—Journey of the Little Mermaid

Currently Available Disney’s Hollywood Studios Fastpass+ Attractions:

  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage!
  • Indiana Jones™ Epic Stunt Spectacular!
  • Lights, Motors, Action!® Extreme Stunt Show®
  • Muppet*Vision 3D
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith
  • Star Tours® – The Adventure Continues
  • The American Idol® Experience
  • The Great Movie Ride®
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!®
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

At each park, the attractions will be divided into two lists.  At Magic Kingdom Guests will be able to choose two attractions from one list and two from the other. At Studios Guests will pick one attraction from the first list and two from the second list.

This is the first test with the new system that will include live shows. If you pick a show to experience, you will be guaranteed a seat in the theater.  Shows also have a smaller return window then traditional attractions. For example, Disney Junior live on stage has a 10 minute window while Lights Motors Action has up to a 25 minute return window.  The window will end 5 minutes before show time.  Any seats that are empty at that time will be filled with guests from the standby line.

Reserved seating for the parade.


Redeeming your experiences during your park visit is very simple and is very similar to the use of today’s FastPass system.  For traditional FastPass attractions, when Guests arrive during their assigned window, Guests will touch their FastPass+ card on a Mickey head icon.  If the Mickey lights up green, they will be admitted into the FastPass line.  If a Guest arrives at the wrong time or wrong attraction, Mickey will light up blue and the FastPass return Cast Member will be able to assist the guest with the issue.  After entering the line, you will need to touch your card on another Mickey icon at the traditional merge point of the attraction.  For shows, Guests will only need to touch their card on the Mickey icon once to gain access into the theater at their assigned time.  For parade and nighttime spectaculars, Guests will touch their card on devices being held by Cast Members.

Green – you are welcome to enter

 Using the FastPass+ system has some key advantages:

Experiences can be booked in advance of your trip. This will allow families to pick their favorite offerings ahead of time and not worry about missing out.  Also there is less of a need to arrive at the park super early to obtain some of the more popular FastPasses.

FastPass+ is a very flexible system.  You may switch out your return time or experience (if available) until you redeem your experience. If you miss your return window, the old system you would have just lost out, with the new system you can rebook for a later available time.

With the current FastPass system, if you lose your FastPass tickets, you have lost out on that attraction and the time you have to wait to obtain new FastPasses.  With FastPass+, cards can be looked up in the system and replaced with your reservations still in tact.

It is very easy to change your experiences.  At any time, a Guest may use a web enabled device to log on to the FastPass+ website.  The website is well formatted for any devices including computers, tablets and smartphones.  If you do not want to use your cell phone’s data plan in the park, you may use the new park-wide WiFi system.  If you do not have any devices in the park with you, kiosks are available throughout the participating parks at select current FastPass locations as well as at Guest Relations. You may also use any of these methods to look up your current itineraries for experiences you have already booked.  An email of your changes or current itinerary can be sent from the kiosks to an e-mail address of your choosing.

Choice of experiences can be modified individually after your initial picks.  Going into your reservation, you may make changes as a group together, or select to change just one member of your party to another experience.

If you are not that tech or park savvy, FastPass+ will offers a “FastPicks” feature.  Picking this will automatically assign experiences and times to your account.  These may also be modified just like any other pick.

The FastPass+ system takes into account the location of each experience.  With its initial offering, the system will do its best to assign attractions and times to keep you from backtracking as much as possible, so you do not need to run across the park unnecessarily.

Guests testing out the new system will also be able to obtain traditional FastPasses with their park ticket during their park visit as well.

Potential Issues with FastPass+

There are still many questions that are left unanswered if Disney chooses to move forward with this technology.  There has been no word on how Annual Passholders or Guests not staying at a Walt Disney World Resort will be able to pre-book their park experiences with the new system (if they will be allowed to do so at all).

Perhaps the biggest impact will be on the standby wait times for all FastPass+ enabled attractions. With FastPass & FastPass+ guests, wait times are sure to increase for regular guests. In addition, since FastPass+ guests will be able to select up to 4 attractions in advance, and then be allowed to use regular FastPass as well on the day of their visit, they will have an unfair advantage over guests not on the new system. That could create guest satisfaction problems and, by extension, serious issues for cast members and guest relations as regular guests learn that they have been downgraded to a lesser status.

A FastPass+ management kiosk at Guest Relations

 

There is also the question of how much information a guest will need about the parks before even being able to schedule their FastPasses. For example, would a guest know that they would be wasting their FastPass+ by selecting Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor or the American Idol Experience which don’t usually run a long standby wait? Or that parades and Fireworks usually have enough room for you to enjoy them with only a bit of prior planning on all but the busiest days? As a result, First time visitors to the parks will need to spend a significant amount of time researching the parks and attractions before their trips to ensure that they are making the best possible decisions. A certain degree of just being able to explore the parks may be lost. 

While this is only a limited-time test, it is exciting to see what is to come in the future.  The new Mickey head icon seems to be popping up in other locations including the new My Disney Experience app available for most smart phones, as well as in Fantasyland at the Be Our Guest restaurant.  This is a hint at much more to come. It should be noted that the RFID in the new Key to the World card now used at most of the Walt Disney World resort hotels uses the same NextGen technology as the new FastPass+ cards. Point of sale tests are also being run at restaurants and shops. The technology will ultimately allow guests to plan, play and pay with the same card or NextGen device.

If you are involved with any of the upcoming FastPass+ tests or have thoughts or concerns about the system, we’d love to hear your thoughts below. Do you think FastPass+ will be a net gain or loss for the average guest?

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Comments for Walt Disney World testing FastPass Plus are now closed.

  1. I’m against the idea of pre selecting the attraction before you visit. To me it feels like Disney is controlling the way I visit its Parks. I also much prefer to visit without too much of an itinerary except for Dining Reservations. That would no longer be the case if FP + makes it to the Parks. I would have to pre plan everything in order not too miss out on time slots and find myself waiting even longer in lines. It’s not really an option!

    The idea however of changing your FP to a different time sounds good. How often do we find ourselves tied down thanks to a parade or Dining Reservation. I also like some of the other elements I’ve heard about. Including being able to order your food at Be Our Guest Restaurant from your Smart Phone before arriving at the location. And having your meal preferences and allergies listed so the Restaurant is aware before your arrival. It’s difficult to come up with a proper opinion because so many questions yet need answering first.

  2. Do we know for a fact that Fast Pass + will add to the stand by line or are the Fast Pass + reservations coming out of the normal allotment of regular Fast Passes?

    As long of this program is optional, I see no harm is offering it. There will always be guests who choose to not stay on property, not use magical express, not use extra magic hours, not get park hoppers, not make ADRs, not use Fast Pass, etc.

  3. I like the creativity and technology behind Fastpass+. However, I’m not a fan of having guests pre-plan every aspect of their vacation. Nor do I think it wise to create different classes of visitors. If you pay the already steep fee to enter, you should get the same high level of service as any other guest.

    My suggestion is that they give every guest Fastpass+ and do away with regular Fastpass. If you aren’t able to schedule in advance, half the available spots should be saved for same day guests to schedule at a kiosk or from their phone.

    There is enough confusion in the parks already, having different versions of Fastpass and levels of guest access is not advisable. If they are going to go down this road, they should simplify and make sure EVERYONE has access.

  4. Here’s the issue I see with FPP. My family and I have to take and unexpected trip and are going to be in Orlando in a couple days. Even though we swore off WDW until Al Lutz says it’s OK to go back, we thought maybe we’d do a day at EPCOT and check out CP. Well, there are no CP packages available and even dining reservations are scarce – not only at EPCOT but across the resort. Based on that, it’s probably going to be packed and already it feels like more hassle and money then it’s worth. So, we’re keeping our pledge to Al and will probably do Busch Gardens or another non-Disney park.

    I don’t see how FPP is going to eleviate this issue. If anything, it’s going to make it even more difficult to have a great experience unless you book 180+ days in advance, and really – who wants to be that person? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just like living life a little more spontaneously!) So I have to quote another blog article I’ve read and say “they’re just not building WDW for me anymore. I’m not their target market.” I only wonder if there’s enough east coasters that fit this demographic. Iger has spent an awful amount of money on FPP. I hope they get their investment back. I for one would have built attractions with that money. But hey, I’m not the target demographic anymore. Thank God there’s Disneyland!

  5. It was my understanding that as FP+ fastpasses are “reserved”, the amount of regular fastpasses would reduce so that those waiting in line without a fastpass wouldn’t be any more affected then they are now. I guess I don’t mind FP+ as another perk for staying on property. Giving every guest a FP+ card prior to their visit could also be interesting though. Meh, in the meanting I’ll just keep visiting during slow times. Let them figure it out.

  6. Thanks for all the details.

    I’m not in favor of planning a theme park visit like a politician’s campaign schedule (3:20 shake hands with mouse),
    BUT though we Michatters do not have final say on what will be put in place,
    I’m confident that Micechat will inform me of how best to use whatever system is in place.
    That’s what I love most about Miceage & Micechat.

    Even if you hate the idea of Fastpass, your family’s trips will be improved if you master it. My barber’s wife just went to Disneyland on a crowded day and complained that it was packed and they only went on two rides. In contrast, my daughter, her friend and I also went on a recently crowded day and got RSR FPs and were informed that we could still get other FPs immediately. WE did, for Soarin’ over California, and got four more FPs as soon as possible. With all the excellent shows we saw (including World of Color with passes from nasty dinner boxes–dried, fishy salmon, yuck) and hitting attractions when the lines were shortest (Toy Story Mania as early as possible, and Grizzly River Rapids with almost no line on a cold winter dusk & night) we had an excellent visit on a very crowded day.

    Whatever spontaniety-killing system Disney devises, I’ll try to stop worrying and learn to love it while I’m in the parks. Of course I’ll still rant on Micechat.

  7. I spoke to a cast member many years ago that was working on the next iteration of Fast Pass. He said that Disney would never put a caste system into place with FP and that they wanted all the guests to be treated the same.

    I’ve heard the rumors about Deluxe resort guests getting more FPP during their visit, as well.

    I’m not a big fan of planning this much in advance, really. But I would love to be able to get a schedule of attractions that morning. Especially if they are my favorite ones.

    This is going to really make trips harder for first-time visitors and people that haven’t visited in years.

  8. Disney wouldn’t be stupid enough to just add more people on top of an already full line. At the end of the day, each ride is still only capable of a certain number of people per hour. Coincidentally, Disney watches these numbers very closely.

    Space Mountain can handle an average of 2,000 riders per hour. Let’s assume it’s a 60/40 split of Fastpass vs. walk-up riders. This means that in one hour 1,200 riders used Fastpass and 800 took their chances, walked up, and got in line. Disney can’t just add more ways to jam people into that line. They can’t suddenly increase the riders per hour to 2,500 just because they need to add FP+ to the mix. They have to work with what they’ve got; which means one of the two existing lines will be cannibalized.

    I’d say it’s safe to assume that each ride/attraction/experience is being handled differently; depending on daily (or potentially hourly) trends in attendance. For instance, if Big Thunder Mountain sees an average of 75% Fastpass riders it would behoove Disney to not mess with the stand-by rider’s line. However, if Haunted Mansion’s daily attendance only averages 20% of Faspass riders it would make the most sense to “steal” riders per hour from the stand-by line.

    Lastly, I have to hope that the FP+ system is very intricate and can adjust for daily spikes, refurbishments taking rides off line, delays due to technical difficulties, and a myriad of other attendance issues. If not, then all we have is a way to pre-book the current system… and that’s no plus.

  9. I’ve always hated the “Now you can pre-plan errything” aspect of this. Spontaneity? What’s that?

    • You don’t have to use it

      • Anyone who doesn’t use it will be at a huge disadvantage as standby will likely be longer than ever. The system will be great for early planners and could end up being a big negative for everyone else. Though we’ll have to wait and see what the final rules and implementation will be.

      • Ya but if you don’t use it you become a second class citizen.

  10. If they try this at Disneyland the bad publicity will be intense. We won’t just roll over and take this robotic preprogrammed fun that makes visitors feel like tools wasting their time on a cheesy website telling a large corporation too much information about their private family vacation. It’s just so wrong, bad, and dorkey on so many levels. I just want to go and have fun, not have to jump through all these hoops and always be nervously looking at my watch.

    • Exactly eicarr! If this happened at Disneyland I’d boycott and send them nasty letters!

  11. We haven’t been to WDW since 2008. With these kinds of changes, I feel like I’m going to have to do a year’s worth of research before I even start planning another trip. I’m a “planner” and even I think this FP+ thing seems kind of over-the-top. I already have to plan what parks I do on what day based on XMHs (or are these a thing of the past???), coordinated with my dining reservations, then throw FP into the mix (“OK, if we get a FP for such-and-such and the return time is between noon and one, that’s going to interfere with our ADR, blah, blah, blah. And if we get stuck on the wrong side of the afternoon parade, blah, blah, blah… Wait, what time are the fireworks? But we have a FP for that time….”) It’s a VACATION, for crying out loud, not an assault on the beaches at Normandy. It really shouldn’t be this plan-centric. (Yes, I just made that word up!) It seems like Disney wants to control every aspect of your day and, if you choose not to play along, the people who do are going to get benefits that you don’t. I used to plan every minute of every Disney day, but my plans never quite worked out which, in turn, made me cranky. Now I have a loose plan and if things change during the course of the day, we just go with it. Is that even going to be possible any more???

    • Forget Disney. I’m actually going to the beaches of Normandy next summer.

  12. I’m torn about this whole model. On the one hand I don’t really like the idea of pre-planning my vacation down to the letter but on the other it would be nice to be able to be guaranteed the chance to ride my favorite attractions. The idea of separating guests by “class” is an interesting one. My friend and I typically stay at the Deluxe Resorts paying premium prices. During extra magic hours I always felt cheated a touch because why am I paying through the nose to stay at the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian and getting the same perks as guests staying at Pop Century or All Star Music who are paying significantly less. Yes I get that the fancier hotels are more well themed and taken care of in a manner different from Pop Century but I always feel like I could stay at the Hilton near the property and get the same level of cleanliness and up-keep without the huge price jump. I think too many people feel “entitled” to too much when they pay to get into the parks. Most theme parks offer a fast pass like service at an up-charge and not included with price admission so Disney is giving everyone the chance to receive more value for their admission by offering fast pass free of charge. I am going to take a wait and see approach and try using this system (if available) on my next vacation.

    • Careful. You are coming across as someone who thinks he is “entitled” to more perks because you pay to stay at the Poly or GrandFlo vs. the Pop Century or All Star Resorts.

    • BTW, yes. When I pay $90+ to enter a theme park, I expect access to everything. This isn’t a shopping mall for crying out loud.

  13. with the massive Annual passholder population I dont know how they run it at disneyland unless they consider doing a per day add on for day guests similar to how universal express operates..
    Not giving them any ideas.

  14. There’s one HUGE flaw in this FP+ system — first-timers will have no earthly idea how to pre-plan a day at WDW. How could a family who has never been know which rides they will want to ride at a specific time, six months in advance? Research only tells you so much.

    It’s going to be hard enough for WDW regulars to pre-plan a vacation down to the hour, but I really feel sorry for the families who will not have a clue about how to do this. They’ll end up not making any reservations, and they’ll have a poorer experience due to it, because they’ll spend more tie waiting in line than almost everyone else.

    Disney, this is a BAD idea.

    • I would assume that this is the whole point of the “FastPicks” suggestion system. Like the website, they may break it down to “Fun for all ages”, “Fun for adults”, etc.

      I really like that the system is very flexible. I can change the time on my reservations, and other items. FastPass+ seems like an interesting system, and I hope that they figure a way out for as many people as possible to use it.

    • Yes it is. Imagine all the tourists and foreigners who visit for the first time, standing in the hot, humid weather thinking, why the heck are all these people cutting us!? Very bad customer service imo. The normal fastpass has this problem too but all they need to do is ask a cast member and they can immediately begin using fastpass when they see it available. So it’s not nearly as bad. Horrible idea, worse than Universals front of Line pass IMO, at least with that you already know about it when you buy your ticktets, you can expect when you’re in line people will pass you and you could’ve bought in too if you wanted, and doesn’t require any planning which ruins the sponenaity of your visit.

      The normal fastpass is the best system, Universals is second, and this is just aweful IMO.

  15. I’m seeing a trend of mostly negative comments associated with the fastpass+ system but at least we won’t have to worry about this over here in Disneyland for a while. Let WDW experiment with it first I guess and see how it fares.

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