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.
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.
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.
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.
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?