Fastpass return time enforcement

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 2:42 PM


Wednesday, February 15, 2012 4:00 PM

One of my retirement fantasies is to snowbird in Orlando, get a job as a Cast Member, and see how long it takes one to get fired for being a smart-aleck.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 5:30 PM

Aamilj, I find your basic premise a bit hard to swallow. Do people REALLY want to spend more on their park visits? That they are WILLING to pay extra for some benefit doesn't mean they really WANT to. Disney is going after what their customers REALLY want, which is toNOT spend their whole vacation waiting in line.


As before...I appreciate your input/opinions and the amount of thought and effort you put into them. I'm not arguing right and wrong...just providing another opinion.

As for the quote above... Could I not just as easily say...

  • Do people REALLY want to spend 10-12 hours confined to one park on their visits? That they areWILLING to stay all day waiting for their return time window, exaust themselves, spend time studying a "line management system", some even willing to scheme around the said system, etc. for some benefit doesn't mean they really WANT to.

I think that is the point. Nobody wants to wait in line. There is a DEMAND for "not waiting in line." The DEMAND is not for any particular system (Q-bot, Fastpass, pay-to-cut, etc). The system is just the tool to meet the demand. While every system has drawbacks, I'm going to opine that a system that solves the "wasting time" problem by asking guests to "waste more time" might be inferior to other options.

Look…I get the idea that Disney wants EVERY guest to have an equal opportunity to experience their parks. But Disney’s system is no more FREE than Universals. With Disney’s system you pay with your time. Time is money they say. Universal has just cut out the pretense and went straight for the simple buck. In the process they offer a superior experience, which operationally Disney cannot match at this time. I would think that Disney would not want to just hand that market away without a fight.

I get that Universal has to limit the guests utilizing the system. It is indeed a drawback. But is that any greater drawback than asking every guest that goes through your gate pass a series of timed hurdles, accept a micromanaged vacation, etc? How do we determine which drawbacks are more important?

Line cut/management systems are fascinating in so manydifferent domains. I’m not 100% sure what I believe. Here is what I know. Remember that I say this as a Disney geek. Staying on site at Universal Orlando, or even Hollywood, and being able to go at your own leisurely pace without worrying about tickets, time windows, enforcement issues, etc is simply a SUPERIOR experience to anything Disney currently offers their guests. It is not even close in terms of convenience and satisfaction. It is zero stress vacationing. I find it odd that I cannot get this same service at Disney, even if I were willing to pay big bucks. They offer NOTHING comparable.

My belief is that Disney will have to catch up with the times and offer a similar experience for their guests who stay on site…at least at the Deluxe Properties. Or simply concede that market to competitors.

Disney is going after what their customers REALLY want, which is toNOT spend their whole vacation waiting in line. They are trying toextend that benefit to as many customers as they can, which is whatmost parks used to do, back when they cared about such things. Thingis, Disney still cares, because even the little details that don't havean immediate impact on the balance sheet are important, and becausegetting people to come back for another vacation is more important thanfiguring out how to get another $50 out of them this time.

As to the assertion that Disney cares about ALL its guests…thereis some truth to that. But I think thereis a general consensus that Disney is very interested in guest compliance too.

Using Fastpass as the primary example… As I understand it (please correct if I amwrong) Fastpass had multiple goals for Disney. While the marketing wing loved to sell it as a time management system. The operations folks were interested in crowd dispersal patterns. The penny pinchers were interested in the idea that folks not waiting in line would be spending more money. I’m sure all of these are valid concerns for Disney. Difficult to tell which factor was MOST important.

I don't know if it was you, but somebody up thread even mentioned that Disney would "get away with" whatever they could get their guests to comply with. I tend to agree with that sentiment. I'm not certain that their primary concern is the guest experience. I think that "guest experience" is just one of many factors they use to make their operational decisions.

The average guest currently has 2 ethical options to experience Disney. They either allow Disney to micromanage their day and de facto accept a 10-12 hour day to experience all the attractions (at the larger parks)…OR…the guest accepts that they will have to skip some major attractions in a day…and there is good chance a full week may not be enough to experience all the parks. Choose option #1 and there is NO reason to stay on site. Who has time to enjoy the resorts when you can’t leave the park less you miss your Fastpass return time? There is a third unethical option…SCAM the system.

I guess that is my main point. Disney does not offer a clean and healthy option to experience their parks AND world class resorts simultaneously with the planned enforcement of return times. They are incentivizing staying OFF site. They are disincentivising visits from elderly, parents with young children, and wealthy folks who desire a more relaxed pace.

I suppose they are banking on the idea that their attractions are so superior and in demand that most guests are willing to take a "kick to the nuts" to do it. But are they? Especially with a competitor across town offering a better a cost monetarily...but sure as heck less cost in effort? Is it smart strategy for Disney to ignore this market? Am I overestimating how many people are going to be pissed off with a high stress/effort vacation experience?

I know that my wants/experiences are not indicative of everybody. But there is no way in hell I'm going back to the days of power visiting parks from opening to closing times. There is also no way I'm going to accept paying full price only to miss a good percentage of the attractions either. I'll go to the park that offers the most liesurley and stress-free visit...and if none exist...I'll stop vacationing at amusement parks.

While I may not be "typical"...I'm certainly not abnormal. People go on vacation for fun and stress relief. Disney seems to be heading in the opposite direction. Maybe "kicking your guests in the nuts" while telling them you are doing it for their own good will prove to be smart business strategy. My hunch is the guy who shows up at noon, collects his Test Track Fastpass for 10:00 pm is going to be quite pissed off and tired 10 hours later about the whole experience. I know that this has been happening forever...but word is just starting to get out about how superior the Universal System is. Why take that treatment if you can buy a better experience 15 minutes away? And don't even talk about the guy who misses his return time by 10 minutes and is told "sorry."

Does Disney really want to become known as the "inferior experience" park? The park with really cool attractions that are a pain in the ass to experience. Isn't that the SFMM model? Or might it be wise to quickly come up with a system that at least competes...?

Last edited by Aamilj, Wednesday, February 15, 2012 5:36 PM
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 6:01 PM

So why can't we all just hide behind the ADA to use fastpasses the next day?

You don't even need the ADA to do that. For years you could walk into Guest Services with the prior day or two's Fastpasses...give a sob story...and turn that into passes for 5. They tightened that up a bit in the last year or two...but the insistent can almost always start their day off with one or two Fastpasses (for 5) good for ANY ride by exchanging the prior days pocket of unused Fastpasses.

I know you are being funny...but the ADA would easily apply to this scenerio. A diabetic goes into shock while holding passes, etc. They go to the ER...their day is ruined. Come to guest services the next day or three, tell your story...they WILL help you out.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 6:14 PM

Aamilj said:
I know you are being funny...but the ADA would easily apply to this scenerio. A diabetic goes into shock while holding passes, etc. They go to the ER...their day is ruined. Come to guest services the next day or three, tell your story...they WILL help you out.

In a roundabout way that was sort of my point - it would work here too, but there's not a mad rush of people taking day-old passes and abusing the system/laws.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:06 PM

Is he still typing? That says...something, I guess.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:14 PM

I've moved on from that point of disagreement. Time will tell if abuse returns as the peeps learn the new system. But I'm not sure the system will be around long enough to make a fair assessment.

I'm beginning to wonder if the Disney way of line management might be a bit (a lot?) out-dated. What was cool and cutting edge a decade ago seems so passe today.

While you talk about Q-bots, I talk about Universal's separate cut entrances...etc. Disney is still making their peeps run around the park (sometimes multiple parks) and collect paper tickets from machines that sometimes work. It might be time for Fastpass to take its rightful place in the Line-Cutter Hall of Fame.

The old system of tickets was much more user friendly. At least you did not keep having to re-track your steps. They could just add a ticket for every 100 foot of and demand pricing/profit with line management built in...all ADA compliant...and FAIR for everybody.

Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:26 AM

Aamilj, my opinion is that you are almost there, in terms of communicating effectively. I think you would benefit from editing down your posts after you type them. Pretend that you are a filmmaker, and you have to leave some scenes on the cutting room floor in order to fit your movie in under two or three hours.

No offense intended. Less is more.

I just did it, just now. :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012 9:48 AM

Cady worries about word vomit.

Thursday, February 16, 2012 10:54 AM

Here is, in my opinion, the best line cut/management system. First park to go this route wins. The way I see it, there are two components to these systems. First there is improving the guest experience. Second, there is profitability. Moment to note, I'm not sure current Fastpass is real successful at either. So with these two factors in mind...

1. Park admission ticket is also your ride ticket (bar code). Example: $100 admission gets you 100 credits (think tickets = credits). Two-day...200 credits (or maybe 250, etc) if you want to incentivise multi-day visits. You could also easily add credits for on-site hotel guests, etc.

The advantage here is that EVERY guest has the same ticket/mechanism. Nobody knows what credits each other has. No separate entrances, etc. This appearance of fair treatment for all is a positive for guest experience.

Yet the park still has means to make their "special" guests feel special. Have a Guest Services issue...? "Sorry Mr. Smith, how about we add 50 credits to your balance?" Mr. Smith = happy! "Hi Mr. Jones...thank you for staying at the Grand Floridian (our most expensive property)...I hope you enjoy the extra 500 credits we put on your room key/park ticket/ride ticket." Mr. Jones = happy!

2. Each ride/attraction has a bar card machine at the entrance with a human manning the machine. The credits required to ride each attraction is based upon line length/times. This could be controlled at a central computerized location, or at each ride itself by the staff member. Simply put, the longer the line gets, exponentially the credits required to ride go up. At some point the price will reduce demand so much that the line stagnates or lessons. This is all controlled in real time.

The advantage here is that this maximizes profitability for the park AND guest keeping wait times manageable. Not to mention that there is no way to "scheme" this system. You either pay or you don't. Simple supply and demand at the micro-level. ADA compliant, etc. Every guest is treated the same and every guest has the same opportunity.

3. Credit reload machines located throughout the park (if you chose not to link your credit card/hotel key at admission) with large digital screens (think EPCOT) displaying wait times and current credits for each attraction.

Simple, fair, profitable... What is not to like?

Thursday, February 16, 2012 11:13 AM

I like that idea somewhat. But that's just like ride tickets, except that you are forcing people to buy a certain amount of tickets, and are changing how many tickets rides cost throughout the day.

What about the people who visit a park, but do not ride much, like a tag-along grandparent or a child who is scared to ride most rides? That system would seem very unfair to them, because they will leave the park with a whole lot of unused credits.

I'm not so sure that it seems that unfair right now to people who ride less, because POP admission is for access int the park, and to do whatever you can while there. With a POP ticket scheme, one never leaves with unused credits.

Thursday, February 16, 2012 12:58 PM

You can modify it based upon preferences, park type, etc. A regional park could offer a low admission/low credit ticket for example. A beachside park could offer zero admission, like now...only riders participate. A family might be able to assign credits asymmetrically.. The Big Boys (Disney/Universal)would probably be closer than what I suggested. The flexibility of this system is a selling point along with guest experience and profit improvements.

I've not even mentioned the data collection improvements. You not only learn traffic patterns. In just a few days worth of data collection you can determine supply and demand of each individual ride for a specific time of the day/week. You could use algorithmic software to determine dynamic pricing structure. For example...Space Mountain at 2:00 pm on a Saturday in June is highly popular...What happens to Buzz Lightyear or Autopia lines/demand if we bump Space Mountain credits to 20? Maybe a bump in Space Mountain and a subsequent decrease in Autopia leads to greater utilization of Autopia with a more manageable traffic pattern.

The possibilities, profitability, and fairness of such a system are limitless, and frankly seem superior to ANYTHING any of the parks are using currently.

While I would not recommend it...a place like Disney who is concerned with maintaining a "stand-by" line could still do so...while using current Fastpass lines for my system. A place like Universal could offer the basic system with "regular line" pricing at the moment...PLUS a cut to the front price. For example...10 credits to ride Mummy in the regular line with a 30 min wait...OR for 50 credits you can skip the 30 min line and go directly to the loading station.

There are no hard rules. I just opine that the two most important factors in ANY line cut/management system must address profitability and guest experience. I'm not certain you can appropriately manage guest experience without bringing money/profit into the equation. Money is the tool that essentially modifies supply and demand.

Disney sort of tries to modify supply and demand by using "time" in place of money... My opinion is that "time" limitations, redundant navigation, etc...inherent in the Disney system is a net negative for the "guest experience." By making it "free" certainly is not addressing profitability as efficiently as it could. It just seems to be an inferior and outdated model for "line management." Not to mention all the "scheming" opportunities Disney invites by refusing to introduce the dollar into the system.

Fastpass had a good run. It paved the path for better systems. Now we wait for the one park who has the courage to introduce the most fair and profitable system of all. That would be some version of the system I my opinion of course.

P.S. Edit to add: Kause...I missed the most basic means of addressing your concern. There is no rule that says a park cannot refund credits or a percentage of credits for those who do not use them all. In fact this makes some sense.

You are correct that this is nothing but the old ticket system with instant pricing and technological advancements. However, I opine that the instant pricing is vital to controlling supply/demand/wait times and the technology is just cool! :)

Instant/changing pricing is the next generation. Universal already has different price structures for their line skip program based upon the time of year. They are using supply and has just not been tried on the micro-level yet.

Look I know a lot of you don't like long posts...but my thoughts are flowing faster than I can type. Think of the potential such a system has. It not only addresses the daily guest could also address what day guests visit. Right now people hope or say "I want to go on the least crowded day." I could see a future where people think and say "I want to go on a cheap day." If a park has the courage to price their attractions according to instant supply/demand...they can keep ALL lines manageable on EVERY day. There is a price on each ride at any moment in time for which there is no longer a demand. Once the park figures that out...they can provide a consistent experience for every paying guest every day of the week. They could run ads that say "Come to Aamiljland...where you NEVER wait over 20 minutes... GUARANTEED...OR IT IS FREE! Or better yet...we pay you credits back if you wait too long.

The possibilities are simply limitless. It involves a different way of looking at the park experience. But that is exactly what Fastpass did all those years ago. It taught people to look at experiencing amusement parks in a different way.

Last edited by Aamilj, Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:28 PM
Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:36 PM

One thing enthusiasts don't seem to do well (at least on the forums) is think outside the box in terms of the park experience. It's a very traditional crowd in that the old ways are valued and change is frowned upon.

</end overgeneralization>

But it's sort of true. :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012 2:18 PM

We have progress. It seems that Fastpass is at least accepted if not defended. I was not around here at the time, but my hunch is that some thought Fastpass would ruin everything. Attitudes are changed slowly. I remember when I thought that Fastpass "line-cutting" was dirty and unfair.

Nobody has ever liked lines. But society is changing. Even these forums are a bit dated with Twitter et al. I'm not saying I like it...but I understand that we are a much faster paced society. In an "I want it and I want it now" generation...the time is now for a park to deliver a product to meet that demand.

I think of Fastpass like the New York Times. The last of a great relic whose time has passed. There might even be a few left working for the NYT's who believe they are relevant TODAY. I'm guessing there is some old guard at Disney who feel the same about Fastpass. It is like letting go of Peyton Manning. It is hard to do.

But there comes a time...

Thursday, February 16, 2012 2:29 PM

^ In response to your claim that we are an "I want it and I want it now generation" I agree that it's mostly true, but for me, I'm perfectly content waiting my turn to ride, just not standing, surrounded by other sweaty people.

I would love if each queue line was actually an (air conditioned) auditorium of sorts where you come in an take the next available seat. Then, when it's almost your turn to ride, your row is stood up and walked directly to the station. If you've ever seen the staging area, or bullpen, of a swim meet, think along those lines.

Friday, February 17, 2012 11:29 AM

the park experience

When I was a young lad, all that mattered were the rides. The coolest, fastest, tallest, etc. Now this quote is ALL I care about. The rides are the icing.

This might be blasphemous...but there have been a few times where the family has had more fun at Old Town than Disney. The reason...the darn crowds and lines. There is a lot to be said for a place like Old Town, or a decent carnival where you can ride what you want immediately. And who among us does not enjoy a good Zipper marathon every now and then?

I'm not saying that Old Town is better than Disney. It is not. That would be a preposterous claim. But I am claiming that at certain times of the year/day..."the experience" is better at Old Town. Sometimes it is nice to just ride. Sometimes it is nice to walk to a food establishment and get your food immediately...etc

There is a certain amount of stress, and difficult choices (do I wait for my Test Track ride window or eat a nice Tepanyaki meal in Japan?) to a typical Disney park experience...that occasionally wears on folks. Some of us don't want to make that choice. We want to eat Tepanyaki AND ride Test Track at the time and effort of our choosing.

I'm not saying they have to please this type of customer. I am saying that it might be wise for them to address this type of vacationer...particularly since it is the latter that typically have more money to spend.

If you are young, or a hard core enthusiast, this stress is just part of the game. It is not so bothersome. Most of this bunch would give two craps about a Corn Dog and be done with it. But for a lot (most?) of vacationers there comes a point in life, especially after children, where "the park experience" trumps any individual ride or group of rides. We don't want to settle for a Corn Dog.

I'd like to see Disney address that group. Strictly enforcing Fastpass Return times does the opposite. It adds more stress and forces more difficult choices, leg-work, etc. "The park experience" just got a lot worse for a lot of folks.

Last edited by Aamilj, Friday, February 17, 2012 11:30 AM
Friday, February 17, 2012 2:01 PM

But seriously, how strict is it when it is a 60-minute window? That's more leeway than they give for dinner reservations, isn't it?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Friday, February 17, 2012 5:10 PM


This is all in the context of "park experience." I am not saying my views are correct or better. But my view is that TIME is MONEY. In fact TIME is much more valuable to me on vacation than DOLLARS.

I will try to demonstrate HOW the "park experience" at Disney has just decreased for a lot of people with the issuing of this the form of a novel. Particularly for those that currently treat Fastpass as a "come any time after the first time" pass.

I pick my Test Track Fastpasses up at noon ( I would always be early). At noon we are excited, energized and would love to ride. We can't ride now though, because that is a 2 hour line commitment. How many people enjoy the "park experience" of the 2 hour line? I think this might be the best of all the options, but the kids and wife overrule.

Disney offers NO option to ride immediately, or with a minimal wait time...even though that is what we really want, would be willing to pay for, and consider the BEST "park experience" (like Universal has) possible. Right from the start, Disney does not offer the BEST experience that their competition does. Seems a bit odd for a company with a customer service reputation second to none...but...

We know the Fastpass system and can accept a lessor "park experience" to ride Test Track LATER. In the past, we collect the Fastpasses...experience a couple attractions, go back to our hotel to rest/swim, etc. We eat a nice stress free dinner at the hotel, or at the EPCOT restaurant of choice. We never think about the return time, because we know we can ride it any time before park closing.

Is the prior paragraph ideal...NO. we would have preferred to ride at NOON. But all the travel to/from the hotels, etc is something we reluctantly accept because we do really want to ride Test Track within the confines of what is acceptable for most adults with two young children. If dinner is done before 8:00 pm GREAT! If worries.

Now Disney is taking away this "tolerable" park option and replacing it with a strict enforcement of the return time. Do you see what direction the "park experience" is heading? At least for me and many others who desire a better opportunity and have experienced a better opportunity at Universal.

Now I have to return between 6-8 pm. I COULD take my chances, go back to the hotel...hope that the notoriously fickle Disney transportation does not fail us...worry about ending the nap or pool time early so we can all get back in time to meet our ride window. If one simple step goes wrong, we are eating Corn Dogs OR skipping Test Track. Does either option sound like a good "park experience?" And even IF everything goes as planned, is this "park experience" worth the stress? For some maybe? But wouldn't you think Disney might care a little bit about everybody? If they would have just taken my money and let me ride at noon...none of this is necessary.

Instead of risking missing our ride window, we could decide to power visit the park (option #3). This is not what we want out of our "park experience"...but Disney has really given us three lousy options (wait two hours, risk missing the ride window, or exhaust ourselves at a pace we do not want). Sound like fun?

Right about now I'm thinking...lets go eat a nice meal off-site and head to Old Town. :) Or better yet, call Universal and see what availability is at their hotels. I'll call the bank and get a second mortgage.

But we decide on option #3 this time. We will power visit this park...quick send somebody to my car and make sure Aunt Edna is still secured to the roof. :)

It is noon, we were we have knocked out Soarin. Now we walk around a hot and sweaty park for 5-6 MORE hours during the daylight (when we really prefer the nighttime atmosphere). We do it all. We even ride that cheap Small World rip off in Mexico a couple times for the air conditioning. It is not really what we want to be doing, but we really want to ride Test Track. About 4:00 pm little Johnny gets a blister and starts bitching. My nuts are chafed from sweaty underwear. My wife is getting pissed and says "SCREW TEST TRACK...LETS GO." Now little Jane is pissed. "WE ARE NOT LEAVING NOW...YOU PROMISED US TEST TRACK." I'm screwed no matter what I do or say. Divorce starts looking like a good option along with child abandonment.

What sounded great at noon (a ride on Test Track)no longer sounds so fun at 4:00 pm. I've STILL got 2 hours until I can ride the damn ride. I'm a quarter mile from the ride on the other side of a lagoon. I'm tired. I'm hungry. My kids are grumpy. We just want to eat a nice sit down meal... Now we try to grab a bite and realize that every reservation for every restaurant at World Showcase is booked and has been for 6 months...except for Morocco. I hate the food there and have made this mistake so many times...but I do it again...because I've been defeated.

I have faced the Mouse and the Mouse has won. Nobody eats in Morocco because they want to. It is just me and every other Father, with wife and child, who are holding a Test Track or Soarin Fastpass in our pocket that we got HOURS ago...when riding sounded fun. After the meal I get the obligatory diarrhea. Three trips to the crapper later my butt is as chaffed as my nuts. It is 7:15 pm now...and we have made it to France. I still have 45 minutes. Johnny fell asleep with tear stains on his cheeks. My wife has not looked or talked to me since 4:00 pm. The hour I've wasted in the crapper has her actively plotting my death.

Luckily I can rent a wheelchair between France and there is no way I can walk to Test Track in my current state. At 7:55 pm we make it. My wife refuses to ride, Johnny is snoring. So Jane and I hobble into the Fastpass return lane. It is STILL 30 minutes from here. Fifteen minutes later I need a toilet...but there is no getting out of line (rules are rules). I decide crapping my pants is the best option, and ironically the most pleasurable thing that has happened to me since 4:00 pm.
Five minutes after crapping my pants, the ride breaks down. A Cast Member politely asks me to "enjoy their other attractions."

I punch the Cast Member in the face and spend the night in jail.


I come home after a miserable experience. I go to Coasterbuzz. there I learn that the enthusiast community is of the opinion that Disney"cares" about their peeps. This is the reason they will n ow be enforcing their "free" Fastpass return time. ;)

Last edited by Aamilj, Friday, February 17, 2012 5:11 PM
Friday, February 17, 2012 5:58 PM

I recommend this for your nuts.

Last edited by OhioStater, Friday, February 17, 2012 5:59 PM
Friday, February 17, 2012 6:51 PM

I'll admit that I didn't read you last book of a post A.

I see no problem with enforcing the return time. Time management at any amusement park is not that difficult. You notice that you have to be back at Test Track within the one to two hours? Do something that takes one to two hours and then go. If you want to eat somewhere, ask the restaurant staff if you will be finished before your return time. If you want to ride another ride (standby), look at the posted length of the rides wait and determine if you have enough time to do it.

It's pretty basic common sense.

Edited to add... And by not allowing people to ride right now for a price, the park is offering great customer service for all of their guests. Could you imagine how long their popular rides lines could get if they allowed half of them to cut to the front immediately? Could you imagine standby lines that are twice as long as they are now?

Last edited by LostKause, Friday, February 17, 2012 6:57 PM

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