Paper Fastpass turned off at half of Walt Disney World, Fastpass+ coming online

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Disney has discontinued paper Fastpasses at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios to follow in the coming weeks. The new electronic Fastpass+ system is now in general availability to mixed reactions. Critics complain the system still favors on-site resort guests, and leaves passholders and those staying elsewhere at a disadvantage.

Read more and see video from Scripps/WCPO/Cincinnati.

Jeff's avatar

I was at Magic Kingdom tonight... I guess I haven't been paying attention (I can't bring myself to care about this as much as Disney nerds on Disney nerd sites do, even though I live around the corner). I was surprised to see the paper machines covered up and more kiosks deployed all over the place.

The cast member I talked to said they won't allow passholders to book online until all four parks are converted and the system is talking across all parks, and he gave dates for the rest of the rollout (which I already forgot). Right now it's just annoying because as a passholder I can't book online. Mind you, it has been this way for awhile versus resort guests, so maybe it doesn't matter.

That said, this is still an operational train wreck at the attractions. Scanning people in is so slow, even with two scanners at the entrance and merge points. It seems on average to take three seconds per person, which is 40 per minute in the best case scenario. Against a ride like Kilimanjaro Safari, the ride will easily favor standby riders. Compare that to handing a stack of paper passes to the attendant, when a family of four moves through in a second and a half. The same family takes six seconds at best, and kids being kids, it's rarely that efficient.

I'm sure they'll get it right eventually, but assuming the system doesn't fall flat on them (work around town is the scalability of the system isn't great), I think it's going to be rough in the short term.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Disney Hollywood Studios is set to transfer over January 21 and EPCOT is slated for January 23. To my knowledge Disney has not yet announced if those parks will continue to be tiered once the conversion is complete to FastPass+.

And yes there are issues with how many individuals can pass through the fast pass lane. Tonight at Buzz Light Year the stand bye line was moving quite fast and the fast pass line was at a dead stop attempting to get a party of 10 through the scanners.

Last edited by Meanstreak69,
LostKause's avatar

So now you can only reserve three rides a day? Hmmm... If I am understanding this right, a person can't come on a less busy day and "work the system," getting a fistful a Fastpasses? I remember a thousand years ago when I frequented the Disney Parks, I would go to ride #1 and get a Fastpass, then go to ride #2 to wait in the Standby line, then when I got off of that ride, I would go get another Fastpass for ride #3, then I would go use my Fastpass for ride #1, and so on and so forth. So this is not possible anymore?

If people are only allowed to get three per day, the front-of-the-line hater in me loves this idea, because limiting it is what makes it work smoothly. But the greedy ride-monger in me dislikes this very much.

Can anyone here give us who have not been following the story a better idea of how it works? I know I could "do a search," but I like to hear it from more familiar people.

DejaVuNitro's avatar

In agreeance with Travis, I used to enjoy running from ride to ride collecting fastpasses all day, rarely waiting in a standby line at all.

I'm sheriff of this here rollercoaster.

Tekwardo's avatar

For now they limit you to 3. The likely scenario being discussed is that there is a pay system coming to purchase more fast passes.

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The FastPass+ system is very dynamic and changes frequently, thus I will explain how the process is working today.

Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom have FastPass+ kiosks set up around the parks for non resort guests to use. The kiosks are armed by a slew of Cast Members who are their to assist you in booking both FastPass + and other guest services available in the park.

You select three attractions / shows to experience during the day and then the Cast Members enter your three choices into the system. The system will group your selections and then give you three or four different options. the fourth option typically will remove a difficult attraction to obtain with a non head liner.

For example, today at the Magic Kingdom we selected Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear and Peter Pan. Peter Pan had very limited time slots and thus on the last option they replaced Peter Pan with It's A Small World. After looking over the times, we decided to change to Winnie The Pooh. Thus after speaking with the Cast Member about our plans for the day (hair cut appointment at the barbershop and ADR at the Plaza), they lined up 4:15 Buzz, 5:15 Pooh & 6:15 Haunted Mansion. The process took about 30 to 40 minutes from the time we entered the line until we had our FastPass+ selections.

Today any three attractions may be selected at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. The system also limits you to three selections and does not permit a repeat ride for FastPass+ selections.

Currently at EPCOT and Hollywood Studios the FastPass+ are tiered by headliners and limited to resort guests only. For example at EPCOT the tier one attractions are Soarin, Test Track, Maelstorm and Illuminations (reserved viewing sections), you select one of those attractions and the other two are selected from non headliners such as Spaceship Earth, Mission Space and Finding Nemo. Thus if a guest would like to experience both Test Track and Soarin only one is available by FastPass+. If memory serves me the tier one at Hollywood Studios is Toy Story Mania, Rockin Roller Coaster and The Hollywood Tower of Terror.

The question of the hour is if later this week, this practice of tier attractions will continue once it is released to day quests. In addition as of today, a guest can only access FastPass+ in one park per day. If a guest decides to park hoop, the other park is all stand bye as the system does not allow multiple parks at this time. In my opinion, this is the next process for them to test. Park Hooping is a great source of revenue for them.

Resort guest may book FastPass+ reservations six months in advance of their resort stay. In addition, those guest are testing MDE app which includes the ability to change FastPass+ on their smart phone or tablet. These guests can also the day of use these devices to reserve attractions and not use the kiosks. Resort guests also have the unique ability to reserve a time to experience lunch at Be Our Guest using a FastPass+.

The other main issue I have seen recently are large groups. The Cast Members suggest to break up into groups of 6 and "hope for the best on riding together." Today I saw at least two or three groups above six causing the kiosks major problems.

I hope this explains it better and as I mentioned at the start...the process changes frequently.

Last edited by Meanstreak69,

I wonder if the objective isn't ultimately to kill off FastPass entirely. I mean, really, FastPass for iasw? That thing can move almost 4,000 PPH, there should never be a line for it. It is a challenge to get people into the building that fast.

The thing is, NextGen should be able to give them stupid accurate real time information about what people are really doing in the parks, which, combined with historical data should allow them to make adjustments in the park to balance the load. What if you could give everybody the benefits of FastPass without the scheduling? Let people do their own thing...or at least let them feel like they are doing their own thing...and program the park around them. I suspect that's where they are going with this. But for it to work, they need to put an end to the FastPass games so they can see what the hordes are really doing.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

Lord Gonchar's avatar

I'm still of the mindset that they're going the opposite direction with the long term goal of getting people to schedule more of their day ahead of time.

Perhaps it's just me, or maybe Disney does a better job describing how this all works than the people posting here, but this seems to be so needlessly complex. How many guests are going to be completely turned off by this, or mad because some part of it didn't work the way they thought it was supposed to? I get that what Disney is doing here is hugely beneficial to them, but from my outsider looking in perspective, it seems really detrimental to the guest experience with adding a lot of needless hoops to jump through.

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

Jeff's avatar

In practice a limit of three passes per day doesn't seem like a big deal to me, but only because I can only remember one time ever that I've used more than three in a day (as a vacationer, not a local). In some ways, the system is an improvement because you can replace one of your daily "credits" mid-day, if you want. So if you got one for Magic Carpets, then realize that day the wait is often less than 15 minutes, you can swap it out for something else.

And Dave, do you really think they spent a billion dollars (with a "B!") so they could throw it away?

Word on the street is there will definitely be a paid upgrade. I'd be shocked if there wasn't. Everyone else in town does it.

The "tiered" access is entirely a function of them gradually trying to scale up the system, and nothing more. The limitations in place are arbitrary and intended to control how much it's being used until they know it won't die under pressure. Not rolling it out at all four parks follows the same rationale.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

The system sounds really complex, until you use it once or twice. I think one of the bigger headaches right now, is getting your times scheduled if you're a non-resort guest. The lines in the morning for the kiosk's on Discovery Island were slow, and decently long. We did have one night on property, and the day before and after had pre-booked FP+ times. I actually preferred that to the old system, as it was new years, and we knew that we weren't even entering MK until 5:00. So we pre-booked times from 6-9, and really enjoyed the experience.

As a passholder, who tends to be in Orlando for 2-4 weeks at a time, I will be very happy when I can schedule my times outside of the park, even if it's morning of the visit.

If you linked you AP during your resort stay to a magic band, you may continue to book FastPass+ through MDE after your stay ends. Meaning you may continue to book ahead of time up to 6 months in advance.

I agree with the type of selections you can now make with FastPass+, I see them moving more towards planning your day. I frequent the Magic Kingdom every three weeks for a haircut. We typically only have lunch and maybe experience one or two attractions. However yesterday we planned out a day with my haircut at 2:00, lunch at 3:05 and then FastPass+ 4:15, 5:15 and 6:15. The gap with FastPass+ caused us to experience a few other attractions such as The Hall of Presidents. We also walked through a few shops.

I think my day yesterday is their vision for this new system. More crowds away from certain attractions and give guest more opportunity to spend money.

I have no issue with three FastPass+ per day, but I can tell you if you have little girls who wish to meet the princesses this would be difficult. Basically to meet the four princesses would cause a guest to use 2 FastPass+, leaving only one left for rides. The princesses line typically average between 40 to 90 minutes each, with two meet and greet areas.

Last edited by Meanstreak69,
Lord Gonchar's avatar

So is the long term goal for this to provide varying levels of FastPass access based on how you stay with Disney?

I get the idea of an upcharge for additional access, but will we see deluxe resort guests get first dibs or more FastPasses than guests at moderate resorts? And will those folks get more than value resort guests? And will they get more than people staying off property?

Because with this much control over access to the rides and the ability to pre-distribute crowds, the goal has to go well beyond simple crowd control in the parks and be more along the lines of maximizing incentive to spend more influencing how you do your whole vacation.

Disney has already tested Deluxe verse Value this past holiday season. If you were staying at Pop Century from November on, guests were only given Magic Bands. These guests were blocked from using standard FastPass. If the guest requested a Keys to the Kingdom card, those cards were not able to pull FastPass in the parks.

Thus value guests were limited to 3 FastPass+ per day and the Deluxe and Moderate guests were able to pull both FastPass+ and FastPass during their stay.

Friends in Guest Service logged numerous complaints about value guests being locked out of FastPass. Disney is certainly testing numerous different flows. The EPCOT and Hollywood Studios tier structure has been removed and added several times during testing. October 21 will live in Guest Service CastMembers for the rest of their lives. The tiers ended on those parks and then a technical issue happened which caused all FastPass to be distributed in the first thirty minutes of the parks opening.

kpjb's avatar

I think the biggest problem, as Jeff mentioned, is getting people in the queues with the magic bands. When we were there last week, the line for Fastpass reentry at Expedition Everest had to be over 100 people deep. Sure, it will go faster once everyone is used to it, but it can never be as fast as showing someone a paper ticket and getting on the ride. This I would consider an actual problem. The other issues I have with it I would classify as inconveniences.

What I do like about this new system is that with the scheduling you can estimate where you will be at what time of the day and schedule your passes accordingly.

Nothing wastes time at Disney like going the whole way across the park because your fastpass time is up, especially now that they are strict with return times. When we were at Epcot, we fastpassed Test Track, mulled around the front of the park for awhile, fastpassed Soarin', rode the Space thingy, walked half way around the World Showcase, then had to double back for the Soarin time. After that we headed back to World Showcase to finish up. It was a lot of unnecessary backtracking, and almost caused me to sober up. If I could schedule ahead, for example, Soarin at 10, Mission Space at 11, and then Test Track at 8, it would be a much more enjoyable/leisurely day.

Downfall, of course, is the limit to three fastpasses. We got to Hollywood Studios early when we were there and got a standby ride and a fastpass for Toy Story. By the time the 20 minute standby line was up, we got a second fastpass for later in the day. No way we get three rides on that with the new system. We probably ended up with about 8 fastpass attractions that day. That let us get so much more done than we would have otherwise. Even if the 5 'extras' were only a 10 minute wait, that still saved us about an hour of the day.


Jeff's avatar

Meanstreak69 said:

October 21 will live in Guest Service CastMembers for the rest of their lives.

It seems like you're trying hard to make this conversation be inside baseball.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

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