Potential Changes To Disney's FastPass ($$$)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007 10:14 PM

Brian Noble said:
Rob: it was recently changed to 20, but the start date is subtle.

I had no idea. I never heard about that change, although I can't say I usually pay a lot of attention to patent laws. Thanks for the link- some interesting stuff in there.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007 10:33 PM
I'm really not trying to be a jerk, Gonch. We are just having a fun little discussion about a change in the fairness of fastpass.

So you are saying that you are not excited about the proposed ideas that you posted, you simply find it interesting? Are you for or against "pay more to get more"? I have no problem with "pay more to get more", so if your answer is "for", then I agree...

But let me ask you this. Are you for or against "Pay more to take more away from those who didn't pay more"? Remembering prior threads, I predict your answer to be "for", of which I strongly disagree. If that is your answer, you fail to understand that such a system could potentially harm the normal guest's experience.

Am I misinterpreting your stance on the subject? Why does it seem to me like you are excited about the theory of a shift in services and price (value, if you will)? Could it be because of where you stand on the subject?

edit grammer *** Edited 9/6/2007 2:36:21 AM UTC by dexter***

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007 11:05 PM
Dexter: I think it is (morbid) curiosity. He doesn't have skin in the game.

At least, not aside from his natural tendency to be a contrarian. He's excited about tweaking the status quo masses. Just guessing, though.

;)

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:01 AM
Am I that transparent, Brian? ;)

Regardless of where I stand, Dex - it doesn't change the tone of the inital post. And I still think you confuse my acceptance, understanding and willingness to accept such changes with excitement over those changes.

Where do I stand?

I do think changes like this are the kick in the ass the indutry needs to jumpstart the 'mature' market conditions. The old business model is just that - old. Old things die.

I'm not necessarily for taking away from those who didn't pay. In fact, I don't think that's really happening. What I am ok with are all the general things we talk about - ticket prices going up, additional revenue opportunities like Q-bot, VIP and the such, higher food and drink prices. I'm totally, entirely and undoubtedly ok with those things.

I think those are the things that these parks need to do (from a business perspective) to thrive (and maybe even survive in some cases) well into the future.

As a customer, I'm equally ok with it because it's not affecting my visits. Crappy thing to say? Maybe, but it's the truth. All I know is that I can still pay-to-play and the quality of my visits to these parks since the induction of higher prices, FOL access schemes and all the standard complaints has never been better.

How could I not be for (or 'excited about' as you put it) something that improves my park experience significantly and in my mind makes the most business sense for the parks long term success?

And yeah, like Brian said, there's something satisfying about it when 'tweaking the status quo' and 'smart business move' align to be one and the same. Hell, I think this current shift (or at least the shift I keep predicting) is the most exciting story in the industry. Infinitely more interesting than the 'coaster wars' or the recent 'second golden age of coasters' and with much farther reaching implications.

What's not to like? :)

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 8:16 AM
As long as the price increases translate into a better visit I am OK with them. In the case of Disney, I know my visit will only get better, or stay the same. In the case of Six Flags, as of right now, I know it won't, and I haven't gone back.

A $15 parking fee is ridiculous to me when there is no alternative and you get no service from that fee. At SFGAdv you are simply paying to park and walk to the park. You can't take a shuttle or park anywhere else, they are simply taking your money. At Disney you at least have quick shuttles that will take you to and from the gates, if you are staying off resort, there are shuttles that will take you to the park, and if you are on resort you can take their free transport.

And again, in the case of Disney, there is no reason not to stay on their resort. Its that customer that they are after, if you want to come for one day, your gonna pay extra. I am OK with that cause its not going to effect my day, I just might have to wait a little longer to cut in line if I am not on the resort.

And Dexter, this patent says nothing about taking anything away from a single day guest. Sounds like they are just providing perks for staying on the resort. Resort guests also have access to pools, tennis courts, free transportation, and free parking. Do you, as a single day guest want access to all those perks too?

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 9:08 AM

Lord Gonchar said:
I'm not necessarily for taking away from those who didn't pay. In fact, I don't think that's really happening.

That's debatable. Virtual queueing means people that didn't pay for virtual queueing are going to wait longer, so while those standby people aren't technically losing anything, they are waiting in line longer to make way for people that paid more. At best, I consider that a gray area.


eightdotthree said:
As long as the price increases translate into a better visit I am OK with them. In the case of Disney, I know my visit will only get better, or stay the same. In the case of Six Flags, as of right now, I know it won't, and I haven't gone back.

That's exactly the way I feel. It's why my wife and I fly to Orlando and drive six hours to Kennywood every year but haven't been to any of the local Six Flags parks since 2004.

I'll take that one step further. I'm okay with any price increase that translates to a better experience for those willing to pony up the coin but doesn't negatively affect people that don't pay more. Maybe the old business model needed to be changed but I'm not down with decontenting, especially when it's done to artificially inflate the value of something else. What if a park suddenly decided to charge for everything from restrooms to paper napkins, and then comes up with an ultra-expensive "extras included" ticket that makes all that stuff free? Sounds like a good deal... that is, if you don't take into account that you're just paying more for what you used to get. I realize that's an example that really takes it to the extreme but the point is one and the same.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 11:01 AM

Rob Ascough said:
I'm okay with any price increase that translates to a better experience for those willing to pony up the coin but doesn't negatively affect people that don't pay more.

Which is exactly why I'm okay with the changes to FastPass listed in the patent. Firstly, because it seems the system will remain, in some form, for free -- and there are a million reasons, most of which have already been expounded on in this thread, why that's a good thing. Let's take the signage example: sure, the guy ahead of me may get a FastPass ticket saying he can ride in ten minutes because he's staying in the Presidential Suite at the Grand Floridian, but if the sign still says I'll ride in 45 minutes, and my ticket says I ride in 45 minutes, I'm not about to care.

So you still have the original, unblemished system working as it did before, and since Disney has wisely built into the merge point system the clear philosophy, "You may/will have to wait after that point," I don't mind waiting for the few extra people who got the choice spots ahead of me because I'm expecting a wait anyway. To the average (read: one-day) park-goer, their experience is practically unchanged -- and really, what one-day park-goer is going to know about the patent application Disney filed? let's get real -- and those that pay more do get more.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 11:07 AM
I can't speak for everyone but I don't have a problem with FastPass or the changes being made to the system. I was just pointing out a quote from a Disney site that suggests some people aren't thrilled that some people are getting on the ride faster than they are. Of course, someone else posted a response that suggests there is another reason behind the changes being made to Soarin's queue, so I dunno... I lost my train of thought.
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Thursday, September 6, 2007 11:11 AM
I think Disney would be better without the Fast pass altogether whether it be free, or not. The reason is because the people that are actually waiting in line for the ride (standby) always have to wait longer because of the Fast Pass people. I too have taken advantage of that Fast Pass machine, but I still don't think they should have it, at all.

Seriously, if you stay on-resort, and stay after Magic hours, you will absolutely see what I'm talking about. Space Mountain full queue except for the lines inside (switchbacks not open) is 20 minutes without fast passes, or 15. With fast passes, it's 40 minutes. So, get rid of the fast pass altogether, and let everyone wait 20 minutes instead of 40 minutes for the ride. It's so much better.

Again, I'm going to use those fast pass things like crazy, but it just makes so much more sense to eliminate it. At least at SF parks, not that many people are buying it to let them go. I don't see that many people buying them. Well at the SF park I visit, they don't have Kingda Ka either, or El Toro. Wasn't that stupid having two years of those coasters back to back?

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 11:15 AM
I agree, but then again, I'm pretty much against all virtual queueing (although FastPass strikes me as the "most fair" of all systems). Soarin' in particular is hampered by FastPass because something like half the capacity is FastPassers. Eliminate the system on rides like that and the wait for everyone will go down.
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Thursday, September 6, 2007 11:54 AM
I've always been a huge fan of Disney's FastPass system. But, this new trend bothers me. We already spend a ton of money to stay in Disney resorts because we love them. Plus, they're convenient. But, once they start applying "levels" to the FastPass is when it starts being less effective - at least in my mind.

FastPass works now because it's fairly equal across the board. But, there are still some flaws. For instance, if you don't get to Soarin' before noon, you can't get FastPass. Then you're stuck waiting two hours to get on.

If they start allowing the higher-end resorts to get more passes or allow them quicker priority to the queue, the quality of experience of the other guests suffers. This isn't on a very limited level like VIP either. It's an across the board thing. That's why I've never liked q-bot. It negatively affects the guest experience of far too many people.

The whole cell phone paging thing disturbs me too. I already think people use their electronic devices in the theme parks way too much. You're outside with friends or family. Why are you messaging someone else on your phone? Be social with who you're with. Plus, barely anyone has the courtesy to use vibrate anymore. Everything is always set on "blast your ears out" loud.

How long will it take to make a Photoshop image of a FastPass and put it on your phone too? If you don't have to use a Disney-provided device and don't have to provide a "real" ticket, the possibility of fraud goes through the roof.

I just don't like this direction. It also surprises me. Disney is usually all about equality and fairness. Even their cheapy resorts have great pools, service and facilities. To "penalize" people because they're not paying enough just doesn't seem like the Disney thing to do.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 12:00 PM
^ I think cell phones in amusement parks should be banned. The person who loses theirs on a coaster as they try to carry on a conversation while riding is going to regret waking up that day if it breaks loose from their hands and whacks me in the face.
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Thursday, September 6, 2007 12:34 PM

Rob Ascough said:
Soarin' in particular is hampered by FastPass because something like half the capacity is FastPassers. Eliminate the system on rides like that and the wait for everyone will go down.

This is where I totally disagree. I have a pretty abstract concept in mind, so I hope as I type, I'm able to convey it correctly. (we'll see, huh? :) )

A ride has a given capacity...period. Any given ride moves a specific number of people. It's as simple as that. All systems like this do is change the way people are chosen to fill that capacity.

Say a given ride moves 1000pph and that ride's queue was designed to hold 1000 people. Anyone getting in line at the end of a full queue has a one hour wait.

(ok, stick with me here, I'm getting to a point and I'm going to use multiple scenarios along with introducing a new bit of terminology :) )

What if the park later decides to add FastPass to this ride?

Scenario #1 (the optimal situation)
They decide that 20% of capacity should go to FastPass. They also have to reroute the queue to handle two lines. The way it happens to work out is that it also takes 20% of the queue area to create a new route for FastPass users.

Now you have a stand-by queue that holds 800 riders when filled and a seperate FastPass line that 200pph will use.

What happens when you step into the end of the full queue line? You have 800 people in front of you. That's 100% of the stand-by line's allocation per hour. No additional wait whatsoever.

It seems though, that this kind of optimization never happens, so let's look at a more real world situation.

Scenario #2 (real world situation)
The park decides that 50% of the ride capacity should go to FastPass, but due to the staggered nature of FastPass arrivals, they still only need to use 20% of the old queue area to route FastPass users to the ride.

Now what happens when you step into that filled queue? You have 800 people physically in front of you. That's 160% of the standy-by line's allocation of riders per hour. You have a 60% longer wait.

But here's the key - the wait is only 60% longer compared to the full queue before FastPass was implimented. They've added 60% capacity to the queue via FastPass.

Thanks to the virtual queue system, they're able to fit a whole lot of 'invisible' people into that line and your "perception of wait time" is distorted as you know that in the past a full queue where you could see the entire line in front of you was an hour wait. Now that you can't judge the wait by visual inspection alone, your perception is one of a longer wait when in reality you just stepped into a longer line than you thought you did.

What if the park did just the opposite and rather than adding FastPass, just expanded the capacity of the queue? But in order to do it, they had to make an addition in an area you couldn't see from the midway. Say they added enough space to hold an additional 600 people.

The ride still pulls 1000pph from the line, but now when you step into the end of that full queue there's 1600 people in front of you. That 160% of the ride's capacity. Your wait will be 60% longer.

That's essentially what FastPass does - add invisible length to the queue. All that has changed is your "perception of wait time" because FastPass (or the additional queue area) is distorting your perception based on what you previously knew.

Am I making any sense?

The core point is that a ride moves as many people as it moves. Nothing changes there. All that changes is where those riders come from and when you're using a virtual queue, it's harder for the individual to judge on their own what the wait time truly is.

So back to our two scenarios and our fictional park with a fictional ride that moves 1000pph who is looking to add FastPass.

Before the added FastPass they had a sign at the entrance to the queue that read, "Wait time from this point is 60 minutes"

In Scenario #1 - they don't even have to change that sign. From that point your wait will still be 60 minutes.

In Scenario #2 - they change the sign to read, "Wait time from this point is 90 minutes"

Does it matter? No matter how the long they build the queue, where they get the riders to fill the ride or whatever - the ride still moves 1000pph. All that varies is your ability to correctly estimate exactly how long your wait is.

We often talk about the "perception of value" around here. I propose the new term - "perception of wait" :)

So let me go back to the original bit I quoted:


Rob A:
Soarin' in particular is hampered by FastPass because something like half the capacity is FastPassers. Eliminate the system on rides like that and the wait for everyone will go down.

Soarin' moves X number of people. Eliminating FastPass just lowers the number of people able to wait for the ride at one time. Yes, your wait is shorter, but only because the queue capacity is lower. It doesn't increase ride capacity. It doesn't make the 500th person in line ride any faster.

The only difference is your "perception of wait"

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 12:49 PM
Imo, I think the noise level from this would help to completely destroy the theme of the attractions. Imagine your'e sitting in a show, on POTC, etc., and everyone's custom cell phones start ringing! The system in theory alerts people 15 minutes prior to the start of their fastpass. So, not only do you get the noise, but the light from everyone checking their cells to see the message. That will be real fun on the dark rides and during shows. And you know some moron will check the phone on Everest or Space Mountain and it will go flying out of their hand.

If they want to reward the guests who stay in the best rooms and hotels, just issues dream fastpasses to them. There's no need to add yet another layer of complexity to the FP system.

Or, they could actually build attractions with high capacities to absorb the crowds instead of spending millions on figuring out ways to charge more for the same or less. *** Edited 9/6/2007 4:50:46 PM UTC by DBJ***

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:23 PM
^^ I can't- nor will I try- to argue that FastPass or any kind of virtual queueing increases a ride's capacity. Disney would like you to believe that, but I think most people are smart enough to see through the subterfuge. I will agree that a large part of virtual queueing is about perception, and in this case, perception of wait (as you so very well put it).

Here's my question problem with that you said: You're acting as though a queue at an actual amusement park is like one in RCT where guests will turn away from a ride if the line stretches to the midway. Considering how rides often have lines that extend way beyond the physical limits of their queues, I'm not sure I can buy into what you're saying. I mean, I get where you're coming from, but I think you're confusing what happens to what should happen.

Here's my next question: Is a system like FastPass merely expanding the line in an invisible way, or is it keeping some people from riding. Going back to Soarin' (since that ride seems to have major capacity issues in relation to how popular it is), what if someone gets to the park early, snatches up a FastPass, uses the FastPass and then gets in line for another go? That's one less space for one more person, so someone is going to suffer because of what someone else did, regardless of the fact that it wasn't at all malicious. What happens to people at parks where upcharge virtual queueing allows people to ride as much as they want? The spaces in the queue that they're occupying are going to keep someone else from riding.

Maybe it doesn't mattter all that much. Maybe a person that avoids paying for virtual queueing gets two or three less rides than they would have when there was only one physical line for each ride. Still, it goes back to what I've been saying all along- it's someone getting more at the expense of someone else getting less.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:37 PM
^I agree with you. I get a fast pass for Space Mountain, and than I go in line for Space Mountain. After like one or two times waiting, I go in the fast pass line. There is no such thing as an invisible person waiting. I'm in the line for Space Mountain, but yet I'm waiting for another ride for Space Mountain too. Sure.
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Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:40 PM
That's kinda what we do. We'll grab a FastPass for a ride we like and consider it a "freebie" because we'll also get in line for the ride. That's two rides for me, none for someone else. It's all about give and take, and that can't be avoided.
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Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:49 PM

Soarin' in particular is hampered by FastPass because something like half the capacity is FastPassers.

Soarin's mix of FP/Standby is 50%. And, that's low by Fastpass standards.

Gonch: if any guest is ever queued in more than one line at a time (or the same line, but more than once), then the overall average wait time goes up, park-wide, all other things being equal. It's equivalent to adding an "extra" guest to the park for that period of time.

The more virtual queuing is used, the higher "average" wait times become. And, Disney devotes by far the largest fraction of capacity to VQ.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:53 PM
I thought Soarin' had a high FastPass:Standby ratio. Interesting.
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Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:53 PM
I think the FastPass system would work even better if they actually enforced the times on the ticket. It's a well-known fact that you can use FastPasses even after they "expire". So, if I collect the passes in the morning, I can then "re-ride" everything later in the day without waiting.
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