Fastpass+ Equals Frustrated Guests?

Fastpass has come to Pirates of the Caribbean.

I’ve gone on record saying I’m looking forward to the possibilities that next-gen technologies can bring to Disney parks. Among the first roll-outs of that technology has been Disney’s MyMagic+ system, the primary feature of which is Fastpass+. Fastpass+ lets you make reservations for three park attractions before you visit the park. The system is still technically in the test and adjust phase. But it’s having an impact on guests every day.

I get a lot of feedback about Fastpass+, this letter from Keith is just one example:

FP+ Sponsored by New Coke?

This past weekend we went to the Magic Kingdom and were aggravated by the new Fast-Pass system. By 11AM there were NO available times for any of the attractions we wanted to visit Space; Thunder, or Splash Mountains. Using the old Fast-Pass I have never, in 20 years, seen all the fast pass tickets get used up that early in the day. The system forces guest to have to plan out their “Disney Experience” in advance taking away the relaxation.

When Walt Disney was sitting watching his daughters ride the merry-go-round in the park that fateful day many years ago, did he imagine scheduling his girls 10 minutes on the ride, then in 11 minutes he needed to be over at the ice cream stand, and 4 minutes after that he could watch the birds for 5 minutes…”!?!? I think not.

I’m sure when FP+ was tested on just a few hundred people it still may have looked like a great idea, but in reality it is an awful experience. Awful, to the point of making me want to get a refund on my family’s annual passes. The idea of pre-planning your vacation days ahead of time and schedule your rides up to 30 days in advance is absurd. People inside the park are unable to get fast passes for any ride because they are booked up and unavailable. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I remember when Disneyworld was a magical place to go to forget about schedules and calendars and just enjoy the experience. Did the Imagineers forget this basic principal? Bring BACK the magic. Disney is supposed to be an escape, a vacation AWAY from schedules and a regimented day. If I want to have to schedule my day, keep watching the clock and make sure I am on time to certain places, then it would be much better to either stay at work or have the kids stay at school. The new FP+ (Fast Pass Plus) system is an idea that needs to go back to the “maybe” pile and then forgotten.

Unfortunately for Keith, the people who think advanced planning ruins the vacation appear to be a very small minority. The vast majority of guests are in the “I don’t care I’m on vacation” column. They will adapt, sometimes poorly, to what ever Disney offers. So I don’t see Fastpass+ going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

There are really two problems Keith encountered. The unavailability of Fastpasses for day guests on the busiest days of the year. Last weekend definitely qualifies as it is Spring Break for many schools and the parks were very busy. Perhaps Disney needs to hold a larger percentage of FP+ aside for day guests on days when more day guests are expected to visit the park.

The problem is really one of capacity. Even though Disney has added more attractions, many of which really don’t need it, to the Fast pass system. With a larger percentage of guests reserving three fastpass, the capacity just isn’t there to handle crowds on busy days. My solution, Disney needs to build more attractions or offer more crowd absorbing entertainment experiences. What would you suggest?

I’m at a loss for Keith’s larger issue. If you don’t like to pre-plan, then you may need to adjust the way you visit Disney’s theme parks. First off, don’t visit during the busiest times of the year. Switch your arrival time to rope drop where you can still get in a lot of attractions in a short amount of time, or plan to stay late when the crowds have thinned out. What else would you suggest pre-planning haters do?

Other than getting rid of it, what changes would you suggest to improve Fastpass+?

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22 Responses to Fastpass+ Equals Frustrated Guests?

  1. Bryan F. Irrera says:

    1) they need to remove the “only one park” limit. This effects park-hoppers whether they are annual pass holders or on property guests. What if I’d want to get a FP for Space Mountain in the morning and Soarin’ in the evening? With the old system, I could do that.

    2) they need to remove or modify the “three FP+ per day” limit for guests who actually use their passes properly. Granted, I haven’t been to the parks since Jan 2009 (due to scheduling and monetary issues), but I used to be able to use sometimes 5 or 6 different FPs throughout the day simply because I planned well. Ex: with the old system, you could get a new fastpass in either two hours (max) or shortly after your FP window opened (if you got an FP at 9am for a 10am ride, you could get that next FP at 10:05 or so). I could get an FP for “Peter Pan” for a 10am ride, at 10am get an FP for an 11:30am ride on “Winnie the Pooh” and then by 11:30am grab an FP for one of the mountains (probably for about a 2pm ride at that point, but you get the idea). Eventually, you would have either ridden everything you wanted or you would have thinning crowds at parade times or whatnot and be able to work the system. This seems not to be the case with the new system (though, granted, regular “non-planners” wouldn’t know to do this).

    3) I do somewhat scoff at the FP+ attractions that they added that really don’t need FP+ (just so it can look like they are offering more). Would anyone REALLY need to get an FP+ for “Journey Into Imagination With Figment”?

    4) Weren’t there some FP attractions that weren’t connected to the rest of the FP system (Kali River Rapids, I think was one). Also, I remember getting “bonus”/”surprise” FPs from some rides (perhaps the Test Track machines might have spit out an extra FP for Mission Space immediately after your Test Track ride). I think that getting a “bonus” FP+ might be the way to go (the kiosks AND the online FP+ methods could offer an extra every so often or even if you reserve during a particular off-peak hour).

    5) As I said above, I’ve not used the system, so I’m only making assumptions from what I’ve read, so I may need clarification…can you CHOOSE THE TIME for your FP+ reservations or is it completely random? Are people still of the mindset to do the big attractions first so that the clogs on FP+ are still in the morning because they’ve all tried to get “Everest” at gate open or are the FP+ reservations first come, first serve in the same manner as the OLD FPs (and therefore only going to the people who reserve 30 days in advance at 7am…)? Can I choose to ride “Everest” at noon or 3pm or 5pm, or am I left to the whim of both the crowd and the system?

    Example: if I know I have dinner reservations at Restaurant Askershus at 6:30pm, I might want to have my Maelstrom ride at 6pm. Can I do that? Perhaps it is a matter of reserving at “off peak” ride times like making “off peak” dinner reservations for 4:30pm instead of 6pm when everyone wants to eat?

  2. Charlie Smith says:

    Fortunately our family got all of our “must see” vacations out of the way years ago.

    Now when we visit, we just stroll around a park and yay or nay an attraction. We don’t have to do everything anymore.

    I personally used the old FastPass system only a couple of times and thought it was a waste back then. I’m in complete agreement with Keith. Who wants to schedule their entire Disney visit down to the minute? Relax people! Stop and smell the roses!!!!!

  3. HonestJohn says:

    The is the variant on the old “I showed up hours after rope drop on one of the busiest days of the year and the lines were long, DISNEY OWES ME.”

    Fastpass didn’t change capacity one bit. Space Mountain still pushes through whatever thousands of people per hour.

    I guess some guests started to feel entitled during the old Fastpass days but this was a very, very common complaint before the arrival of Fastpasses in the late 90s. I’m not especially sympathetic.

    What it does is pick the winners and losers of front of the line access out differently than it did before. The “I showed up at 11am on busy day, LINES LONG” guy frankly probably shouldn’t be getting the rewards.

    I prefer Disney’s new system.

  4. Rmt says:

    I actually like the system as an annual
    Pass holder. In the old system the on way to get into more crowded rides was arrive early, run to the ride and the go back when the FP was active. That was ok for
    Some but stunk for rides like Soarin which are quite a trek from entrance. I think removing the one park rule will help because it will let us pick the rides we want to ride. Also forcing 3 FP when I only want one is clogging the system. If I wanted to just ride space mountain the system makes me pick two other FPs. If I have no plans on visiting that ride I’ve just taken the place of someone else. Allowing me
    To park hop would help that because id only
    Be blocking out rides I want.

  5. Bob Fraser says:

    We visit often enough (several times a year) that during busy times, we don’t even attempt to fight the long lines or the FP system, we enjoy wandering the parks and people watching. However, 99% of the guests don’t enjoy that same luxury and I think to many, the FP+ has been very frustrating. Disney’s intentions were good, but we all know that you HAVE to listen to your guests and “frustrating” is not a word you want to hear. While tech wise the new system is cool, the fact is that the old paper system worked better and allowed guests more flexibility and options. My hope is that it really is “a work in progress” and we will see several improvements and tweaks to the system in the months ahead.

  6. Chris Brion says:

    They have invested over a billion dollars into the new system so it is not going anywhere anytime soon. I like being able to plan out my days in advance but also do not like the lack of ability to park hop. I have taken several surveys about the system as I have experienced it several times now. I can tell you they are still tweaking the system and am sure they will figure it out. Maybe they should go back to the old system with the new technology? So you can do it all with your tablet or phone? I also like that they are using a lot of the older rides as they have sat vacant for many of the past couple years. It is a work in progress, so I am sure that Disney will get all the kinks out.

  7. 1967WEDway says:

    “Unfortunately for Keith, the people who think advanced planning ruins the vacation appear to be a very small minority.”

  8. 1967WEDway says:

    “Unfortunately for Keith, the people who think advanced planning ruins the vacation appear to be a very small minority.” [citation needed]

  9. Dana says:

    I have been to Disney many times and have used the new Fastpass+ twice. I hate it. Not because I have to plan out my day way ahead in advance, but because it actually limits my days considerably.
    I am a seasonal pass holder, which should mean park hopping. Well with this new fastpass system, forget it. I know that if you didn’t get to Soarin with 3 hours of opening you weren’t going to get a fastpass. But I never had problems with Test Track or the Seas. But now if I were to go to Epcot, the lines would be incredibly long and there would be no fast passes because I used them up at the other park I was at. I are park hopper sales falling drastically.
    Also, I could get fast passes to Rock n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Midway Mania in a single day. That meant less standing in line, more eating snacks or even getting a reservation. Now, I can only pick one, hope that the other 2 don’t have long lines. It’s absolutely ridiculous. They really need to fix that. I went to Epcot last September, and pretty much wasted 2 fastpass+ because neither ride had a long line. I could have used those other 2 at another park, or at Soarin or Test Track. But my children wanted to go to the Character Spot, and that’s the only ride I could get in that category.
    It’s one of those things we will have to accept, but it will affect where my money will be spent. We have already decided not to renew our passes this year, and a part of that decision was because we are unable to do as much as we used to, thanks to the 3 ride rule. I love the idea of the bands (I hated keeping up with those papers), but they really need to go back and make it like it used to be.

  10. Mark says:

    I thought this sounded crazy when they suggested it. The old Fastpass system wasn’t broken, so why are they “fixing” it? The comparison to New Coke is completely correct. I’ll be very upset if they do something like this to us in California.

  11. Pat says:

    We have a son with autism, so it is hard to plan what we are going to do far in advance. We are going down April 29 when it shouldn’t be busy, because our kids are past the school age, but not all families have that option. I just hope it all works out for us in a month.

  12. ljc says:

    We never preplan Disney trips… we go with the flow and have never been disappointed nor let down. We may make priority seating reservations the day we want to eat somewhere, but we do not pre-plan our meals days ahead of time. I do NOT want to start planning fast pass before I arrive at a park. Too much planning makes the vacation too structured. This does not sound like a good idea to me.

  13. Dave morales says:

    Ok. We just got back from the parks so I’m still on my disney high.. But seriously, thought the fast pass+ worked well for us. We stayed at Coronado springs and planned our trip months in advance. I will admit that knowing that some rides we just weren’t going to be able to ride and do to restrictions, some choices we chose only because we had to make a third choice. Flawed yes, fixable yes.

    Some are not going to like this ideas but here it goes. Do what universal does. If you stay at a resort hotel fast pass is built in. Others must pay for the feature. Annual pass holders, it would be an addon like park hopping or water parks.

    They could lower general park admisson and make up the difference by up charging for fast pass options. The pride could flux based on demand and season.

    Like I said… Some are not going to like this idea, but last thought.. This would help disney justify this very high cost of on property lodging.

    Any thoughts???

  14. Cara says:

    My family has just recently returned from a Disney World vacation (two weeks ago) and I must say, I really enjoyed the FP+ system. It took a little getting used to (because as mentioned above, it’s very different from what we experienced with the “paper” fast passes), but once we got the hang of it and adjusted, it was great! I liked the flexibility of being able to “schedule” what attraction we wanted to ride and roughly at what time. My husband was a genius at scheduling what we were doing and we even made changed on the fly while in the park with the mobile app. I’m certainly not saying it’s perfect by any means (I don’t love all of the selections, the ‘most wanted’ attractions are “grouped” so you have to choose between them and not do both (like Rock ‘N Roller Coaster and Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios), but it’s still in Beta and they can work the kinks out. I know that I had the opportunity to fill out a very lengthy survey after our trip on our experiences. It’s still Disney… I’m sure it wasn’t perfect in 1971 when they first rolled out Disney World. Have some patience and let them work it out.

  15. Jim says:

    John I think you hit the nail on the head when you said Disney needs to build more attractions to increase capacity. Not that long ago there were canoes and keel boats in the rivers of America. There was a show in the Diamond Horseshoe. Main Street was not a Disney store but had a magic shop, movie house, arcade, etc. There was a gondola ride and submarines. The was a theater in tomorrowland with a terrific stage show called “Disney World is your World”. All of these attractions are gone and have not been replaced in kind.. Little !Mermaid needs serious plussing now. Story Time with Belle is pitiful. So even if we count Mermaid and the new Mine Train there are still fewer attractions than there were in the ’90′s. Stop building scenery and build attractions. I won’t renew my annual passes next year. Not worth it anymore.

  16. Jim says:

    I like many people am very disappointed with the fast pass plus system. If not fixed I will also not be renewing my annual pass.

    One of the only fixes is to limit the amount of fast passes given to people that are making reservations 30 days in advance. This allows people going to the parks to get a “old” fast pass like that use to, but paperless and not having to go to a kiosk at the attraction.

    If this is not fixed again I will not be renewing my annual pass.

  17. Dee says:

    The one “system” I’ve read about that seems to be a good use of the fp+ is for local passholders as well as those who want to park hop: go to one park at rope drop and ride the headliners early. Then park hop and use your reserved fastpasses at that park for the afternoon. You get a guaranteed seat on the rides that would otherwise be “sold out” of fastpasses. But for everyone else, I agree with those who say the fp+ takes the magic out of discovering the parks. I hope someone at Disney has the courage to look around the conference room at the other decision makers and say “Is this really working?” FastPass+ may not be going away, but I agree with you, John, that it should be adjusted–include park hopping, take away the requirement of having 3, etc. Maybe some kind of experiment where they actually remove fastpass from an attraction and see how that goes (TSMM??).

  18. Erica says:

    I stayed on property and used the Magic Band first then became an annual passholder and now book my FP as soon as I start planning a trip. I loved staying on property and used my band for everything (spent more than I ever had – very smart of Disney!). I also went alone with two toddlers. I have to plan but still leave room for the girls to be toddlers (not that I have a choice). Since I only ride toddler rides – I have not had too many issues with the priority system (except at HS for Toy Story/Beauty & the Beast). Still I love being able to book certain attractions and use my app in the park to change times. I am also usually out of the park before 3pm for nap time and then back for parades and fireworks. I never did any planning for Disney as a young person except running for FP. The lines were long and I wasted alot of time but I enjoy the parks so much more now that I have a loose plan with my FP booked, get there for rope drop, and return in the evenings. I can ride a ride a love 4 times in a day – we would have done more but their father refused! Look at the wait times for Ana/Elsa from Frozen – five hours with toddlers – yeah right. I will be happy to book the meet on FP.

    I love the bands and am fine with the limit of three but I agree that they should remove the limit of one park a day. For the folks that don’t want to plan – get there early and ride your must list & get your fast passes for the day. If you are still tired – leave the park in the afternoon for a nap then return at dinner to ride anything thing you missed. If you don’t plan then be happy standing in the long lines.

  19. LoveDisney says:

    The FP+ definitely needs some work. If Disney thinks they can stay the course and keep it as it currently is, then they’re definitely wrong. A possible suggestion is to allow guests only 1 FP+ scheduled in advance. My beef with FP+ is I have young kids who never keep me on schedule; I think many families with young kids can agree that you always need to be flexible on your schedule no matter where you are going.

    Without a doubt, the best time I have in a Disney park is when I’m randomly strolling through with my family and friends. We spontaneously decide where to go: stroll through shops, pick a random place to eat, and casually choose a show or ride here and there. I believe many people enjoy a “random stroll” and consider it fun, probably pass holders more than others, because they’ve been on every attraction a thousand times. If Disney takes this away, and requires everyone to preplan then they’re providing a lesser service to their customers.

  20. Dave says:

    When my partner and I go to WDW we seldom make hard set plans ahead of time. Even for dining. If it’s available, we do it. If not we either come back later or take our chances to do it on another trip. Even when we’ve traveled to WDW at peak times (Christmas, for instance.) we would only do a Fastpass if the window of opportunity to ride was within a couple of hours from when we get the Fastpass. If the return time is several hours later in the day we never get a Fastpass since we have no real idea where we will be at that particular time. We’re on vacation. We stay on a schedule during our work week. Why should we want to burden ourselves with a schedule when we are wanting to relax?

    That said, we’re going to give this new system a whirl when we are there in October. We will keep our minds open until we go and experience it. But I have to admit that from what I keep reading about this new system I’m not optimistic about it. I just don’t want to plan things out that severely when on a vacation.

    Add to this I’m not at all pleased with having to wear that silly Magic Band. I don’t like wearing things on my wrists. I don’t wear a watch. I HATED when I had to have a wrist band for the EMH evenings at the park. I’d much rather reach into my wallet and pull out a card to enter the parks, unlock my room door, use charging privileges and, yes…. Use a Fastpass. I’m honestly not looking forward to have to wear this dumb band on my wrist like a dog having to wear a collar.

    As I said, I’m going to go with an open mind about this new system. Who knows, but I may end up loving it. But if not, I’ll probably be like other people have written and not renew my AP for the following year. WDW isn’t the only vacation destination on this planet. Not even the only DISNEY vacation destination. After all, Disneyland is a wonderful park and probably will not end up converting to the Fastpass+ system.

    • John Frost says:

      The MagicBand is optional. Your RFID enabled admissions media will also function just fine.

      • Dave says:

        I’m very glad to hear that. What about resort room keys? Will they issue a room key card if you don’t want to use the Magic Band?

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