Disney’s Fast Pass, a problem looking for a solution

I missed linking to the Orlando Sentinel‘s article on the listing of expired and counterfeit fast passes on eBay. But a post on MouseExtra reminded me that I really felt like Disney has a solution that’s readily available to this problem. Get rid of the Fast Pass.

I am not a big fan of the FAST PASS system. I believe it cloggs the parks, reducing the effective capacity for each day, and is bad show for everyone who is forced to use the standby queues for whatever reason. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. However, I use Fast Pass to its max capabilities when I’m in the parks because I would be a fool not to while others are.

Disney implemented Fast Pass not because there was guest demand (they just trot out that excuse because it makes them look good (see the recent Pleasure Island announcement) and there is no way for anyone to check their figures, so why not), but because they thought it would result in higher sales in their stores and restaurants. Turns out any positive affect on sales was barely noticeable, and difficult to attribute to FP. With the same merchandise in every park and store it doesn’t matter when they shop, only that they do. Plus with advent of the the Disney Dining Plan artificially creating volume for sit-down dining, demand is surpassing capacity for restaurants, so that’s a red herring too.

Fast Pass is also labor intensive requiring 3-5 extra Cast Members per attraction. Disney would be better off using those labor hours to increase attraction capacity via better maintenance–putting more ride vehicles on the track, more efficient queue management, and providing in-park entertainment that keeps guests out of queues by providing alternate things for them to do when the parks are busiest (ever notice that queue length goes down just before and during a parade… same thing during Fireworks). Heck you can even sell your guests food and light up spin thingies while you have them held captive waiting for the show to start.

So, as far as I’m concerned, more power to the people who wish to subvert and manipulate Disney’s Fast Pass system. The faster it breaks down and is discarded, the sooner Disney will return to some crowd control normalcy and fatter profits at its theme parks.

25 thoughts on “Disney’s Fast Pass, a problem looking for a solution”

  1. I have to say that initially I was very skeptical when FP was introduced (granted, I was like 14 when it was). However, I have to go the other way here and say that FP has integrated itself into our vacations so well that I can’t really think of the park without it. After ~10 trips with FP, I don’t think we’ve ever waited longer than 30 minutes for an attraction. Compare that with 90+ waits for the big attractions in the mid-nineties.

    The worst thing about FastPass in my mind, and I’ve tried to get my family members to agree with me on this point, is that it takes away anticipation and thus makes an individual ride less magical. After waiting 90 minutes for Splash Mountain, it’s one heck of a ride. Walking for 5 minutes through the queue is somewhat less satisfying.

    Also, it may be the frequency of our trips or my growing up, but with FastPass, we get to go on everything we want to so easily that we’re often needing something to do past lunchtime. We hop parks more consistently, and spend more time dining.

    1. How can anyone justify standing in line for more than an hour and be able to actually enjoy his/her vacation at WDW?

  2. I tend to agree with you. I will use it and use it to the max as long as it exists. I don’t think I’d be sad to see it go, however.

  3. no offense, but are you crazy? I would never wait 90 minutes for a ride. If there were no fast passes, there would simply be rides we never experienced. And as far as running out of things to do…what?! I still have yet to experience everything there is to do at WDW. I don’t understand the negatives. Those who wait in the stand by lines are choosing to do so. I think the fast pass is genius. People who prefer to be spontaneous can wait longer in line; those who plan better can do all the exciting rides without much wait. When I do choose to wait in a stand by line I am less irritated because I feel that it is my choice. I also think Disney is brilliant to make the lines so entertaining. Sure, it would be better to have short lines all the time, but given supply and demand, I think fast passes are a wonderful way to distribute crowds more evenly.

  4. I have always maintained that simply scanning the pass at the attraction is the easiest, better still add the FP to the admission media and you just scan it when coming back, then no problems with using expired ones, etc. Now there does need to be provisions for unforseen circumstances, i.e. when a ride breaks down or you get stuck to long at your ADR. But the FP system is the BEST thing that has happened in years, more attractions need to have it and there need to be more high capacity attractions that do not need FP (i.e. something like Country Bear, COP, etc.) built to take in the people.

  5. My beef with FastPass has always been this: The rides were designed with maximum guest capacity in mind. Almost all of the rides are continuously loading. FP slows up the process in most cases. Space Mountain: why do we need one short line and one really long line…how about two medium lines!? Pooh and Peter Pan….crazy wait times because there’s only one loading platform. Why do we need FP’s for a constantly loading Peter Pan ride? The FP makes the stand by line soooo long because they hold it up to let the FP’s on. It’s silly!
    I’m all for getting rid of Fast Pass!

  6. The thing people don’t realize about fast pass is that it increases your wait time, not decreases it. Yes, you the FastPass equipped person may breeze by the crowd in line, but in pure averages you can never win. Regardless of when you get your FastPass and when it’s valid for, you’re always going to wait at least 40 minutes (the minimum return time buffer). If the line is 30 minutes, guess what? You’re eating ten minutes. And that’s ten minutes of waiting, not ten minutes of walking onto the ride. So you go ride another attraction, big deal right?

    Well let’s say you used Standby when the line was 30 minutes rather than using your 40 minutes to stand in a 20 minute line somewhere else and see a 10 minute attraction. With regrouping and getting back to where you started, that’s another 10 – 15 minutes. Most people are incapable of making the sort of split-moment, everyone agrees right now so let’s go do this decisions required to make full use of that 40 minute window. So let’s add another 10 minutes for being a tourist. Now we’re up to 50 – 55 minutes doing something else with your 40 minute window instead of just getting in line for 30 minutes. If you had gotten in line an hour ago and waited 30 minutes instead of assuming Fast Pass will save you time automatically then you’d be in and out in 40 minutes – because the amount of time you wait to return is always the same or greater than waiting in the Fast Pass line. Disney has the cards stacked against you.

    There are is one exception here, which is a criminally slow loading ride like Peter Pan’s Flight where the line is 90 minutes long because of the fast pass merge but the return window is half of that. This is the only case in which you’ll actually win, and it’s very uncommon. Most people do not do the math. The numbers don’t add up. Going somewhere else is time, and FastPass requires you to go somewhere else to “win”.

    Another reason you’ll never win: FastPass slows down the ride. It doesn’t matter how many Doombuggies are loaded per minute, the ride will always move at the same capacity. What slows down the process is the “merge point” whereby a certain number of FP groups must be admitted per number of standby guests. Because at some point both lines have to stop to let the other go, neither the standby nor FP lines will ever read their full potentiality. The ONLY solution is a FL line which leads to a separate Load area – or a separate ride. The only ride WDW has ever built which would actually use FP to its’ full potential is Mr. Toad!

    Another reason you’ll never win: the convenience is not worth the hassle. Having to worry all day about making your FP time for Space Mountain is not an improvement to your day. Why not wait in line with everyone else? Waiting in line is part of the game. Fastpass has created a culture at WDW where rides are expected to either be walk ons or to have a Magic Slip which creates the illusion. But it is an illusion, and anybody who knows how to tour a Disney park intelligently should never have to use a FP to get them ahead.

    And now, the reason why it will never leave: read these comments. Disney is facing a PR nightmare if they remove the feature. Since nobody does the math, everyone trusts Disney’s, which is stacked against them. The house always wins in the end, no matter how many slots you play. Same principle. You’ll never know if that 30 minute line you just couldn’t wait in was really a 20 minute line, or a 15 minute line. The wait time computer system isn’t reliable by nature. And even worse:

    FP at WDW creates the concept that getting past the line is the goal, not riding the ride. By the time your Thunder Mountain train is leaving the station you’re already planning where to get your next fastpass. Disney knows all about Goal Loss, but Disney guests are in many ways its’ greatest practitioners.

    1. The people who use fast pass are the ones who run around like crazy people knocking people down,running over the elderly,handicapped and children trying to “get all they can” at the expense off others enjoyment. When I was a kid we were taught to be patient and respectful off others and to be appreciative of what you got to do.

  7. You have got to be kidding me! Fastpass is a boon for Disney. It allows guests to spend more time exploring the park rather than standing in line for an hour at a time to get on rides/attractions. It gives you a scheduled time to come back and enjoy the ride. Because let’s face it, if you’re standing in line for a ride you’re not spending any money now are you?

    Personally, I would like to see Disney expand the Fastpass program. Imagine if you will, kiosks around the park where guests can scan their admission card and then tick the boxes for all the rides/attractions/restaurants they want to visit. A little of that Disney magic kicks in, and out pops your in-park itinerary for the day! What’s not to like?

  8. foxxfur-

    Here is the problem with your critique. You figure it in strictly quantitative terms (amount of time spent before riding) and ignore that 90 minutes spent in line is for the vast majority of people a far inferior experience than exploring the parks for 100 or 120 minutes. I like fast pass because I hate lines. I don’t hate waiting, I hate waiting in lines, standing virtually still, crammed like sardines, so long that the area music begins to loop. That is what you get on the majority of e-tickets on an average day, and far worse on a busy one. Contrast that with relaxing on a park bench in EPCOT for an hour or exploring minor attractions that can often be overlooked?

    I thought the Disney community was all about celebrating the minor details that make Disney Disney. Sure there are many to be found in the queues, but there are many more found by exploring.

  9. Fastpass is best for irregular visitors. It allows them to experience more attractions overall in most cases. But fastpass does hurt the spontaneous local visitors who might not get to Soarin until 3 when the FPs are out. It most definitely lengthens the lines especially with TSMM and Rock n Roller Coaster. They have a great algorithm unlike Universal’s free for all. I would not mind if it went away because of my visiting patterns, (I just avoid etickets) but it definitely helps some people.

  10. Yes!!! Get rid of FastPass! It’s been YEARS since I’ve had two hours to stand in line and study all the fine detailing in attraction queues. I mean, the queue for Indy at DLR is one of my favorites, but I never get to see it as I’m whizzing through, thanks to my FastPass. Ditto for Splash Mountain or Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin. Wonderful queues so under-appreciated.

  11. Why on earth would anyone want fastpass gone?? There is no reason that anyone in the park can’t use it. All you have to have is a ticket. People that “can’t” use it, probably already have a fastpass for that hour for another ride. I think it is a great system that should stay. You can do so much in the time that you are waiting for your fastpass time slot- other rides, eat, shop, see a show. I don’t think it is all about people spending more money as it is about making people happier. Happier people means they will be more likely to stay longer and come back more. Not to mention have more time to THEN shop once all is said and done because you can get 3 rides done in the 90 minutes that you would have had to wait for one ride. Then you don’t feel like you are missing anything, especially when you don’t live in FL and can’t visit regularly. I will never get to visit more than once a year and I don’t want to miss anything just because some foolish people criticized one of the best ideas disney has to offer.

  12. What an idiotic flip flop…I hate it and want it to go away but in the mean time I use it to the max because I would be stupid to do otherwise.

    I get it Rocket Scientist…you are from the school of “I Voted For It…Then I Voted Against It.”

  13. I can’t believe some of the comments here. The bottom line is that I’m an advocate of any feature for anything that gives benefit to the more intelligent person, or the person who can pay more. That is what FastPass essentially does – it give an additional tool to the more intelligent park visitor, for free!

    FoxxFurr’s argument that FP is a longer wait time, while on the surface seems technically correct, it disregards the fact that it’s not about pure wait time from when you approach the line (Fast Pass or Regular) to when you get on the ride, IT’S ABOUT WHAT YOU SPEND YOUR TOTAL TIME AT THE PARK DOING – AKA ABOUT GETTING THE MOST FOR YOUR MONEY!!

    So Say the Regular Line at Buzz Lightyear is 1-hour and the Fast Pass return time is 3 hours later, but in 3 hours, you’ll have to wait 10 minutes instead of 1-hour. You just SAVED 50 MINUTES NOT WAITING IN THE REGULAR BUZZ LIGHTYEAR RIDE LINE!!

    So then the question becomes, what do you do in that 2 hours and 50 minutes of extra time? You could go eat, go shopping, go to some rides where the lines are shorter, head back to the hotel for a mid-day swim in the pool, etc. Or you could just stand outside the Buzz Light year ride waiting for your time to come. Not THEN the FP wait would be longer (laughing.)

    FastPass works, and it works well, FOR THE PEOPLE THAT ARE 1) SMART ENOUGH TO USE IT AT ALL and 2) SMART ENOUGH TO USE IT IN THE MOST EFFICIENT WAY POSSSIBLE (know which rides to get FP’s from at which times, etc.) Do you know on some rides you can get two fast passes at the same time and don’t have to wait to get your next FP? (They may have fixed that but there are all sort of tricks.)

    For people that just don’t like to think that much, and prefer the simplicity of just going to a ride and getting in line, then I would agree, Fast Pass is not a good thing (for them.)

    The point made the FP will never go away because it would be a PR nightmare for Disney unless they replaced it with some other similar system is spot on. If FP was not a benefit to the intelligent park visitor, Disney would have already gotten rid of it. It helps people make the most of their time at the park and helps distribute the crowds more equally amongst the rides.

    Heck, I’m surprised Disney doesn’t offer VIP Park Hoppers that cost 50% more but give you a Universal Fast Pass that can be used for any ride and any time. We actually got 4 of them once!

    On our last trip, our carefully planned day was shot when I got food poisoning. I finally limped to the park with my kids that afternoon screwing up my carefully planned schedule which always allows us to ride the maximum number of rides possible in a given period of time (I’m an Analyst, it’s what I do and people/crowds are quite predictable – like a herd of cows.) As we were leaving to go back for dinner a guy leaving handed us 4 Fast Passes that were good for all FP rides and you don’t relinquish them. You go to the FP line on any ride, any time, as many times as you want. God was taking pity on all the throwing up I did that previous night I guess as we went back in the evening and had a hay day riding all the most popular rides several times in a matter of a couple hours.

    But to its credit Disney knows there is a line they cannot cross as Walt’s initial intention was for Disneyland to be a place for everyone (poor and rich). Granted there is a significant portion of our society that will never afford to go to Disneyland or maybe save up enough to go once in their life. But the PR could be just as bad if Disney started offering an Unlimited Fast Pass option for people with deep pockets. But then you can argue, why does something like Club 33 exist in Disneyland? And where did that guy get those special unlimited FP’s from? Obviously there is VIP treatment available at Disneyland, and it can even be bought for a high price (ala the membership fee for Club 33), but Disneyland realizes they need to keep the VIP stuff on the down low as to not alienate their ‘regular’ bread and butter customers and make them feel inferior.

    Give me an Unlimited Fast pass for an extra $50-$75 a day per person Disney and I’ll be glad to buy it. And so would a lot of other people (but they’d have to set the price high enough so only a small percentage of people would go for it.) People did look at us strange when they saw we didn’t have to relinquish our fast passes. Who cares though. I don’t snicker at someone who can afford to take a private jet to Disneyland instead of a commercial airliner. That’s America, you’re free to spend your money on whatever you want.

    1. There are plain clothes cast members stationed around the park who have things like the Universal Fast Passes and such to give to someone who may be having a touch visit – being ill, a particularly sad child, etc. You likely benefitted from that.

      While the universal fast pass would be a nice option to purchase, I agree that the disparity it would create would be frustrating. And depending on how many people use it – it could throw off the regular fastpass system, or make the extra money not worth it because everyone has it. I know Universal Charges for its FastPass system and a lot of people take advantage of it, but I’ve also heard that it’s not worth it.

  14. Pingback: Disney FastPAss - the best way to beat the lines | A Pocketful of Pixie Dust

  15. You just addressed one of two things that peeved me off royally on our last trip to the World.

    The same dang merchandise in every store in every park. Shopping used to be fun at Disney. Now we make a handful of stops between rides and pick up everything we like at once. Irritating as heck, but we saved a load on souvenirs.

  16. I’ve been attending Disney World since it opened.

    I love Fast Pass. I think that the ability to schedule ahead to avoid a huge line via a little planning is a great boon. For rides that I want to go on repeatedly, (like the Kilimanjaro Safari) I’ll grab a fast pass, and then get in line. By the time I’m done, I can zip back through the line with a fast pass and go on again.

    All because I planned ahead.

    I’m sorry to see that people are abusing a system that makes things easier for so many people.

  17. Can’t agree with you on this one. The FastPass programme contributes immensely to improving the overall experience of guests. Don’t agree with me? Go to a Six Flags park where you wait on average of 1-1/2 hours for a ride in line.

    I would also argue that FPs do not slow the rides down. There is a steady stream of people moving from either queue to the ride – there is no down time caused by the FP. If the ride handles 2000 riders an hour, it handles 2000 riders an hour. People using the FP would otherwise be in the queue – standing. Instead of standing, the FP acts as a buddy saving your place in line – you go back at a certain time and hop back in line.

    The FP offers you opportunity to experience more of the park instead of waiting in line. And – as you move around the park, there is more chance you will spend money on treats or merchandise.

    FP is win/win. A better experience for users and better opportunity for profit for Disney.

  18. Eliminating FastPass might not be a such bad idea. Rides like Peter Pan and Buzz Lightyear should have no need for FastPass, as they are constantly moving with the vechicles right next to one another. Effectively what FastPass has done isn’t just reward the people who have it, but punish those who don’t. Wait in the queue for Peter Pan, and you’ll see what I mean — the FastPass line is continually moving while the regular line is constantly on hold. That’s frustrating for guests to see others keep hopping in front of them. Get rid of the FastPass there and the regular line would move smoothly instead.

    Those regular-line guests should have gotten FastPasses, you say? Sure, tell that to your 4-year-old daughter who wants to ride Peter Pan 5 times in a row. She doesn’t understand what FastPass is, why you can’t get more than one at a time, or why she has to wait.

    No Disney guest is more important than any other, so claiming that those not savvy enough to use the FastPass system get what they deserve isn’t a fair deal. Everyone CAN’T use FastPass — there aren’t enough of them. And the more that are made available, the worse the problem becomes for those who don’t have them.

  19. So Disney should become a socialist state? :P

    I’ve been in both the FP and regular queues, and when in the later, I have no ill will towards people in the FP line. They have it, I don’t. That’s life.

    You have to prioritize your day, and get the FPs for the attractions that are your priority. You stand in the regular queue for the other attractions until you are able to go get another FP.

    Everyone has opportunity to get an FP. It’s not like Universal who charges an extra $50 per person to have the privilege.

    What the FP system allows you to do is better manage your time. Rides like Everest, Tower, Soarin’ are great examples of when to get an FP as you’ll likely have an hour or more before you go back. In that time, you wait in line for other rides, catch a parade, grab a bite to eat …

    Remember – they only give a certain number of FPs out per hour – so it’s not like there are more FP riders than not.

  20. i’m gonna go with the majority here and say that i love fast pass and use it all the time. it’s allowed me to see far more of the parks, and generally enjoy my vacation more. if other guests, who have equal opportunity to use the fast pass, choose not to, that’s their own fault. it’s not as though it’s particularly difficult to understand and use.

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