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New Fastpass Invades Magic Kingdom, Are You Ready for Next Gen?

We’re really beginning to see the fruits of Disney’s $2 billion investment in integrating technology into the way guests experience their theme parks. According to Bob Iger one of the big changes will be how much of their vacation families will be able to make schedule from home. Instead of just dining, you’ll soon be able to schedule rides, parade viewing, show seating, and more. The first step in that is integrating a new type of RFID based Fastpass into the parks.

Magic Kingdom is ground zero for the beta-test for this advanced version of Fastpass. During the test select Disney World hotel guests are given the opportunity to schedule 4 rides a day using this new pass. Since it’s RFID, you carry around a unique identifier and the computer knows who you are, a few personal items (if it’s your birthday, anniversary, etc), and what your reservations are. If you forget the latter, you can swipe your card at a terminal and it will let you know what you next reservation is for. Eventually you’ll be able to change your Fastpass reservations at that terminal or even via your mobile device.

When you arrive at your attraction, you swipe your Fastpass RFID card against a round ball with a Mickey shape on it. If it glows green, you’re within your Fastpass window, if it glows blue then you’re in the wrong place or at the wrong time and the cast member can assist you. You’ll also have to swipe it again at the merge point. Here’s a quick video of it in action:

The cast member carries a tablet device that is synced to the system and they can also see your details, used to great you by name or wish you happy birthday, etc. For a restaurant, they would know your seating preferences, food allergies, etc. Eventually you could swipe this card on your ride vehicle and get a personalized ride experience too.

There are some big questions remaining about how this system will be implemented and what impact it will have on the guest experience. Is it only to be available to resort guests? Will it be included in the existing fastpass to standby mix or will standby lines get even longer? With Disney adding Fastpass queues back to attractions that never needed it in the first place (Haunted Mansion or Barnstormer for instance) will guests who get those reservations in advance feel like the value really isn’t there in the card?

As you can see there are a lot of questions remaining. Right now Disney is just in the early stages of testing. I expect to see them try quite a few variations before settling on a system that works for the park and the guest. The goal for Disney is increase guest satisfaction while improving the profit margin at the park. Advanced Fastpass reservations will let Disney better forecast labor for attractions and dining, since labor is a huge expense for Disney optimizing it will help.

What do you think about planning so much before you even get into the gates? Have you been chosen to test the new system? Let us know what you thought?