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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+?