Naturally, when this is published, there will be some sort of announcement of the return of fastpass at Walt Disney World, but as of this writing, there is no foreseeable return to this long beloved Disney Perk. So I want to take a few minutes to tell you all why I think that it shouldn’t ever return.
History of Disney’s Fastpass System
Some history of the Fastpass system. In 1999, The Fastpass system was introduced to the Disney Park goers with the idea that you wouldn’t have to wait queues with high wait times. You would go to a machine, slide your tickets in and get a return time for the ride or attraction. When that time came, your party would then go through a special line where you could pretty much walk on the ride.
Walt Disney World decided to change up their vacation planning system in 2013, with the introduction of MyMagic+, which would include the new and improved FastPass+. Most rides and attractions in WDW were added to the new FastPass+ system. The biggest benefit to this system was that you didn’t have to wait until your vacation to get the FastPass, at 60 days out of your arrival, you could book up to 3 fast passes for one park, for each day of your trip.
Not to be out done, Disneyland Resort announced MaxPass in 2017. This would be the first time that the Fastpass system wouldn’t be free. MaxPass started out at $10/per day, per person, but was later increased to $15, this also included your Photopass for each day. The traditional Fastpass was still available for free, but the convince of MaxPass makes it more appealing. With MaxPass you would use your phone to make your Fastpasses from anywhere within the park, instead of making the mad dash to the popular rides or shows Fastpass kiosk, to make sure you got a spot.
Why Fastpass should never return
While there are some great benefits to the FastPass system in both resorts, it’s ultimately flawed. The proof happens at the rides that have never had FastPass until the recent changes. This mostly is effected at Walt Disney World but can apply to Disneyland, but for ease of the conversation I will focus on Walt Disney World and their Fastpass System.
Before Fastpass+ was added to rides such as Spaceship Earth, It’s a Small World, Mad Tea Party, Living With the Land, and many other like attractions had very minimal wait times, between 10 -20 mins. Once the FastPass+ system went live, these wait times started to grow. Spaceship Earth now averages about a 30 minute wait, while Small World is about 20 minute wait.
The reason for the jump of the wait times is the amount of people using fastpass being let into the ride over the standby lines. The average ratio is 10 fastpass for every 1 standby guest. Which takes a steady moving line and and kills it. The more popular the ride, generally the more fastpass they allow in at a time, making the standby wait time grow and be very close to accurate to the posted time.
When the parks reopened last year, to no FastPass to be seen, the wait times seemed to be pretty high. When I went in September, the wait for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway was 120 mins. we only waited an hour, and we hardly stopped moving. “But Jason, the Parks aren’t at Capacity!” That’s true, but they also weren’t loading (and in some cases still aren’t) to their max capacity either.
When you start filling the rides to the max capacity it won’t change the speed of the queue line that is currently happening with limited capacity. With the lines continually moving due to Fastpass not returning, your wait times would be very minimal, and the line would continue to move when the parks are at full capacity.
What’s the Solution?
My first choice is to obviously not to replace the system, and keep it strictly to standby. But Disney has made the Fastpass experience that everyone relies on, and now to the point of planning their trips around the fastpasses that they have made.
But if I have to replace it, I would do one of two options. The first one would be to use the model of Disneyland’s Maxpass. I love the idea of being able to be more spontaneous while at the parks. Being able to go into a park with no ties to rides until I come through the Tapstiles, where you tap your magic band to enter the parks, is just freeing.
The second (and what I think Disney will do) is based off of the ExpressPass system at Universal. This system is a paid option (starting at $100 per person per day), and is only free to those that are staying at one of 3 Onsite Deluxe Resorts. They also have 2 tiers, the regular and unlimited. Unlimited lets you ride the rides as many times as you would like, while the regular gets you one ride on each attraction. Not all rides have ExpressPass, and the new ones don’t get it right away.
Disney adapting this would be a ground shattering change for the fan base, and not in a good way. But Disney is looking at how to make a profit, and still offer what the fan base is use to having. However, if Disney would do this, the standby lines would still move more quickly. Fastpass has turned into a premium option, that would make a WDW trip that much more expensive for a family on a budget. Everyone does benefit though, your families that decide to spend the extra money on the Fastpass, would get through faster, but you wouldn’t have a ratio that is always having to be monitored to get the Fastpass line down.
This would also give the parks the option to pull rides off of fastpass + and bring more waits times down. Being able to put Fastpass on line for a brand new ride at a later date, giving once in a lifetime families a chance to ride that new ride.