FastPass+: Perception vs. Reality – Everyone’s Perception (and Reality) is Different!

Theme Park University recently posted an article entitled Disney’s FastPass Plus: Perception versus Reality. I have to admit that I am usually on the opposite side of opinions posted on Theme Park University, but this post has me sitting somewhere in the middle. Much of what is said I agree with, but there are a few points stated that could very well be misleading to his readers. I guess the most important point I want to make is – you really must come to your own conclusions regarding the use of this new system since everyone’s perception and reality are different based on their experiences using the system. Don’t be scared off – or lulled into a false idea of how things will work based on anyone else’s experience. I have used the system several times and each time have had a different experience. It is a matter of learning how the system will work best for you and your group. The Adult Side of Disney also posted a story yesterday by one of our writers that tells you one of the WRONG ways to use the FastPass+ system when meeting up with others – The Wrong Way to Book FastPass+.

I agree with most of the “reality” points, except for a few minor statements and unfortunately a few minor statements can easily sway guests in the wrong direction.  For example (quotes taken directly from Theme Park University post):

“Perception: If guests haven’t booked FastPasses in advance (or couldn’t due to not staying on property  (post was written/published on 4/3 – as of 3/31 off-site guests could reserve FastPass+ reservations), not buying tickets in advance, not wanting to plan ride times in advance or simply not knowing about it), they have to wait in an extremely long line to get them assuming they want them. While a few guests have reported horror stories of waiting 45 minutes just to make FastPass Plus selections at the kiosks, those days are pretty much long gone.”

“Reality: Even so, lines in the morning for FastPass Plus kiosks can look really long. However, in addition to the kiosks there are handheld tablets that FP+ trained cast members are using that can also book reservations, essentially doubling the amount of touch screens guests can use. Lines move fairly quickly, but there is a learning curve where you have to explain the new process which takes time. Sometimes getting a family to agree on choosing attractions from two different columns and then also making sure everyone is ok with the times the computer spits out can be a bit of a challenge. It’s a new way of strategizing your day that isn’t easy to wrap your head around if you aren’t prepared.”

“…In addition, there are now MyMagic Plus service centers that can connect your MagicBands/ticket media to the My Disney Experience app for smartphones so you can make your own selections without having to ever visit a kiosk. Plus you can change them based on your needs for the day/availability. Not only is this the better way to go, as more guests start to use MagicBands and connect their tickets to the app, the less they will need to ever visit a kiosk again. 

Some lines may move fairly quickly, however, my own recent experiences have shown that the line only moves as quickly as the guest in front of you. On a recent visit to the Magic Kingdom I stopped at a kiosk to make a change to one of my selections. One Cast Member was on duty – one guest was in front of me – that one guest took 25 minutes to choose which attractions to FastPass+. Imagine this same scenario with 20 people in line! Yet, the very next day in Epcot, I walked up to the Cast Member, made my changes and was on my way in under 3 minutes. There is no standard answer to this – so many factors come into play – time of your visit, park, attendance levels, etc.

The reality is, you can TRY TO CHANGE YOUR RESERVATIONS BASED ON YOUR NEEDS FOR THE DAY. Most times you will not be able to. As more and more guests reserve their FastPass+ selections before leaving home, there are less and less available time slots for a given attraction the day of a visit. At park opening, many of the popular attractions have no FastPass+ availability for that day. Let’s not forget that on some days old paper FastPasses often ran out not long after parking opening for the most popular attractions.

“Perception: With all the changes to FastPass Plus it may seem like Disney is flailing around in the dark just trying random strategies and seeing what works best.

Reality: Nearly all of these changes have been in the pipeline for quite some time with more to come. The system is still in its test and adjust phase, however guests who have been using it this far aren’t paying for a test vacation. So because of all these hiccups, maybe they have lost customers. Time will tell.”

In no way does it appear that Disney is “flailing” around in the dark. Disney knows exactly what they are doing, and simply has some kinks and expansions to the system to work out. Disney doesn’t spend millions of dollars and not know what the outcome will be. Whether guests realize it or not they are quite often being used to test a new system, a new show, a new food, or any other number of changes that Disney has implemented over the years. The world is so full of Disney fans and loyal Disney customers, a few hiccups in the road to a new product or system will not have Disney losing customers. And even if that were true, for each customer lost Disney usually gains a few more from another market.

In conclusion, in my opinion, it is a great system that will most likely be tweaked along the line. The success of the system is not based on Disney’s tweaking. The success of the system is based on the consumers proper use of the system. Some guests are down to the minute planners, some plan a bit and wing the rest, while others just wing the entire trip. So many factors will play into the success of the system for each individual – I don’t believe there is one overall “how it works” explanation. So many factors play into your use and those factors can change with each trip, with each day, with each attraction – what time of year are you visiting – crowd levels, attraction choices, etc. Unfortunately for many, some spontaneity is gone (sounds like a 30 year marriage, doesn’t it!). Gone are the days of running into a friend in one of the parks and being able to enjoy an attraction together using the FastPass system. Not necessarily a bad thing! If you haven’t seen that friend in a long time, you can use your wait in line to catch up!