The FastPass ride-reservation
- a blessing or a curse?
reservation system at Disneyland (DL) and Walt Disney
||FastPass is probably one of the
greatest ideas on paper that the Disney Company
has ever had.
It has the potential to completely
alter the theme-park experience in wide-reaching
It's also horribly flawed in reality, and
let me come right out and say I think it should
be abandoned. I applaud them for trying it, but
they should get rid of it.
right in that on paper it is an ideal addition to
the park experience. It seems like a melding melding
of customer desires (less time standing in line)
and corporate desires (less time standing in line,
more time buying stuff).
I won't claim it is
perfect, but I think it works well enough that
Disney should continue tinkering until
they get it right.
Let me raise the first issue
in saying that I think FastPass works very well
at Disneyworld. Over there the system has a
couple of minor flaws but unfortunately when you bring the same
system out west they magnify into the problems you probably
have with FastPass.
thing to point at, as part of my
objections: FastPass just wrecks the notion of
standing in line without a reservation.
readers are clear on this, let me outline how it
works. You are still free to wait in line for a
FastPassed attraction, the way you've done it for
ages. This is called the standby line.
prefer to get a reservation - and anyone who
knows about the system chooses this option - then
you scan in your daily (or annual) passport and
receive a reservation. Return during that window
printed on the card, and your wait will be five to fifteen
minutes. Voila! Magic all around, right?
let me start with the queue, since we've
mentioned it. Those people waiting in Standby
lines get relegated to some pretty awful queues
sometimes. These waiting areas were just not
built to withstand two separate lines.
is true. But I think that as FastPass usage increases
(more on this later) an equilibrium
will quickly be reached.
Perhaps some people will
want to wait in line for 70 minutes rather than
have to return in four hours.
And I think people
will quickly learn that FastPass doesn't work
quite as efficiently as they hope. Only on a few occasions has FastPass got me on a ride in 10
Using FastPass on DL's Splash Mountain I
had to return in 2 1/2 hours and then still
waited in line for about 25 minutes. The people
standing in line had about a 75 minutes queue.
Who got the better deal? I don't know.
worse than that. I think the only reason people
stand in line is that they do not quite realize
how FastPass works, or maybe don't even know it
One of my two big points to make
is that Fastpass only works well - to the benefit
of the customer and the company - when people who
know how to use the system benefit from those who
are ignorant of it. The system works only by
exploiting those who don't use it.
Splash Mountain as an example, since you mention
it. Let's pretend, just to have even numbers,
that it maxes out with 2,000 riders per hour.
Fastpass does nothing to increase the capacity of
this ride. If everyone said they wanted a
reservation - and who likes lines anyway? - then
everyone would get a reservation.
Well, the way
the system works, the more people holding a
reservation, the farther in the future time is
tied up. Instead of returning four hours later,
you may have to return six hours later. And let
me remind you, those are six hours where you
cannot FastPass another ride! You're stuck using
the standby lines.
The net result of all this is
that on any given day in 1995 (pre FastPass), you
could get on a certain number of E-Ticket rides -
let's say 10. I would guesstimate that nowadays
that maximum number drops to eight, maybe even
six, because of this ride reservation thing.
|I don't see
that. At least at WDW, FastPass seemed to
increase the number of rides I could experience
in a given time. I would think it would help even
more at DL where only a few (3?) attractions have
Even if I have to get a ticket in the
morning and return in the late afternoon I am
going to spend the rest of the day in non
FastPass lines. I am going to see more
attractions. But even if I want to do only E-ticket
rides: If I get a Splash FastPass, go wait in
line for 90 minutes for Space Mountain, and then
return to Splash for another 20 minutes in line,
I have spent about as much time in line as before
I don't think it is going to have a
drastic affect on the number of major rides done
in a day and it may make it a little less stressful
for your average visitor (I rarely do the E-tickets
get my other Big Point out there as it might help
me disprove your argument so far: FastPass
removes people from the queue but does not make
If Splash Mountain usually has
1500 people in line but now only has 500, that
means 1,000 people are now elsewhere (presumably
Space Mountain or whatever).
Let's not kid
ourselves: few people are going to use this time
to shop. In your example, you rode Splash and
Space in 110 minutes. You posit that this is the
amount of time you would have had to wait in the
pre-FastPass days as well. I might be persuaded
to believe that FastPass doesn't add any time, on
average, to the total wait for the day.
In a way,
that makes neat mathematical sense. A day with no
FastPass has 400 minutes in line, and a day with
FastPass would have also roughly 400 minutes in
line (just to create an example). But if that is
true, then the quality of the experience
becomes important. Pre-FastPass, we had swiftly
moving lines through well-themed queues, usually
But what happens with FastPass
is that you wait more outside, in the sun, while
people with reservations breeze right past all
the show. 400 minutes in air-conditioned lines
was nicer than 400 minutes in annoyingly slow and
hot lines, in my opinion.
|Oh, I agree.
"Line quality" is an important issue
for me. But rather than dumping the idea I think
it is something Disney can work on and fix.
big problem is that few attractions were designed
for two separate lines. So in some cases you have
people shunted outside into the sun when they
would have been inside (Roger Rabbit's Car Toon
Spin, for example).
But conversely, in others you
have situations where the standby people haven't
been moved, but the FastPass people simply skip
the entire queue area.
The problem with this is
that it means FastPass people don't get to
experience the queue theming.
a big deal on Splash Mountain, but is more of an
issue for Space Mountain and Rober Rabbit. These
are serious flaws, but not fatal flaws. Disney will just
have to do a bit of work during ride rehabs.
My fear (my only major one) is that if FastPass
becomes too widespread and too popular then Disney
will simply stop theming queue areas.
||I think we
agree that most people will want to use FastPass
if they understand how it works. Sounds like it's
too good to be true, doesn't it? What I fear is
that eventually everyone will use FastPass, and
the great results we've seen so far will
One recent Saturday I was at Splash at
2:30 pm, and the ride reservations were for 7:30-8:30
return. The Standby line was immense, so if all
those people had taken reservations it would have
been even worse. That means that my day would
consist of one, maybe two reservations and then
everything else would be standby. This is not a
bargain in my book.
Standby lines are longer than
pre-Fastpass-era lines. For the most part, as you
said, it all evens out. But now I would have the
stress of making my window for the reservation,
and my day becomes much more planned and less
disagree. I find that it frees up my day. I get a
FastPass for a ride and then go do things I
wouldn't normally do.
At WDW I actually spent
more than an hour on Tom Sawyer's Island. When
was the last time I did that? And then when the
time came for our FastPass we decided we didn't
want to walk back over there and so we did
something else we normally wouldn't (Country
Bears, I believe).
My total time in line may not
be reduced but I will get the privilege of standing
in more lines.
||I don't see
how that freed up your day. Having the FastPass
actually caused you to alter your plans and do
something you weren't planning on doing.
|Ah, but you
just complained that FastPass makes your day LESS
spontaneous. I am saying it made mine MORE
confuses me. You could have been just as
spontaneous if FastPass never existed.
Spontaneity, I would argue, was forced upon you
by your situation. But that's not really worth
spending too much time on.
What I really want to
get across is the notion that FastPass as it
exists now works better than it will once
everyone gets used to it. If everyone did use
FastPass, then the lines at the theme parks would
just get re-distributed in various ways.
said, the system does not make one single person
disappear or the rides to load any faster. In
macro-terms, the park as a whole, exactly the
same number of people are being served. Only now,
you have crappy lines instead of cool and themed
ones, and you have windows of opportunity and
scheduling instead of spontaneity.
|As I said,
I agree that Disney must work at maintaining the
"joy" of standing in line. But it will
never reach a point where everyone is using
This is for exactly the
same reason that the lines for Splash and Space
never reached 3 hours before FastPass.
Psychologically the delay will reach a point
where people are willing to trade a shorter
standby wait for a longer appointment.
If I come
into the park at 10 a.m. I'm not going to take a
FastPass ticket for 8:30 that evening. I am
either going to skip the ride or get into the
||Indy also -
as soon as they get it working. Plus the Space Mt. line is outdoors.
recollection is that a goodly portion of the line
was outdoors pre-FastPass as well. I remember
well the lines being out the doors and into
simple chain corrals.
I don't think we are
disagreeing on the issue of line theming, but
where you see a fatal flaw, I see something that
can be worked out.
For example, at WDW FastPass
seemed to provide a shorter line without either completely
skipping the themed queue (Test Track is a good example) or
displacing the standby queue. This is
because they have more room, I imagine. It just
means the DL people will have to be more creative.
it a fatal flaw only insofar as a hypothetical
day at Disneyland in 2003 is less nice than the
same day had been in 1995. 400 minutes in line on
either day, but the year 2003 one (by then
Mansion and Pirates and others will be FastPassed
as well) will be spent in ugly, boring, slow
moving lines rather than the quicker-moving lines
from 1995. Nothing, in other words, is actually *gained*
It should be noted that at the
present time, Fastpass actually does work to
reduce your wait. But there is no magic here. I
would argue that it's doing so on the backs of
the uninformed guests who wait standby, the way
they've always waited for Disney rides.
figure it out, the system really will move toward
an equilibrium where a day with or without
Fastpass results in an equal number of total
minutes spent in line.
Let's change the subject.
There have been rumblings that FastPass might (will?)
eventually become a paid premium (it is currently
a free service). What do you think about that?
|I think I'd
wait in standby lines. In a purely abstract sense
I am against it because it goes somewhat against
Walt's ideal that everyone in the park should be
treated the same (obviously there are exceptions,
but very few).
On a more pragmatic level I don't
have much problem with it. If
people are willing to spend a few more bucks for
a service, then go ahead. But from your point of
view, charging for the service should reduce many
of the problems you considered above.
reaction is the same as yours - this isn't what
Walt had had in mind. But I am of mixed mind here.
If the price were expensive enough, it might
actually solve most of the problems I've pointed
out about the system, as you say.
In such a
scenario, we'd be back to the pre-FastPass
Disneyland basically, with 200 or maybe 2,000
people in the park getting special treatment.
"So what," I say, in that event. What I
fear is a small enough charge for FastPass - say
only $5 - that everyone buys it, thinking it's
some sort of magic ticket.
In that case, they've
essentially upped the price of admission (remember,
a park full of FastPass-using guests probably
results in an equal number of minutes of wait
time daily). And those who don't buy it will now
"save" some money (more accurately,
fail to pay more), but they will have longer
lines than they do now.
it would be a (somewhat) hidden price increase -
at least it would be one I could opt out of.
But then they would probably include it in the
Premium Annual Pass and increase the price of
Keep in mind, however, that even a $5 separate fee
may keep many people away. For a four a family of four using
three day Flex Pass, it still adds up to an extra $60 bucks.
So, morally I am against it,
but not to such a degree that I would picket in
Burbank or anything. Let me wrap this up by saying that
we can both agree that regardless of whether
it is for better or worse, FastPass is going to
be bring major social, logistical, and
systemic, changes to the park.
I think it has
enough potential that Disney should work out the
kinks but am willing to concede that your doom-and-gloom
outlook isn't entirely unreasonable.
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