A LOT has changed at Disney World since the beginning of the year, and we’re starting to see the resort taking steps back toward what was considered “normal” pre-closure.
Recently, Disney World increased capacity, did away with temperature checks, began to reduce social distancing, and changed its face coverings policy. But there are still some Disney World programs that have not yet returned, most notably FastPass+.
FastPass+ was suspended last year when the parks reopened. Disney noted that they were suspending FastPass+ so they could use the “additional queue space to manage capacity and maintain physical distancing.” Disney has also removed the FastPass+ feature from the My Disney Experience app and has covered some FastPass+ signs in the parks.
Now, capacity is increasing at the parks and lines for attractions have the potential to get even longer than they have been, but Disney has not yet announced plans to bring FastPass+ back. And there are some good reasons pointing to why it might not return as soon as many people would like!
Park Hopping and Park Passes
Right now, all guests need to make Park Pass reservations for the first park they want to visit each day of their Disney World trip. Want to visit more than one park? Then you can Park Hop! Park Hopping returned to Disney World this year in a modified way. Right now, guests must visit their first park (i.e. the park they have a Park Pass for) and only after they visit that first park are they allowed to hop to another. Plus, guests can only hop to another park starting at 2PM each day, although that time is subject to change in the future.
Why would that impact FastPass+? Well, under the FastPass+ system as it existed prior to the closures, guests were restricted to making 3 initial FastPass+ reservations each day and all initial reservations had to be in the SAME park. After the initial 3, you could continue to make more reservations 1 at a time.
If your plan is to make and use your FastPass+ reservations in your first park, hop to another park right at 2PM, and then continue making FastPass+ reservations (1 at a time) in whatever park you hop to, you’d theoretically have to make 3 FastPass+ reservations for the first park relatively early in the morning to be able to use them all up.
Once you hop to a second park, you’ll then be stuck with whatever FastPass+ reservations are “left” so to speak. You may just be left with the scraps if other guests who stay in the park and don’t hop have already taken up all of the main selections. Of course, this is a problem that existed (in a way) under the old system. You were sort-of at the mercy of what was available once your first 3 Park Passes were all used up, or if you didn’t make any reservations in advance.
But, this is a problem you used to be able to work around in a way. In the olden days, you could make FastPass+ reservations for, say, Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ popular rides for the evening. Then you could spend your morning in Magic Kingdom, and hop to Hollywood Studios when it’s time to ride those rides.
But, it seems like you wouldn’t be able to do that when paired with the Park Pass system. We expect that if the Park Pass system continues for a significant period of time, you would likely be limited to only making FastPass reservations at the park where you have a Park Pass (especially because you’re not guaranteed to hop under the current system since it is all based on availability and capacity).
This could be a problem for many guests. It can greatly reduce the usefulness of FastPasses when tied with Park Hopping if all of the good ones have already been taken by the time you arrive in your second park. It could also make Park Hopping less appealing.
Of course, you could make your FastPass+ reservations for later in the evening in the park you have a Park Pass for, hop to another park in the middle of the day, and then hop back to your original park for those FastPass+ reservations. BUT, again, Park Hopping depends on availability. That means you could theoretically hop to a 2nd park and your original park could fill up, meaning you won’t be able to get back to use those FastPasses. So far, we haven’t had an issue in terms of finding availability to Park Hop. But, that could change in the future!
The Parks Are Still Operating at Limited Capacity
Although Disney World has increased capacity at the parks, and capacity is set to increase over the next few months, they still aren’t at 100% (yet). On paper, limited capacity should equal shorter waits. Disney may figure that because they are still operating at a limited capacity and theoretically wait times should be shorter, then FastPass+ is simply not necessary or not as of much value to guests.
We will note that many rides, on average, have had relatively low wait times when compared to what some of those wait times were pre-closure. But, we have seen the lines and wait times for some rides get quite long. These may have been the very rides that guests would have previously booked FastPass+ reservations for, but now that’s just not an available option.
Disney Might Be Planning An Alternative
Instead of FastPass+, Disney could be considering an alternative — maybe even something like Disneyland’s MaxPass program. Disneyland’s MaxPass combines the ability to make Disney FastPass selections with PhotoPass downloads. Most recently, MaxPass was priced at $20 per day, per ticket (although MaxPass and FASTPASS in Disneyland are currently suspended).
Disney may be thinking about bringing something similar to Disney World. If they did, it would allow the company to monetize the FastPass system and combine it with PhotoPass in a way that might be attractive to guests.
But, there are a few other options Disney World may be considering, too. The first is offering virtual queues for big-ticket rides. Disney World is already doing this for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and Disneyland is utilizing virtual queues for their Rise of the Resistance attraction, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure in Avengers Campus, and Indiana Jones Adventure. So, Disney already has the technology in place and could offer something similar for other attractions.
Disney could also embrace something like a paid Express Pass similar to what Universal Studios offers, which provides guests with FastPass-like powers for an upcharge.
Disney World could also be planning to utilize the Disney Genie system to incorporate FastPass+ into your planning and potentially structure it in a new way.
One thing seems pretty clear though — it looks like Disney is thinking about how to get guests to the rides they want when they want. In one presentation given earlier this year, Josh D’Amaro, the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products said “Do you really have to wait in line? Why can’t guests choose exactly what they want to do when they want to do it? After all, isn’t this what our millennials expect of us today? Why can’t a trip to Walt Disney World be simple?”
Could that be a reference to the return of FastPass+? Something to do with the Disney Genie? A hint that more virtual queues are coming? It’s not clear, but we’re on the lookout for more information.
We did see something recently related to FastPasses! Earlier this year, we encountered a glitch on the My Disney Experience app that showed us a button that prompted us to select FastPasses. This feature has been missing for a while, and when we clicked on it, it just took us back to the park information page. We’ve seen similar glitches before that meant nothing so this could be the same, but if we find out anything new about the return of FastPass, we’ll be sure to let you know.
Even if FastPass+ does return soon, it could come back in a slightly (or very) modified form. It seems the company has taken the past year to re-evaluate the guest experience at Disney Parks, and it’s likely Disney is rethinking everything, including FastPass+.
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What do you think? Do you think FastPass+ will return to Disney World soon? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!