Free FastPass Is Dead. Long Live Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane!
After more than a year of speculation, The Walt Disney Company finally confirmed what we’d long suspected.
FastPass is dead. For that matter, MaxPass is gone, too.
Yes, Disney has ended the programs permanently. In their place, the company has announced a new virtual queuing system…and it’s not free. Gulp.
Disney park officials have decided to let go of the past and move into a new era of multifunctional park experiences.
Welcome to the age of Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane or, as everyone will call them for a while, paid FastPasses.
I know you have a lot of questions. So let me try to explain what’s going on.
What Is Disney Genie+?
Okay, I previously discussed the benefits of Disney Genie, the new virtual assistant that will revolutionize theme park visits.
Disney did something that I believe was a bit shortsighted in announcing Disney Genie+ at the same time.
All the headlines skipped straight to paid FastPasses, missing the fact that Genie itself qualifies as spectacular technology.
Still, those headlines are accurate in that Disneyland Resort fans can simply think of Disney Genie+ as the new name for MaxPass.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney World fans must get used to the fact that FastPasses are no longer free.
In May, I heard that something like this was coming and asked how much guests would pay for FastPasses.
MickeyBlog readers expressed a wide variety of opinions, with some hoping for the most expensive option, the one that Universal Studios utilizes.
Thankfully, Disney took a moderate approach instead. It implemented Disney Genie+ as a relatively inexpensive paid FastPass system.
Guests will pay $15 per person at Walt Disney World for the service. At Disneyland, the price is $20 per person.
Disneyland guests are breathing a modest sigh of relief, as $20 was the 2020 price for MaxPass. So, there’s no price increase for you.
Please remember that you don’t HAVE to add this option. Disney Genie is free to use, akin to freemium videogames.
You’ll get more if you pay, but you decide whether that’s necessary.
Disney has indicated that most but not all rides will utilize Disney Genie+. The paperwork suggests 40+ attractions across Walt Disney World.
I won’t list specific rides because I noticed some potential issues with the various videos. As such, I’m dubious that the promotional information is totally accurate.
Still, FastPass didn’t include every Disney attraction, either. So, not much has changed here.
Why Did Disney Choose Disney Genie+?
I’m going to start with a controversial opinion. Disney fans may discover that they like Disney Genie+ better than FastPass+.
I say this because I wrote about many of the complaints surrounding the old system. For example, paper FastPass fans never warmed to the digital program.
They felt that Disney messed up by requiring people to reserve three FastPasses, even when guests didn’t want them.
Over the years, Disney tweaked the system to remove that requirement. Still, old-school park fans frequently expressed frustration with FastPass+.
Disney Genie+ is entirely optional, meaning that only a small percentage of park guests will use it.
Meanwhile, from Disney’s perspective, that group of buyers represents increased revenue of $15-$20 per person.
So, Disney adds to its revenue by 10 percent daily without increasing park capacity at all. Naturally, everybody’s happier this way.
The other significant change here, at least for Walt Disney World guests, stems from planning…or lack thereof.
You will no longer book digital line queue passes 30/60/90 days in advance. So, you don’t need to think about your Disney trip two months ahead of time.
Everything will start at 7 a.m. on the day of your visit to Walt Disney World. For Disneyland, you’ll schedule your first Disney Genie+ attraction when you enter the park.
How Will Disney Genie+ Work?
The undeniable advantage of this comes down to frustration…or lack thereof.
Sometimes, I’d try to schedule a FastPass at the 60-day window, only for it to be booked already.
This misfortune frequently happened with Avatar Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash.
Now, the system works differently. Presuming I’m staying at an official Disney resort, I get a prime benefit.
At 7 a.m., I can load Disney Genie at my hotel room and choose the first attraction I want to experience.
Within minutes, I’ll know how I’m starting my park day, which will allow me to determine a Rope Drop strategy. That’s a tremendous amount of flexibility!
Once I arrive at the park, I’ll head to the attraction when my window opens. As with FastPass+, the system assigns you an hour where you can skip the longer line.
Disney calls the shorter line Lightning Lane, which causes me to expect Lightning McQueen logos and other imagery for this FastPass+ replacement.
I’ll use the term Lightning Lane, from now on. When you hear it, mentally substitute in FastPass line, though. It’s the same thing, only a new term.
So, Disney Genie+ brings back that shorter line queue that most of us have missed this summer.
Disney suggests a Fall start date for the new system. So, like everything else at Walt Disney World, an October 1st start seems likely.
I’d presume the same at Disneyland as well…or only a few weeks of difference at most.
Like with FastPass+, you’ll get to book another Disney Genie+ experience as soon as you enter the Lighting Lane for your current one.
As such, the process will work like it always has. You’ll book as many FastPasses trips to the Lightning Lane as you like during your visit.
Wait, I Thought Lightning Lane Cost More?
Disney did itself a disservice with the naming conventions. Lightning Lane means two things now, which isn’t great.
To guests using Disney Genie+, the Lightning Lane is where you go to skip the longer line.
For higher-paying guests, Lightning Lane means something else.
Disney has selected a few E-ticket attractions for a unique grouping. But, of course, you must pay extra to experience these rides.
If this system sounds familiar, it should. We talked about it in July as the new Disneyland Paris process.
You effectively pay a la carte pricing to ride whatever’s in the greatest demand at Disney theme parks.
Disney has already confirmed three attractions for the Lightning Lane program. They are:
- Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Note that you do NOT have to purchase Disney Genie+ to buy a Lightning Lane pass to these attractions.
Instead, Disney gives you the flexibility to choose how to approach your trip and vacation budget.
For many guests, buying a trip on Rise of the Resistance will make more sense than paying for Disney Genie+.
A friend of my wife’s only wanted one thing during his most recent park visit. Alas, Boarding Groups booked for Rise of the Resistance before he could snag one.
The new system solves that problem for customers like him. However, the price tag in Paris suggests that you’ll pay $9-$18 per person for privilege.
Disney didn’t confirm any pricing, only that it “will vary by date, attraction and park.”
With Lightning Lane, you can buy your way onto two popular Disney rides per day no matter what.
For the privilege, you’ll pay somewhere around $20-$35 per party member.
You add certainty to your visit, though!
Disney announced the new system roughly 16 hours ago. I’m not joking when I state that I’ve spent every waking moment contemplating this change.
So, when I say final thoughts here, I mean for today. It’s a lot for all of us to process.
What I’ll say is that Disney just found a way to increase revenue without adding park capacity. That’s massive for the company.
For guests, the price of a Disney ticket could increase by as much as $50 per person.
That scenario would involve Disney Genie+ and two Lightning Lane purchases during peak season.
Also, please keep in mind that it’s just for one person. Realistically, I expect that most guests will ignore both options.
Nobody knows for sure, but data suggests that slightly less than half of Disneyland guests utilize MaxPass. I’m using that (admittedly questionable) data as a baseline.
Presuming the same at Walt Disney World, Lightning Lanes shouldn’t come with crowds.
I would expect you to board the average ride in 15 minutes or less, which is terrific.
Meanwhile, Lightning Lane one-time purchases are a game-changer. Whenever a new Disney attraction opens, you know you will ride it.
Yes, you’ll pay a bit more, but it’s fractional compared to the overall Disney experience.
A parent can confidently promise a child that they’ll ride Ratatouille this Fall! Imagine if you could have done that for Rise of the Resistance!
Can you put a price on that certainty? Well, Disney can and will, but that’s beside the point. It’s another way to ensure the best possible trip.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with this announcement, something I hadn’t expected to say.
I’m still salty about Magical Express, though…