What Is FastPass Anyway? An In-Depth Look…
Well, the news is finally out, and I know it didn’t make many of you happy.
Disney will no longer provide FastPass as a free option to skip the lines at various theme parks.
Of course, Disneyland had already altered that amenity when it added MaxPass in 2017.
FastPasses technically remained, but they were never the same after that.
Now, Walt Disney World will follow suit by introducing Disney Genie+ this Fall.
Here’s the question I’ve gotten a lot recently, one that surprised me. Friends are asking, “What is FastPass anyway?”
If you’ve been too embarrassed to ask, that’s okay! I’m here to explain it anyway!
What Is FastPass?
Have you ever waited in line at the DMV, mentally wondering why you’re trapped with the dregs of humanity? It’s never a fun process.
You want to get out of there as quickly as possible. So, you look for the sign that says, “Take a number.” It’s the same one from the local deli counter.
The process works similarly everywhere. You no longer have to stand in line. Instead, your number signifies that you’re waiting in line, even though you’re not.
Since its introduction in 1999, FastPass has worked just like that! In the early days, you would take a paper FastPass just like at the deli/DMV.
When MyMagic+ opened in 2014, Disney modified the process to turn it into a digital experience. Still, the premise is the same.
You’ve taken a place in line and will return later when your number gets called.
At Disney theme parks, you don’t go straight to the ride cart. Instead, you enter a smaller line known as the FastPass section.
The expectation is that you’ll board the ride cart MUCH faster this way, though.
With a FastPass, you eliminate most of the time you’d ordinarily spend in line. As such, FastPasses are worth their weight in gold.
In fact, during the early days of eBay, people would sell paper FastPasses online! Guests would show up with dozens of them before Disney cracked down.
Nobody can do that with the new digital system. Still, that flaw stands as a reminder that no queuing system is ever perfect because some people are selfish.
Why Did Disney Introduce FastPass?
I harp on this a lot, but it’s true. To Disney officials, NOTHING matters more than the results of customer satisfaction surveys.
As such, you should always fill out a survey whenever a cast member asks you to participate.
What you say will have ripple effects that improve the park experience for you and others.
Specifically, guests express displeasure the most when they spend too much time standing in lines. This circles back to that DMV analogy.
Do you want to spend the next 45 minutes of your life standing beside the person with the Kill Them All, Let God Sort Them Out tattoo? Of course not. That person needs a shower.
So, you take your number and find a seat on the other side of the room, never making eye contact again.
With FastPass, you spend much less time waiting. Meanwhile, you experience more attractions because you’re enjoying a more efficient visit.
When you fill out that survey, you’ll sound like a much happier customer, won’t you?
Disney wanted to maximize guest satisfaction by providing more rides. FastPass helped the company do that.
In fact, guests quickly deduced that they could stand in one line while holding a FastPass for another. That’s the dream for park officials.
Disney fans really aren’t that difficult to please. When they check off ten Disney attractions during a single park visit, they’re delighted as a rule.
FastPass pleased guests and led to better survey results for quite a while.
The Flaws with FastPass
Over the years, the system grew less effective. For example, Disney’s Hollywood Studios lacked substantial attractions for a while.
In fact, when MickeyBlog started, it was down to five rides! Yes, the park featured plenty of shows, but FastPass suffered shortages for the rides.
Disney introduced tiers for its new digital queuing system.
The top-tier attractions like Twilight Zone of Terror sold out their FastPasses within an hour of Rope Drop.
Yes, that’s similar to what has happened recently with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It was new behavior at the time, though.
Guests didn’t like this, and survey results went down. That…wasn’t part of the plan that Disney had for MyMagic+.
In 2008, Disney executives had grand plans for what they considered the future of theme park visits. Yes, history is repeating itself right now!
Anyway, MyMagic+ introduced digital queuing as a means of improving FastPasses even more.
Technically, they were already a kind of digital queue. However, Disney wanted guests to save themselves the aggravation of walking to FastPass kiosks.
So, Disney created an online portal where guests could book up to three FastPasses weeks before entering the parks!
That idea sounded great in theory. But then, another flaw revealed itself. Previously, FastPass masters had their run of the parks.
Now, the system limited them to three per day! Over time, Disney added the ability to book more FastPasses while at the parks.
Still, a vocal minority no longer enjoyed the same Disney experience they already had.
Digital queuing involves a computer system tracking all FastPass allocations. This technology allows big data and algorithms to squeeze the most possible throughput out of attractions.
Only Imagineers didn’t develop this system. Instead, Disney outsourced it, and MyMagic+ never worked as well as the company had projected.
Disney Genie+ vs. FastPass
The flaws with MyMagic+ led to Disneyland’s innovation, MaxPass. That’s paid FastPass park guests may access via smartphone.
When Disney introduced that system, the writing was on the wall about free FastPass.
Park officials determined that the system would work even more efficiently with fewer people using it.
Importantly, Disney could also monetize the process, as guests would pay for the privilege.
Still, that’s only an ancillary part of the FastPass discussion despite what you’ve heard or believed.
The real issue stems from the fact that the Walt Disney World version of the system never worked perfectly.
Then, during the pandemic, park officials gutted part of the infrastructure to create Park Passes. It was an emergency, and Disney did what was needed.
Now, the choice is to rebuild a system that never worked well or start from scratch. Disney has correctly picked the latter option.
FastPass has served its purpose as the product of late-1990s park technology. It worked very well during its first decade.
Once Disney started tinkering with the system, things went awry. Now, with Disney Genie, a virtual assistant, park officials can reboot.
Simultaneously, Disney Genie+ can provide a 2021 version of the same concept, one that incorporates real-time big data to solve previous FastPass flaws.
I realize that this issue will stick in people’s craws for a while. Still, when I answer the question of “What is FastPass,” the answer is 22-year-old tech.
We’re not still using Windows 98 for a reason, folks. FastPass desperately needed an upgrade.
Feature Image: thecoasterkings.com