FastPass at Walt Disney World

The Future of the FastPass at Walt Disney World

There have been a lot of changes at Walt Disney World since it’s reopening in July. Park Hopper tickets are not presently available. Park capacity is limited, and advanced reservations are now required in addition to your park ticket. Fireworks and Parties are cancelled. Character Meetings are few and literally far between (see what I did there?). All of these changes make sense as we are all navigating a new socially distanced Disney experience, but one change continues to puzzle me: what is happening with the FastPass at Walt Disney World.

 In the past, Disney ticket holders were able to book 3 FastPasses for three different attractions in one park each day they held tickets. These FastPasses allowed guests to schedule a time in which they could experience the attraction.  There were many strategies associated with FastPass+ selection, depending mainly on your family’s priorities, and it could be very stressful trying to secure a coveted, popular FastPass+. Since resort guests could book these opportunities 60 days prior to check in, while non resort guests had to wait until 30 days prior to each ticket day, it was nearly impossible for non resort guests to secure E ticket level FastPasses. This was a huge perk for staying on property.

 Club Level Guests enjoyed an even bigger perk with regard to FastPasses.  They had the option to purchase 3 additional FastPasses per person per day for a minimum of three days, AND they could book them 90 days out with no tier restrictions, virtually guaranteeing them any choice.

 Since Walt Disney World re-opened in July, FastPasses have been indefinitely suspended for all guests. At first glance, this seemed like a blessing. Crowds remained very low for the first couple of months, so FastPassess seemed unnecessary anyway. It was a welcomed respite not having to plan touring details so far in advance. The spontaneity was refreshing.

 Presumably, the reason for the suspension of FastPasses was simply a matter of space. In order to socially distance guests in queues, there was no room for two separate areas, and FastPass+ queue space was needed to accommodate guests in standby queues.  However, Standby lines and FastPass+ entrances remain separate at many attractions, so perhaps this wasn’t the reason after all.

 Now, three months into phased reopening, we are seeing a slight uptick in crowds at the parks, with some queues reaching over 100 minutes at headliner attractions. Still, we have seen no mention of reinstatement of FastPasses. This begs the question: what’s the plan?

 I have not read much speculation about this, as it is generally accepted as one of the necessary changes to keep WDW safe, but I have my own theory that I sincerely hope will be disproved.

 It’s quite possible an overhaul of the free FastPass+ system was in the works prior to the pandemic, and the shut-down of the parks was just a good catalyst to begin the changeover. Disney spent a veritable fortune installing the FastPass+ system at Walt Disney World, so I highly doubt they would do away with the system altogether.  Disney is highly skilled at studying guests movement through the parks and keeping us out of lines and in stores and restaurants generating revenue.  With that in mind, I fear that Disney is looking to monetize this situation as well. After all, the company must be looking for any way to mitigate the immense losses suffered due to closures, cancellations, and decreased capacity on reopening.

As ride queues get longer again, people will certainly be missing the FastPass perk. This demand could help justify a paid FastPass+ system, perhaps similar to the Express Pass option currently offered at Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World’s biggest competition.

 There are myriad ways this could materialize. It might actually be nice to see the return-time window disappear, and to have a system where guests can just pick specific attractions to experience at any time. This could reduce the need for a detailed timed touring plan, a popular complaint among would be vacationeers. Perhaps there will be different pricing structures and tiers, the most expensive of which might look like the former Club Level Fast Pass option. If Disney wants to maintain the high level of perks for onsite guests, maybe more options will be available to those with resort hotel reservations. Perhaps like Universal, higher tiered resort hotels will carry a more desirable FastPass+ perk. 

To be clear, we have absolutely NO EVIDENCE to support this theory. I just struggle to understand why the system has been suspended, and why it hasn’t yet been brought back. It’s just a hunch, and one of the few times I hope I am very, very wrong. It remains to be seen, and we will be following closely.


3 thoughts on “The Future of the FastPass at Walt Disney World”

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