Congrats to Universal for dumping Express passes
Published: February 14, 2006 at 12:54 PM
Good riddance. Now if only FastPass and more of the industry's ride reservation would follow.
Ride reservation systems are fine for hugely popular rides when they first open. I'd rather get a reserved ride time for Expedition Everest (or, for past examples, Top Thrill Dragster or X) than blow three to five hours of my paid-admittance day waiting in a single line.
But when ride reservation systems start going on decades-old attractions where wait times rarely exceeded 90 minutes anymore, we've got a problem.
Why? Let's do the math. A ride reservation system does nothing to increase an attraction's operating capacity. In practice, these systems can reduce it if queues slow down while attendants check return tickets and admit reserved guests.
Plus, those ticket machines and readmission points must be staffed by attraction personnel who would better be deployed policing queues, grouping parties on the load platform, or ushering guests quickly through the unload area. From my experience working at and visiting parks, the number one cause of attraction downtime is slow guest loading and unloading, causing ride cascade failures as those slow guests stop the circuit. Trained, experienced attraction operators in those positions can, and do, prevent those incidents.
At the very least, ride reservation systems make park visits even more of a logistical headache for new and infrequent visitors who have not done extensive research to figure out how to game the system. Life was much easier when every line was the standby line, and visitors didn't have to keep track of lines, plus their reservation tickets and their new reservation eligibility times, when trying to make their way through the day.
Universal is keeping its Express Plus program, which allows a limited number of people to buy their way to the front of the line. And on-site hotel guests will continue to have front of the line access. So long as the number of those passes remain a small percentage of park visitors, that's fine. A few paid passes should not slow standby lines significantly, and I'd rather see front of the line passes as a hotel bonus that early openings, which can build up queue times before "normal" guests have a chance to get to them. (After all, getting to a park at opening is the best way to bag several popular attractions without long waits.) Better to distribute those hotel guests throughout the day, than loading them all into the morning "prime time."
In California, Disneyland's bagged FastPass on Pirates of the Caribbean and appears to be operating it less frequently on other attractions. Here's hoping that the rest of the industry comes to its senses and starts finding ways to make theme park visits less confusing and more enjoyable. Restricting ride reservation systems to first-year thrill rides would make an excellent start.