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How much would you pay to add front-of-line-access to an annual pass?

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Published: July 6, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Resorts World Sentosa, home of Universal Studios Singapore, has announced a new annual pass pricing structure for the theme park. I know that Singapore isn't on the radar of many Theme Park Insider readers, but Universal Studios Singapore's done something very interesting with these annual passes.

Revenge of the Mummy
Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Singapore

The prices are SG$638 (US$519.45) for adults and SG$558 (US$454.31) for children. That seemed a bit high for me for a pass to single theme park. But I kept reading and found that the "Superstar Pass" includes... unlimited access to Universal Express.

That's right. Unlimited front-of-the-line access with an annual pass.

Imagine that. Instant Universal Express (or FastPass, for Disney fans) access to every ride, every time you visit the park. You'll never again have to worry about how crowded a park is if you have a hankering to ride one of your favorite attractions.

USS is also offering a lower-priced (SG$300 less) AP for visitors who don't want the Universal Express option. Which raises the question: How much more would you pay on top of your current annual pass price for a pass that included unlimited front-of-line access?

We've been talking on our Discussion Board about perks for annual passholders, but I'd love to hear about some of the perks you don't now get, such as front-of-the-line access, and how much you'd be willing to pay to get them.

Readers' Opinions

From Tracy Bates on July 6, 2011 at 11:30 AM
If they offered that for Florida I wouldn't do it for the simple reason that front of the line access is a perk of staying in their on site hotels which I usually do. (Partly because I like not having to drive to the park and partly because if you go in the off season, their hotels are that expensive.)

that and staying at the on site hotels usually come with perks like early park admission, which is a necessity for really enjoying the Harry Potter section of IOA.

From James Rao on July 6, 2011 at 11:50 AM
I think a front of line pass (anytime Fastpass) is a very worthwhile perk, especially at non-Disney parks that are not always so good at maximizing rider-throughput.

Therefore, I would pay up to double the current cost of a season pass. Of course it would start to get very expensive for a family of five, like mine, but double seems reasonable for that type of perk.

From 64.134.184.65 on July 6, 2011 at 11:58 AM
I have always thought that there should be an elite pass that provides this perk. I'd pay double or even more to be able to have this privilege.

The USF premier pass isn't bad though.

From 204.4.13.72 on July 6, 2011 at 12:02 PM
Being single I only have to worry about buying one pass for myself. If a family needed to get 4 or 5 passes, I think the parks should discount each pass after you buy 2 at regular cost. They will essentially make more money on food and merchandise from the additonal family members. I would pay an additional $100.00 for the front of the line access.
From Brent Moody on July 6, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Correct me if I am wrong but with the most expencive USF/IOA annual pass you get express pass after 4 p.m. and I think the price for those passes are like $350 apiece or so. I might would pay another $150 to be able to express pass all the time but not much more than that.
From James Trexen on July 6, 2011 at 4:29 PM
I would not at all pay for the perk. The point of getting an annual pass is for repeated visits for quite a while. Why pay all that money if you can just keep going and going?
From Tim Hillman on July 6, 2011 at 7:34 PM
As someone who has been going to theme parks for over 40 years, I'm going to say that I detest the ExpressPass/FastPass systems. I feel that they greatly detract from the theme park experience for the average visitor. When I was a kid, once you got past the gates at Disneyland or Disney World, you were the same as everybody else. It didn't matter if you were rich or poor or if you stayed on site or in the Days Inn down the road. You left your differences behind you, and there was very little to remind you that people came from different stations in life.
I know that the parks have to find ways to increase their revenue by getting you to purchase upgraded passes or getting you to stay on site, but it just seems that we continually have to draw the line between the "Haves" and the "Sorta Haves." (Most people who get to go to a theme park cannot be considered "Have Nots.")
Spending a day at Universal or Disney can be a thrilling yet gruelling experience for the younger set, and I wonder what goes through their minds towards the end of the day when they're tuckered out and mired in a slow moving line, and people are breezing past them in the Express Line. Are they going to feel the same "magic" that we felt when we were kids?
From Anthony J on July 6, 2011 at 9:07 PM
Nothing. I only really feel like I need FOTL access if I'm not there for long enough to get in all the attractions so if I got an annual pass, I'm probably going enough.
From chris cona on July 6, 2011 at 10:20 PM
I would not pay an extra 300 dollers just to go in front of the line for rides. I love what disney does with there fast pass which is free and you have to wait a few hours to go on the ride and enjoy. But paying 300 dollers extra for fast pass wouldn't even think about. If when season pass had fast pass included for about anywhere between 20-75 yeah I'd go for it but not for 300
From Justin Kermgard on July 6, 2011 at 11:15 PM
I actually hate that idea, because if enough people get it then too many locals who visit everyday would use it and the express line would be practically the same length as the stand-by line. Personally I like the way Disney's Fastpass system works better because they only give out so many per attraction per day and on top of that its a free service which shows proof that Disney already makes enough money per day that it doesn't need to charge its customer's extra money for this service. Its no wonder Universal will never be on the same level as Disney, because they come up with dumb ideas like this one. Two pieces of advice for Universal to help boost its overall attendance and happiness in its customers....use Disney's same method of their Fastpass system and incorporate the Extra Magic Hours idea for the guests who stay on-site, which would not only attract more people to the parks in general but also attract more people to the on-site resorts.
From Derek Morse on July 7, 2011 at 7:05 AM
I think Tim Hillman had an interesting comment that got me wondering what were peak wait times like before fast pass was even a thought? Are there any numbers out there, for example, of what the peak wait times would be at space mountain before fast pass was around? Seems like fast pass could actually make the stand by line longer. Just a thought, I personally enjoy the Disney fast pass system, but was curious if there were numbers that showed a significant drop in the stand by line before fast passes were integrated into the park.
From Mike Bianucci on July 7, 2011 at 9:20 AM
Too bad for the rest of us who pay $88 per ticket- our wait keeps getting longer and longer.
From 98.21.197.196 on July 7, 2011 at 10:16 AM
I'd probably want to pay extra for that..... but I wonder at what point it becomes a thing where the people who can't afford it start to feel so alienated and that their experience that they paid for is being impacted by it so much that they get aggrivated and quite wanting to go.

I think Disney's Fast Pass system is the best system thus far because it is free to all who pay the already steep price (in this economy) of $80 something dollars to get in. I think it is the best blueprint out there at this time for a way to do a front of the line access perk.

From Adam Dodds on July 7, 2011 at 11:59 AM
I like Disney's system, free and fair. Universal's system is nothing but a money maker that does increase the wait time for people unwilling to pay for it, where as Disney's Fastpass system, everyone has the same opportunity to get a Fastpass (which one comment seems to think otherwise) without paying any extra money. Aside from fairness, the system isn't used to make profit but rather redistribute crowds over the day, so that unlike before the Fastpass system, wait times are shorter on a whole throughout the day. My memories of the park before Fastpass were of little riding and a lot more waiting.

As a CM, a lot of guest don't understand why, and angrily tells us so, there isn't a "get in front of the line pass" that they can pay for. Lord knows, people are willing to pay big money for that pass (and to bribe us) but Disney keeps it fair. Even celebrities with private tour guides have to use the Fastpass system.

From Mike Gallagher on July 7, 2011 at 1:41 PM
To bring my usual non-Disney/Universal perspective (the site IS called THEME PARK Insider, after all)

I paid a bit over $70 for my Six Flags Great Adventure season pass for this season. Last year I paid $90. I don't think I'd be willing to pay double to include unlimited F.O.L. access, but I'd come close. I think a $50 surcharge would be reasonable for that kind of perk. I'd certainly get more rides on Kingda Ka than I do now...

From Tim Hillman on July 7, 2011 at 3:23 PM
I've got to agree with you, Adam, Disney's FastPass system is free and fair, but I still believe that it detracts from the theme park experience for the average visitor.

If you are in the know about how to use the FastPass system, it does save you some queue time for a few of your favorite rides, but I maintain that that time is far surpassed by the time and effort expended to get to the kiosks to get your FastPasses before they are all gone and then having to move around the park in a wasteful manner just so you can fill the time up until your FastPass times and then return to the rides where your FastPasses are valid.

If you are not in the know about the FastPass system (many first time visitors), then you get to spend more time waiting in the queue because the FastPass riders get to go ahead of you. I've noticed that by the time that many of the newbies figure out how the FastPass system works, the FastPass tickets are all gone, and then they get the added frustration of feeling shut out. I believe that Disney could provide a better experience to the first time visitor by not having a FastPass system.

Until someone can quantitatively show me that the FastPass system allows quests to ride more rides on average or reduces the average wait time for a particular ride or qualitatively enhances the theme park experience, I will maintain that they are a negative factor for the average theme park visitor.

BTW: The best way to control crowds, reduce wait times, and enhance revenues for the parks is to go back to the old coupon books. Once you ran out of E-Tickets, you started to queue up for the D, C, B, and A attractions. If you wanted to ride more E-Ticket attractions, you had to fork over some more dough for either a new coupon book or buy some individual E-Tickets (pricey!). In essence, if you wanted to have more fun and were willing to pay for it, you could do it without wasting someone else's time, and without making them feel like second class citizens. It will never happen again, but I recall the wait times in the parks being considerably shorter in those days. (Yes, I am getting old.)

From Justin Kermgard on July 7, 2011 at 9:53 PM
Tim, although it would be a nice thing to do as a one day a year thing(with the ticket books), thats a silly idea to do that permanently because it would be similar to having to pay for an express pass whereas those who have money could afford to get more "E-Tickets" whereas those who are less fortunate could only afford to purchase the lower-graded tickets for the non-thrilling attractions, however i actually do agree that it would be nice if Disney and Universal simply did away with the Fastpass/Express pass systems completely and make it fair for everyone(both recurring guests and first time visitors).
From Adam Dodds on July 8, 2011 at 7:49 AM
In training to be a CM, and through my Disney University classes, we have discussed the science and application of the Fastpass system. Like a said, Disney uses the system to make for shorter wait times for everyone. As hard as this may seem, when a ride as Fastpass, the stand-by line has a wait time equal to or less than what that attraction would have without it. Because thousands and thousands opt for Fastpass and come durring the slow times and late late at night, the stand-by time is shorter, even though it looks like we are letting a million people before the stand-by line. I know st Space Mountain, we have reduced the average wait time by an hour when Fastpass was added.

As for what people do with their time when they have a Fastpass, it is up to them. They are actually encouraged to go ride attractions that are not "E Ticket" so they can fit it in while they wait. This too, distributes the crowds much in the sense of your beloved (but impractical and expensive) ticket system. I don't know what you do, but I go ride the rides that don't have fast pass, and it is essentially waiting in two lines at once, which makes going to get the Fastpass and returning anytime that day (they don't expire until park close) completely worth it.

As for the people who don't know about Fastpass, I'm shocked at how unprepared people arrive. They don't put a thought into a bit of research and are left out in the dark, however this isn't Disney's fault, but they make sure to put the Fastpass information on every single park map AND the system is explained on every bus and monorail. They have two chances to understand it.

You might have noticed that Disney loves data, so they often have someone taking surveys at the end of rides. Their data shows that the system works in that the number of rides per visit has increased, that wait times have decreased and people like it. I'm not sure how anyone can hold a grudge against the system, other than they simply don't understand it, or how to use it.

I can't explain it any simpler, it makes wait times short, you can do more rides and people like it.

From N B on July 8, 2011 at 11:21 AM
About 20 minutes ago, I just pulled our lanyard / room key holders out of the kithen drawer for Universal / IOA.... Our keys for the Royal Pacific hotel are still in them from the last vacation.

The Express Pass is the main reason for staying on site, but I'm not sure I would pay that much extra to add it to a season pass, however.

With season passes, you can really pick and choose those slower days to go and I'm sure most of the pople that own them already try to go when it's less crowded.

Express Pass is great for vacations, especially when you want to get through a park quickly on the last couple days to get your fix before returning home...

From N B on July 8, 2011 at 11:40 AM
Tim,

I read your comment and have to chime in. The first time we went to Universal, we stayed across the street at the Holday Inn and had regular tickets.

We constantly saw people tearing past us on rides while we sat in line like cattle, so I know the feeling. You do get a lot of dirtly looks from people who have been waiting for 2+ hours for Spider-Man when you arrive at the loading room with only one other family in front of you.

I have felt bad because it was almost 100 degrees last time we were there and the parks were packed. I feel bad when little ones (who are usually not very patient) who are soaked in sweat watch you go by and wonder why they are waiting in a longer line.

You do get this feeling of "VIP treatment" for staying on site as the regular Express Passes that you purchase only allow one ride per attraction.

There is always some loud mouth in line who has to say something that everyone can hear to vent thier frustration about the Express Pass perk. I have explained to a couple people every day we are there when the EP lines parallel the regular ones that all we did was stay on site. A lot of people still don't know that it's included.

I remember a few people ducked under the railing and followed us only to find out they wasted an hour and a half waiting in line to find out they check your room key when you enter the ride and at the loading queue.

They werent allowed to go backward and had to exit, then get in line all over again....

Anyways, I am looking forward to our Universal trip (July 12th through 20th).... I will still feel bad at peak times when we are whisked to the fron of the line, but I didn't make the rules.

From Tim Hillman on July 8, 2011 at 2:09 PM
Well, Adam, I stand corrected. You met the two criteria I asked for - quantitativive data that says that average wait times are reduced and number of rides per visit is increased, and qualitative data that says that people are having a better time at the park. I guess that I'll have to change my mind about the Fastpass system.

I've actually taught queuing theory in a previous job, and I find it interesting that by managing the arrival patterns of patrons with the Fastpass system, Disney manages to improve the quality of the visit. I'll have to Google Fastpass to see if there is any literature out there that gets into the details of the concept.

From Adam Dodds on July 8, 2011 at 5:32 PM
You might not find much about it. Disney keeps it fairly secret. In fact, I'm a CM with loose lips.

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