Future of WDW crowd control

June 24, 2020, 12:21 AM

The idea of Fastpass made sense when they first started doing it 20 years ago (note: I said idea) as it would clearly increase the rides per visitor numbers. I'm going to spare the details of why I think Fastpass in all iterations turned out badly because I could write a novel about it, but I think we all agree that it exposed the fact that if everyone gets a benefit then no one gets a benefit.

So now we have the coronavirus and Fastpass is gone. Reservations are required to get into the park and capacity will be limited, for the first time in 20 years the lines for major attractions will actually move at a good speed, and visiting the WDW parks might actually be fun again. At least for now.

So this leaves us with the question of what Disney should do when the crowd levels get back to their normal huge state, because I think we can all agree now that they finally had a good opportunity to rid the parks of the cancer that was Fastpass its time to think about the future. Here are some options I have thought of
*Note I am assuming the parks are back at their pre-covid crowds for these examples. And considering the amount of hotels, conferences, and infrastructure has been increasing in Orlando at such a rapid pace for so long, at some point you know everyone is going to be highly motivated to get crowds back up to those levels at some point*

Option 1: Fastpass be resort guest only.
The problem with this is there are so many rooms now that even if it were for resort guests only, the lines for the major rides still might move extremely slow and people still wouldn't get what they want. It isn't a secret everyone all wants FP for the same rides so people will get mad if they can't make a reservations for what they want. I would not go this route because no matter which way you slice it people aren't going to get what they want and will feel ripped off for paying the hotel premium, then will have to wait in standby for a ride they wanted while other hotel guests skip in front of them.

Option 2: Upcharge Fastpass
Speaks for itself and easier to control then the previous system, but it would obviously piss a lot of people off for many reasons. Also it wouldn't be as easy to control as one would think because there are a lot of special groups out there (hotel guests with more expensive rooms, DVC, Club 33, etc) who would feel entitled to benefits without buying the upcharge.

Option 3: No queue management system at all, keep Fastpass lanes only for disabled/rider switch/VIP tours only, no other changes
This would be nice but I do admit that the issues they tried to fix by introducing Fastpass (people not doing as much "lesser stuff" because they spend all their time waiting in line for the big rides) comes back into question. However, with the parks having gotten so crowded, the "lesser rides" running empty seats might not be as big of an issue. It also means hotel guests don't get as much of a benefit which could greatly reduce sales.

Option 4: Greatly reduce park capacity and require reservations for all days
I just don't think this going to be the long term solution for the simple fact that the parks are going to be way less profitable with way less people. This will stick for this year maybe into next, but nobody is going to be okay with just making less money forever.

Option 5 - my preference-: Expand EMH to all parks every day and eliminate FP (except for disability/rider switch/VIP tours)
It's no secret EMH has become more of a hassle than a benefit because of huge crowds due to so many on property hotel rooms now, so that solves that problem. Also imagine if every park did EMH from 8:00-9:30 every morning, from my point of view that would solve all problems:
-Increase the ride count on the "lesser attractions" because people have already done the major ones.
-Greatly reduce the amount of people in the parks in during the day, leading to day guests getting on more attractions.
-Give resort guests a huge benefit while also eliminating the FP debacle.
A decade or so ago that would've been a waste of money but if crowds return to 2019 levels that would be the most practical way to solve the problems IMO.
*Note WDW actually did EMH at MK and DHS every morning when Star Wars Land opened, and it didn't really turn out well because everyone went to DHS every morning and crowds weren't really what they were expecting to begin with because the land wasn't fully open yet.*

Replies (23)

June 24, 2020, 2:38 AM

I still remember going to WDW in '99 and FastPass brand new. At the time, it really was a boon to get a ticket and hit another ride then come back. True, it got complex but even as late as last visit with the system in 2012, I still enjoyed it. I know, I'm in a minority there but after so many years of having to figure out lucky time to hit a long line, being able to cut all that was very beneficial.

June 24, 2020, 5:39 AM

I liked Fastpass+. I think allowing people 3 “guaranteed” picks is a great way to go, it builds value into the ticket price and squashes the “there’s no point paying extortionate cost to get in because I won’t be able to see X” argument, and it just feels fair, no cheat code for the Rich kids.

June 24, 2020, 7:16 AM

I will be gutted if FP+ is no longer available. It was the ideal solution for me (and a lot of other pass holders). I know for those not local and coming here on vacation, it was a bear, but for those of us who knew the system inside out and upside down :), it was a way to enjoy the rides without having to worry about standing in line for hours.

I could manipulate the system almost at will, and if I went to DAK and wanted a FP+ for FofP ... 99.9% of the time I could get one on the same day as I was planning to go. I didn't have to concern myself about booking a month in advance. I'd get one the day of, and more times than not, repeat that, once I used the initial 3.

It took me about 3 months to learn all the intricacies. I used to log onto the app at work, and use it almost all day to find patterns that would eventually allow me to get a FP+ whenever I wanted. I couldn't quite control the time frames as much as I would have liked, but almost everything else I could.

It will be a very sad day, if/when FP+ is no longer available.

If I was not about to retire, and change my pass to weekday only, I would seriously be considering canceling my pass. But circumstances change, and for the last 2 years I've had a great time using FP+ to my advantage. Things never stay the same, and it seems this is now going to apply to FP+.

Thanks FP+ for a great 'ride' You will be greatly missed.

June 24, 2020, 9:07 AM

The post above is a perfect example of why FP+ was bad. I can tell you people defending FP+ never actually wait in the standby lines for those rides. People that are too late to get FP for any major attractions (keep in mind all the major rides book out of Fastpass every day and often early in the day) are basically forced to wait in huge lines that don't move. I don't know about you but standing in line after line when its 90+ degrees out and barely moving at all, and watching vehicle after vehicle full of people go by on high capacity attractions and still not ever moving, is what I would consider "not good" from a satisfaction standpoint meaning not good from a business standpoint either.

Like I said in my first post you can't offer everyone a benefit and expect it to work. Chad H's post makes no sense: "no cheat code" except for the fact that there are 60,000 people in the park and 20,000 people are going to ride Space Mountain that day there's no way to make sure everyone gets the same service when 15,000 people get to skip most of the line while everyone else who couldn't get the reservation just wait and wait and wait watching trains go by.

June 24, 2020, 9:37 AM

@the_man .... I can confirm ... the only time I ever stood in a standby line was when the ride first opened. Once was always enough.

FP+ was there for everyone to use. I don't see it as being "bad". Just because people gave up on it, bitching and moaning that it never worked for them, then whose fault is that? In various posts over the years some of us gave plenty of hints as to how to get the most out of it, but it mostly fell on deaf ears.

Don't forget, I used to go 2-3 times a week. Most times it would be solely because I'd snagged a FP+, so I'd drift in an hour earlier, walk round, ride the ride, walk round some more and leave. My trips to the WDW parks are rarely more than 2-3 hours, and almost every time my visit was driven by what FP+ I'd got, and in what park.

I was just as happy to get a MFSR, as I was getting a FofP or a 7DMT.

I know there are more haters of the FP+ system on this blog than those like me, who used it to their advantage, but as I've said many times, as a local pass holder, my use of the parks, FP+ and everything else is 180deg opposed to those who come to Orlando for vacation.

I will miss the freedom of sitting at home having lunch, and checking the app. to find a SDD at 2:30pm. I'd finish up, leave home, have my hour or 2 at the park, and be home for dinner.

Local pass holders vrs vacationers .... it is/was a different world.

June 24, 2020, 9:48 AM

You're misunderstanding what i'm saying. I'm not saying it doesn't work for people who knew how to take advantage of it, i'm saying it doesn't work for the GP in general. It doesn't matter what hardcore fans that know what they're doing think about it, what matters what the GP thinks. And when you have thousands of people every day paying big $ to go to Disney World and they just stand there in the heat for 1.5 hours watching trains go by with the lines barely moving at all it makes them feel ripped off and that's a problem

June 24, 2020, 9:49 AM

The way I've always viewed FP+ is a way for smart people to get a leg-up on everyone else. Despite the oodles of information and guides available on how to maximize FP+ (and the paper FP system that preceded it), many people didn't use it and many that did had no idea how to efficiently utilize it. I don't know how many friends, family, and co-workers over the past 10+ years asked me about advice on visiting WDW a week prior to going on their trip having not done any prior planning. The fact of the matter is that FP+ was more or less an insider's tool to maximize your WDW vacation that left tens of thousands of guests stuck in hours of standby lines for the most popular attractions every single day.

From a conceited perspective, I actually liked FP+ because I could leverage it to ride a dozen or more extra rides every single day with minimal wait. However, I also understood that my exploitation of the system also meant thousands of guests were stuck waiting hours for a single ride on a top attraction that I could ride 3-4 times while they were stuck in the standby line. However, I do prefer a system that rewards intelligence, preparedness, and flexibility over financial might, and FP+ did that. Where Disney goes from here is anyone's guess, but I suspect that the days of being able to get FP+ reservations for FoP 4+ times in a single day are probably over, as I think the one big change Disney will make to any future ride reservation/virtual queue system will be to limit guests to one (1) experience per day on every attraction.

June 24, 2020, 11:25 AM

Compare DL and WDW on capacity days. I have done this several times, and you can experience double or triple the number of attractions at DL over MK. If you actually polled regular visitors that returned with families that remembered the system before FP+, I bet only about 10% favored FP+ over FP. On capacity days at MK, you rarely had the Haunted Mansion and Pirates at 90 minutes, but that is a regular occurrence now. FP+ is a terrible system, and it is one that makes vacationing there unnecessarily stressful. If you are a local with only two people, yes, it may be nice. But if you are a family of four or more with children dropping $8000 in one of their hotels, it can be an unholy nightmare. We use a travel agency that can somehow magically get the passes that other cannot. Also, the system goes down requiring the use of the kiosk. I am sorry for those of you that like it, but FP+ needs to go, and the current environment is a perfect excuse for them to change it. No system at all is better than FP+, but the system at DL works very nice, and it works very nice for pass holders as well as families.

There is also no need to have it on EVERY attraction. Spaceship Earth??? It was never more than a 20 minute wait. Hello FP+, now it is 45-60 minutes. Having to pre-plan your vacation is also not fun. What if you scheduled a day at AK to have it rain. You want to also see the animals, but to switch to another park is impossible. That means possibly not being able to experience some of the best attractions and disappointing some of your children; some that wanted to see animals versus some that wanted to ride Avatar.

Or you can avoid all of this hassle and either go to Universal, stay in one of their three high end hotels with the Express Pass that is cheaper than a Moderate Disney resort, and never wait in line. Another solution is Disneyland. To me, battling the SoCal traffic is worth it to avoid the extreme headache that is FP+. My family hates it that much.

June 24, 2020, 2:57 PM

When WDW made FP+ they purposely made the lines longer for rides that always had short lines, by offering FP on them it made more people go on them which theoretically increased rides per guest, offered more park wide inventory for people that were disappointed they couldn't get any Fastpasses, and spread out the crowds more. I'm not saying that was the right decision (i've stated many times I hate FP+ and the old Fastpass system) i'm just saying it wasn't an accident.

When you factor in the massive amounts of compensation fastpasses that are given out at the hotels for people unhappy with room/unhappy with Magical Express/long bus waits (WDW has 30,000 rooms that's a ton of FP that is just randomly given out), factor in all the fastpasses given out for ride break downs, factor in the fact that lots of people don't come at their scheduled time for whatever reasons, etc etc it is basically impossible for WDW to manage Fastpass as well as they do at DLR. Also MK's attendance is way higher than DL's and doesn't have any more rides. There is so much more of everything.

June 24, 2020, 3:06 PM

I can't really speak much to the FP+ system as I had just moved from Florida when it was morphing yet again. I will say the FastPass / MaxPass system that was in place at DLR was really good. It was still available ONLY on the day of the visit and MaxPass allowed you to make reservations at either park using your mobile devise, but it only became active once you had entered either of the parks. I will always feel the MaxPass function should not have come with a price, but in the long run, I felt the convenience of not needing to walk to each attractions distribution center was worth it.

June 24, 2020, 3:21 PM

As to comparisons between DL and MK the_man, DL actually does have more attractions than MK, but I factor that as well as crowd levels into when I have compared them, as there are days in the year where DL has a higher total, but I will agree that it will never be a complete apples to apples comparison. For one, the SoCal attendance patterns do not skew as heavy in the morning like WDW does. Nevertheless, I think the comparison bares out that you can still get much more done with the DL system than MK. The other huge metric is that the DL system is simply more fun and less stressful.

I also did not point out all the FP handouts that happens at WDW. That is just plain crazy. I agree that when something breaks down or a kid is having a bad time, give them one. But three extra for a time share presentation? That is bovine fecal matter. It is my opinion that prior to Iger FP+ would never have been approved as ‘not fun.’ One major component was that it was convenient to the parks and not the guest.

Edited: June 25, 2020, 3:20 AM

Of the five options presented, I'd say option two is the most likely and option three the least, but I think there's a better way to handle it than those. Personally, I think the best option would be to rethink it from the ground up and create a system that included the following elements:

-No advance reservations, all reservations are only available day of
-One reservation at a time, but no restriction on how many are used
-Return time can be selected from those available to avoid dining reservations or shows
-No restriction on how long after your time you return, but you cannot return earlier or reserve another attraction until it is used or cancelled
-You may reserve your next attraction as soon as you scan in at the current one
-System is only available for attractions that routinely generate 30+ minute waits using standby only and have enough capacity to handle increased demand without excessively lengthening the standby line
-System is included with all on-property stays at deluxe level or above and is offered as an upcharge to all other guests (with discounts for those staying on-property)
-If you park hop, reservations are good at all parks you visit but may only be made for the park you're currently in

Essentially, you've got some elements of Fastpass+ that work well mixed with some elements from other skip the line systems in the industry.

Edited: June 25, 2020, 4:00 PM

There’s a part of me that hopes fastpasses never go away. I always get maxpass when I go to DL because it makes or breaks your trip in my opinion. If you’re smart about it, then you get can get on every ride multiple times with only fastpasses. FP+, while an alright system, basically locks your plan in place months in advance. Maxpass allows you to be more flexible and more spontaneous throughout your day.
I like the last option you gave @the__man, but you also need to take into account that those hotel people will feel cheated about EMH. I’ve talked to many people you go to WDW and some love to wake up at 6 and be at the park an hour before it opens. Others like to stroll on in at park opening or a little after. To those who like to wake up later, you’re making a situation where they feel they must wake up early in order to enjoy lines with no waits. Then it doesn’t become a vacation, it becomes a “thing you have to do”. Now you can also extend the extra hours into the night and make it longer, but honestly that would be even more crowded. It’s already crowded enough on nights like those. Also it would suck because for people who don’t like to stay on property, the lines even for the smaller attraction wouldn’t be a walk on at parking opening.
If it were up to me, I’d change the fastpass system at WDW to maxpass, and limit the amount of fastpasses are distributed per ride.

June 25, 2020, 4:32 PM

AJ’s system makes the most sense. Frankly, WDW has become a chore and not a vacation at all. The last visit one family member totally melted down due to FP+, and while it is easy to say ‘just ignore them’, it is a fairly common sight with people upset with it breaking down, losing spontaneity, or being unable to experience certain attractions. It would not be such an issue if the trip was not so incredibly expensive to begin with. Management should make decisions on what is fun for the guest, and the current WDW system is far from that.

Edited: June 25, 2020, 6:30 PM

>>You're misunderstanding what i'm saying. I'm not saying it doesn't work for people who knew how to take advantage of it, i'm saying it doesn't work for the GP in general.

Doesn't it?

I didn't research how to take advantage of it. Nor did I try. I am not someone to plan my holiday in any detail further than "I'm going here". So in that sense I am the GP in general.

It worked great for me. 3 Free picks a day that I could be guaranteed to see, regardless of wait time, plus it helped us find some low wait time attractions later in the day.

No crazy planning done. Just a "I don't want to miss Haunted Mansion, Pirates and Jungle Cruise", all for the price of admission.

Honestly, I don't see where the criticism is coming from. The only Improvements I'd make is to simplify it. Reduce the number of attractions to the headliners maybe, and increase the caps so its a guaranteed "Three Picks".

June 26, 2020, 12:14 PM

Please don’t take this as over critical, Chad, but if you reduced the selection to non-headliners, then the three attractions you desire would not have FP. Actually, under the paper FP, only Jungle Cruise would need it, as Pirates and Mansion were fast loaders. Also, with a little planning, unless you are doing multiple days, getting FP+ selections for Pirates and Mansion can pretty much guarantee you will miss out on the headliners, as Space Mountain will have a two hour wait, as will other attractions. The criticism is with the older system or the one in use in DL, you CAN experience all you want and even get to ride several attractions multiple times in a day. With a family on a busy day, you are guaranteed to be limited with FP+ AND you had to plan out the day two months in the past. They can handle it much better to the enjoyment of their guests. Of course with current events things must change, and there is no way they can have lines not moving efficiently.

June 26, 2020, 5:48 PM

>>... you are guaranteed to be limited with FP+ AND you had to plan out the day two months in the past

But I didn't plan it a day 2 months in the past. I simply picked 3 things I didn't want to miss.

How was I "Limited"?

June 26, 2020, 11:47 PM

What he's saying is that the three attractions you picked would be easy to get on if Fastpass wasn't around. If you wanted to go on Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog, Rockin' Rollercoaster, Test Track, Frozen, or either of the Avatar rides, if you are lucky enough to get one day of you will probably select it in the morning and your time would be for late at night.

Also "Maxpass" is a shameless money grab IMO. It's like: "We're gonna sell people photopass but put Fastpass branding on it because we know a lot more people will buy it." And since people are just buying the regular Fastpass system (which, as i'm sure everyone knows, is already included with admission) they don't need a cap on how many they sell, so at $20 a pop they are reaping in huge profits and don't even have to give people any added benefit (other than Photopass which is what you're really buying). The "Maxpass-Fastpass" system is just replacing the paper ticket with a phone which is how the whole park is in Shanghai and easily be done at DLR with the flip of a switch without anyone having to pay extra for it.

June 26, 2020, 11:47 PM

Chad, the man is correct, you are limited because those selections of yours did not need fast passes with the previous system, with possibly the selection of Jungle Cruise. By being forced now to select them as a FP+, it will prohibit you from selecting others, typically attractions with long wait times meaning you will not be able to do them. It limits you. With the parade schedule and crowd patterns, Pirates and Mansion were often 15 minute waits on the busiest of days. Now they are 90.

Edited: June 27, 2020, 2:33 AM

To be fair, the_man, Maxpass removes the need to wait a minimum of 30 minutes between obtaining Fastpasses and reduces the maximum wait to 90 minutes instead of two hours. It isn't a huge benefit, but it can increase the number you're able to get in a day by a few. For a frequent visitor it's not really worth the cost, but if you're making your one trip to the resort for several years it definitely helps during busier times.

As for Fastpass+, I've only visited Walt Disney World once, but despite being during one of their slower times (late September/early October), I was unable to use more than four Fastpasses on any day of my visit (three in advance plus one day-of). I have no idea how people are able to get a dozen of them in one day without being tied to their phones constantly (something I refuse to do at a theme park), and I would much rather have a day with a loose strategy than hyperplan everything. The system is good for guaranteeing guests will be able to ride a few choice attractions on their trip, but it is more of an equalizer than an advantage.

July 11, 2020, 8:10 AM

AJ, I have said this several times. On capacity days, I can experience two or three times the number of attractions at DL than MK. The last DL visit was easily triple, and DL was a sea of people. And it was also a spur of the moment visit. No 60 day planning required.

July 27, 2020, 4:10 PM

Fast Pass at Disneyland has always been great IMO. Fast Pass at Disney World leaves me disappointed..every time. Because of fast pass at WDW, I have visited less. WDW lost some of its charm when it became a "planning intensive" vacation.

@ the_man, I really love what your perspective on this topic. To me in order to make WDW a full resort destination again this is the only way to do it. It must be a combination of many things you outline.

I like option 4 with a 5 fast pass tier.

1.) They must begin operating a lower capacities based on an aggregate of available attractions that day. Example if the average capacities of their rides at MK is 36k, They probably should limit capacity to 47 to 52k with re-entry limited to Resort Guests. This allows that parks to "NOT SHUTTER TO PARK HOPPERS" and means they can enter when capacity is available.

2.)Fast Pass PARTS A, B, & C
A:Limit Fast Pass distribution for each ride to 40% of it's total daily ride capacity. So if a ride capacity is 14400, Fast Pass is done at 5760. This means that day visitors have reasonable chance at riding the attraction in stand-by. Half of that 40% is "Day of" that is available at park opening.

B:Change the Fast Pass algorithm to specifically return guests to rides during the attractions avg low wait times. This should keep a balance of guest steady throughout the day. This will also cut down on the App/Phone usage with people constantly distracted going back and forth across the park seeking the "15 minute wait". Also, if a wait time drops significantly, shift to a virtual queue and let them know they can use the Fast Pass at an early time using an alert. Otherwise, proceed at the schedule time.

C: Change the Tier System to E, D, C, B, and A V-tickets. And allow 1 in each ticket catagory. Example: DHS
E Ticket Rise of the Resistance, Smugglers Run, Slinky Dog dash.
D Ticket Toy Story Mania, M&M RR, Tower Of Terror
C Ticket Rock N Roller Coaster. Fantasmic, Alien SS
B Ticket Star Tours, For the First Time in Forever, B & B Live On-Stage
A Ticket Lighting McQueen RA, Indiana Jones SS, Muppetvison

Edited: July 28, 2020, 9:35 AM

@leastinteresting - I think if WDW is to make any modifications to FP+, it would need to SIMPLIFY the system, not make it more complicated (increased tiers, limitations, etc...). For me, the biggest difference between MaxPass and FP+ (aside from the $15/person/day upcharge for MaxPass) is that FP+ is available on virtually every attraction in WDW, while MaxPass is only available for the most popular attractions at DL and DCA.

The widespread use of FP+ at WDW was born primarily from the 60+ day advanced reservation window used in Orlando and the need to make sure guests don't feel shut out when they are unable to score a FP+ reservation for their favorite attractions. FP+ on Little Mermaid, Dinosaur, Living with the Land, and the Indy Stunt Show are essentially consolation prizes for guests that are unable to score reservations for 7DMT, FoP, TestTrack, and SDD. Because WDW forces guests to lock in their FP+s a month or more ahead of their visit, guests that are unable to get reservations for anything may be inclined to cancel, delay, or alter their trip. The act of securing a FP+, even if it's for a ride you might not be crazy about, is a way to make your upcoming trip real and commits you to your vacation.

The question is would people cancel their trips if FP+ was only offered on a couple of attractions in each park, meaning there's a chance many guests might not have any when their window opens. The other question would be if guests would still visit if FP+ reservations were not available until you physically walked into the park (like MaxPass in California)? I think there would be a learning curve to start, but people would quickly adapt to such a system, and eventually forget the annoyance and obsessive pre-planning necessitated by the old system.

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