How much would you be willing to pay to skip the biggest lines at a Disney theme park?
Disney long has offered a free, first-come, first-served Fastpass ride reservation service at its six theme park resorts around the world. But in recent years, Disney has begun to test various schemes to allow its guests to pay to skip its standby queues, too.
Even before the start of Fastpass, fans with plenty of money to spend have been able to book VIP tours that would take them through no-wait "back doors" to top attractions. But with that perk costing hundreds of dollars per hour, VIP Tours haven't been a viable option for most Disney visitors. Instead, hard-ticket special events such as Disney After Hours or hotel-stay benefits such as Extra Magic Hours have provided a way to get on popular rides with little or no wait.
Last year, Shanghai Disneyland fought scalping of Fastpasses in that park by introducing a "Disney Premier Access" program that effectively functioned as a paid Fastpass system. Earlier this year, Disneyland Paris introduced a paid "Disney Access One" program gave people one-time Fastpass-style access to select attractions. Now Disneyland Paris is rolling out a tiered pay-for-play line-skipping system that actually uses the "Fastpass" name.
Disneyland Paris' "Super Fastpass" offers one-time, no-wait access to three designated family or three thrill-ride attractions for US$34-53 dollars, based on the date of visit, while the new "Ultimate Fastpass" gives visitors no-wait access to nine attractions at Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park. That pass costs US$68-104 for one-time access on each ride, or US$138-174 for unlimited access.
The three family rides are Ratatouille, Peter Pan, and Buzz Lightyear. The thrill rides are Hyperspace Mountain, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The final three rides included on Ultimate Fastpass are Thunder Mountain, Star Tours, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril. The paid Fastpasses are not available every day, with the lower prices charged on designated "low season" days and the more expensive price on "high season" days. You can check the dates on Disneyland Paris' website.
Disney theme park admission is required in addition to the paid Fastpass tickets. Guests staying on site at a Disneyland Paris hotel can get the unlimited Ultimate Fastpass for the price of the one-time access version. Disneyland Paris annual passholders also can get a discount on the tickets.
So is this the future of Fastpass in Disney's United States theme parks, too? Every one of Disney's major competitors offers paid front-of-line or ride reservation systems, from Universal Express to Six Flags' FlashPass and Cedar Fair's Fast Lane. Disney has used expanded access to the Fastpass system to drive reservations at its hotels in Florida and California, and Disneyland has successfully launched a paid Maxpass program that allows its visitors to manage Fastpass reservations via Disney's official park app, a feature that is complementary at Walt Disney World in Florida. Is a paid Fastpass the next step?
Disney long has insisted that free Fastpasses at its theme parks will not go away. And Disneyland Paris continues to offer its traditional, free Fastpass system in addition to the new, paid Super Fastpass and Ultimate Fastpass. But that just goes to show that a paid system can serve as an upsell to Disney's free Fastpasses instead of becoming a replacement for them.
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