How Bob Iger Can Fix Disney's Broken Lightning Lanes

November 21, 2022, 10:14 PM · With Bob Iger back as The Walt Disney Company's CEO, many Disney Parks fans are looking to him to fix all that they see as ailing in the parks.

But Disney's board did not bring back Iger to focus on the parks, which have been earning record revenue this year. On his first day back today, Iger instead has been working on the other half of Disney - the Media and Entertainment Distribution segment, where Iger showed Chairman Kareem Daniel the door and promised a reorganization.

That won't stop fans from shipping Iger and changes at the parks. In that spirit, I offer a solution from another Robert (i.e., me) for how Disney can address one of the divisive changes made under former CEO Bob Chapek's watch - the switch from free Fastpass to paid Lightning Lane.

Let's start with the name. Or rather, names. Disney has three product names now for what used to be covered by the single brand "Fastpass":

Here's my solution: Ditch Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane. In their place will be a new product, simply called "Lightning Lane."

Buying Lightning Lane will give a Disney Parks guest one-time access to each Lightning Lane queue that day. The price should vary by date and whether you are adding Lightning Lane to a One-Park or Park-Hopper ticket. (Adding Lightning Lane to a Park Hopper should cost more, since it would give you access to more Lightning Lanes.) The price of adding Lightning Lane to a One-Park ticket also could vary by the park it's being used for, if Disney felt that necessary to manage demand.

The number of Lightning Lanes sold each day should be capped at no more than the 10% of the park's attendance for the day. Here's why: Running a separate queue for Lightning Lane creates inherent operational challenges. The more people in a Lightning Lane, the longer the regular queue backs up. Blending the two queues to minimize wait times for both can be tough for inexperienced ops personnel to manage, and if the blend point stands too close to load, interrupting the smooth flow of guests onto the ride can hurt capacity, inflating waits for everyone while also raising the risk of downtime on some rides. [See Why you have to be 40 inches tall to ride Disney's Big Thunder Mountain for an explanation of "cascade stop" downtimes.]

Disney already faces operational challenges due to rising number of guests using ECVs when visiting the parks. Many modern attractions include dedicated, off-circuit load stations for guests using ECVs and wheelchairs, but on older attractions, guests who take too long to board or transfer can force ops to have to slow or stop a ride, or worse, trigger a cascade downtime when their ride vehicle cannot clear the load station in time for returning vehicles.

Only increased use of off-circuit loading for attractions can solve that problem, but until then, Disney needs to do whatever it can to minimize other guest-initiated downtimes. Minimizing the number of guests using Lightning Lane might help keep the queues flowing well.

Chapek has said that half of Disney World guests were buying Disney Genie+ on peak days, so a 10% cap would represent a sharp reduction in the number of guests using Lightning Lanes. Yes, that means Disney will need to charge a lot more to keep the distribution of Lightning Lane from becoming yet another frustrating morning lottery.

Every other park in the industry is charging far more than Disney for their line-skipping passes, and it's time to for Disney to catch up with the market. Therefore, I suggest that the price for my revamped Lightning Lane product range up to around the price of a one-day, one-park ticket (or one-day Park Hopper, if a guest is adding Lightning Lane to a Park Hopper ticket). Ultimately, Disney should price Lightning Lane to sell out consistently about an hour or two into each day - priced high enough not to sell out immediately, but low enough so that it does sell out during the day.

A premium-price Lightning Lane that serves a much smaller percentage of guests should protect Disney's per capita in-park guest spending numbers while resulting in lower standby wait times and (hopefully) fewer downtimes for all guests. Reducing the number of guests using Lightning Lane also will help the service deliver real value for the guests who end up paying for it. And using one brand name for this product should help reduce confusion and set more reasonable expectations for it among guests, which in turn should help alleviate much of the frustration that the current system is causing.

As much as I would love to return to the days before line-skipping passes, they have proven too lucrative a source of income for parks to abandon them. But minimizing the number of people using these passes is essential to preserve the quality of experience for those guests who do not buy them. Until parks start scheduling days like cruise lines, with assigned times for all experiences during the day (please, no), finding the right load balance for pricing and assigning line-skip passes will remain a leading challenge for theme park managers.

I think my Lightning Lane proposal would fix almost all of the issues with Disney's current system. What would you like to see the company do?

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Replies (27)

November 21, 2022 at 10:33 PM

This is essentially the system currently being used at Disneyland Paris, with the added tweak that each attraction is also priced individually, so you don't have to buy the entire bundle if you're only looking to skip the line on a couple major attractions. I think this is a way more equitable and reasonable product than the current Genie+, which is an operational disaster that leaves everyone feeling ripped off and confused. Along with binning the reservation system, it's an easy fix for Iger to make and one that should come along shortly after the new year.

November 21, 2022 at 11:21 PM

The wait times have always been the albatross and I agree it needs to be fixed. No sense in paying over $10,000 for a vacation when you can’t even experience what you want to, but I suspect there is a much larger problem: the ignoring or outright abandonment of 20th Century Fox. Disney needs Disney+, but they also have a treasure trove of films needing restoration and release on physical media (which is diminishing). However, there is a market for this. The theory of the vault is outdated and past its usefulness. They also need to stop listening to the very loud and vocal minority. I am talking about the Star Wars fans. My goodness, there was no need to react to the point of releasing Rise of Skywalker and then decide to announce and then cancel film after film. Get a talented director and crew and let them at it. By the way, Andor is beyond amazing. Let them take a stab at a theatrical feature. Back to Fox. They aren’t exactly known for their franchises. Alien is about it, but Searchlight released profitable films left and right.

As to the parks they will always be crowded. What they used to be known for is the single best customer service on the planet. They need to get back to that. The question does not need to be how can we track guests to make more money, the question should be how can we track guests to make their experience the best it can be for them. As it stands, I have pulled away from the parks since it is such an incredible hassle to visit. A vacation should be just that. A vacation. Not some algorithm placing me here and there.

November 22, 2022 at 12:33 AM

Nope. If you think people are angry now, just wait until only Richie Rich can afford the pass and we're having to watch his rich butt swan past us in line. I don't care how much you charge, there will always be more demand than availability, at Disneyland especially, so it will instantly turn into a bloodbath. I'll wrestle a kindly old grandmother to the ground and spit in Ghandi's eye before they cut in front of my kids in line. 100% absolutely not, this isn't Six Flags, this is Disney where things are meant to be egalitarian.

How about this: go back to the old fastpass system, except now everyone has to purchase the maxpass. That worked great! And you could ride the same ride multiple times. There aren't any more people in the park than there used to be, why not just go back to the old system that worked and didn't incite class warfare??? The old system worked great, just monetize THAT.

November 22, 2022 at 4:21 AM

I've long said that the Flash Pass offered by Six Flags is the best skip the line system in the industry overall, so I'd rework Lightning Lane to operate more similarly to that. Here's how it'd go...

1. Instead of being offered at all attractions, Lightning Lane would only be offered on the attractions that typically see the highest wait times, namely those that regularly post waits over 45 minutes. Specifically, I'd propose the following list...

Disneyland: Falcon, Indy, Mansion, Matterhorn, Roger Rabbit, ROTR*, Space, Splash, Thunder
DCA: Goofy's, Grizzly, Guardians, Incredicoaster, Monsters, Racers*, Soarin', TSMM, Web-Slingers
MK: Buzz, Jungle Cruise*, Mansion, Peter Pan*, Pirates, Princess Fairytale Hall, Seven Dwarfs*, Space, Splash, Thunder, Town Square Theater
Epcot: Frozen*, Soarin', Remy*, Test Track*
DHS: ASS, Falcon*, Red Carpet Dreams, Rise*, RNRC*, Runaway Railway, Slinky*, Tower*, TSMM
DAK: Adventurers Outpost, Flight of Passage*, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Na'vi River Journey*

The asterisks indicate what we'll call premium attractions. Those are the ones in exceptionally high demand (i.e. 90+ minute wait times on average), and they'd have slightly different rules.

2. Three levels of Lightning Lane are available for purchase, each with different perks. In order to purchase, guests must have entered the park of their choice. Prices would vary by day, but would not be dynamic.

-Lightning Lane Standard: Allows for access to the Lightning Lane after a wait time equal to the posted wait (i.e. if it's posted 60 minutes, the return time will be in one hour). Standard is valid for one reservation at all premium attractions and unlimited reservations on other included attractions. This would be priced starting at $50 for DAK and Epcot and $80 for the other parks. There would be no cap on this tier...everyone in the park could buy in if they wished.
-Lightning Lane Plus: Allows for access to the Lightning Lane after a wait time equal to half the posted wait (i.e. if it's posted 60 minutes, the return time will be in a half-hour). Plus is valid for unlimited reservations on all included attractions, but guests are required to wait the full posted length for re-rides on premium attractions. This would be priced starting at $70 for DAK and Epcot and $100 for the other parks. This tier would be capped at 10% of the park's capacity (i.e. if the capacity is 50,000, 5,000 guests may purchase Lightning Lane Plus each day).
-Lightning Lane Instant: Allows for immediate access to the Lighting Lane of any eligible attraction. Instant is valid for unlimited reservations on all included attractions, but guests are required to wait half the posted wait for re-rides on premium attractions and may not reserve the same attraction consecutively. This would be priced starting at $100 for DAK and Epcot and $200 for the other parks. This tier would be capped at 1% of the park's capacity (i.e. if the capacity is 50,000, 500 guests may purchase Lightning Lane Instant each day).

3. For all tiers, guests would be required to reserve a ride through the mobile app and would be given a return time. Once the return time arrives, they can go to the ride and enter the Lightning Lane, which would be merged in at a 10:1 ratio when both queues are backed up. Instead of a window, their return is valid indefinitely, but they cannot reserve another attraction until they have checked in at the ride. If a guest no longer wish to ride an attraction they're waiting for, they can opt to cancel the reservation and reserve something else. Guests cannot reserve an attraction that is currently down, but if they reserved it before the queue was closed their reservation time is still valid (though they cannot start queuing for another ride if it's still down when their time arrives unless they cancel the reservation).

4. Provided there is sufficient space, it is always possible for a guest to upgrade from a lower tier to a higher tier by paying the difference in cost. The price is not pro-rated, so a guest upgrading later in the day would still be required to pay full price. It is not possible to downgrade if a guest purchases a higher tier and finds lines are shorter than they expected.

5. Lightning Lane access is sold per park. Those with a Park Hopper ticket may purchase it for just one park or for multiple parks on the same day, but there is no discount on the price. Different tiers may be purchased for each park, and those purchasing for multiple parks may hold a reservation at each park simultaneously.

6. Those with APs would have the option to buy a year-long Lightning Lane for ~$300 for Standard and ~$500 for Plus (no year-long option for instant). This would grant them Lightning Lane at their first park of entry. If they wish to use Lightning Lane at multiple parks, they'll be required to buy it for the second park at that day's rates. In the event a passholder with Lighting Lane Plus arrives after that tier is sold out at their chosen park for the day, they will instead be granted Standard for all parks that day.

November 22, 2022 at 8:12 AM

There are many in the DIStelligentsia who are claiming Iger will bring about the destruction of Genie+ and the resurrection of the old FastPass+/MaxPass system. But I don't think Genie+ can go back into its bottle--it's far too profitable for DPEP. Perhaps the paid front-of-line experience can be revamped in some fashion. There have been great, insightful suggestions above, but I'll add my 2 cents.

First, it's important to realize, depending on crowd size and guest mix purchasing Genie+, that Genie+ offers no guarantee a ride will have an available timeslot. In the past, Disney has advertised Genie+ as enabling guests to book around 2-3 reservations per day. At the old fixed price of $15/guest/day, that's around $5 per reservation. If guests purchase Genie+ for a particular attraction that sells out quickly (eg: SDD), guests may be forced to book other lower-priority attractions out of necessity ("We already spent the money, so it would be a waste not to use it"). This can create somewhat of a gap between the supply of available reservation times & actual demand. Demand is essentially inflated because guests want to get their money's worth.

The value proposition of Genie+ can also be ambiguous for guests. You aren't "paying for FastPass" like so many claim. You're paying for access to the FastPass reservation system. Adding Individual Lightning Lane to the mix further complicates the guest experience and understanding.

Here's my solution: Extend Individual Lightning Lane to every attraction. Gut Genie+ entirely. If a family wants to pay $15/person just to ride SDD let them. Not only could Disney variably price each attraction every day, they could also variably price the specific reservation times. Many guests want to do RotR in the morning to get it out of the way or to avoid risking a breakdown? 9am ILLs will be slightly more expensive than ILLs later in the day.

Disney has often sought to influence guest behavior, driving guests away from high-demand, lower capacity attractions at peak times. Intra-day pricing may help alleviate the Lightning Lane crunch during crowded periods. Disney gets better capacity management and guests get a quicker, better Lightning Lane experience (provided Disney manages the supply of return times properly).

This would also grant a more concrete value proposition: You are paying for the Lightning Lane for a specific attraction at a particular time.

November 22, 2022 at 8:23 AM

I'm not sure there's really much that can be done right now about Genie/Genie+/ILL. As Robert noted, the cat's out of the bag in regards to Disney monetizing their line-cutting service, so migrating back to a free service is pretty much a no-go.

While I do think there's some merit to rebranding the service to eliminate some of the confusion, it won't change the way the system works. I really think the original rebranding away from FastPass was a mistake of epic proportion. FastPass was universally understood and had essentially became the "Xerox" or "Kleenex" of the industry, yet Disney felt the need to change the names as a way to clearly differentiate it from the previously free service. However, the confusion created by the rebranding made things even more confusing, and I wouldn't be surprised if Disney had just kept the FP branding and started charging for it, there would have been a far higher percentage of adopters.

In fact, I think Disney needs to change the way they sell Genie+ (or if they want to go back to the FP/FP+/MaxPass branding), and treat it like a true upcharge that is bought when you purchase your admission, just like park hopping. As more and more people purchase the line-skipping upgrade, the more expensive it would become until it sells out. Disney could even manage cost and distribution of the line-skipping service even without requiring park reservations by setting resort-wide limits on sales.

I agree with AJ that the system Six Flags uses is the most efficient and most effectively monetizes a line skipping service, but I think it's far too complex for Disney parks and their typical guests. Genie+/ILL has proven to e far too complex, and while some of that is attributable to the awkward branding, I think the K.I.S.S. method needs to be applied, not using a system that's even more complex, convoluted, and tiered.

Disney is in a bit of a no-win situation, because they have guests clamoring for a return to the free (included with admission) FP system, but they can't afford to discard the immense (free) revenues generated from Genie+/ILL. There isn't a solution that can please both sides, so sadly, I think the system will languish in its current ineffective (though profitable) state while Iger has bigger fish to fry.

November 22, 2022 at 9:18 AM

As a local, the best times we've had in the last 18-24 months were the in-between Fastpass+ & Genie+ period, when all we had was the standby line. It was great.

Of course, I would love Fastpass+ to return, but I'm a realist and know that's very unlikely to happen.

ILL continues to be very popular, as can be seen every time I go on Guardians, so I can't see that disappearing.

November 22, 2022 at 9:45 AM

Pretty much every Disney attraction since Everest only has about 40 min of queue if it’s stand by only. They were designed to rely on 80% FP riders so if the stand by ratio increases they don’t have a lot of physical space to put people.

The Touring Plans rip off Genie was a Chapek idea, so I think that gets completely dumped and Genie+ gets rebranded to a different paid skip the line product.

November 22, 2022 at 11:14 AM

Lets not forget the Disney Parks just had their best quarter ever and paid FP has been in the worlds since the mid 2010s when Iger was still in charge. The Disneyland Maxpass expirment was just that, an experiment to see how it would sell in advance of Genie+. I don't think any of this is keeping Bob Iger up at night, he is thinking about how to make better content and make Disney+ profitable.

November 22, 2022 at 11:25 AM

At this point, with free fastpasses no longer being an option to return, I'd rather Disney just go for the one dynamic-priced skip the line pass like Universal Express and priced in such a way it triples the price of a ticket. The higher priced, the better. That way fewer people would use it, thus making it more equitable for us poor folk. I'm used to dealing with that at Universal Orlando anyway. We rope drop and hit all the major rides before noon. That's about the time the rich guests stroll in after sleeping in at the Hard Rock or Royal Pacific with their "free" express passes (and I use quotes around "free" because you are paying for those to stay at a premium hotel) and go to the front of the lines.

November 22, 2022 at 12:31 PM

The problem with that Twobits is that the price of such a system at Disney parks would have to be exceptionally prohibitive (think $150 or more per person per day) to make it work. Again, people are going into significant debt to visit WDW (and to a lesser extend Disneyland/DCA), so even doubling the cost to visit will not significantly impact demand for an upcharge line skipping service. Guests who are all in on Genie+/ILL are already paying somewhere between $50-70/day when they max out the services ($15-20 for Genie+ with another $15-25 for the maximum of 2 ILLs available per day, assuming no park hopping), so even bumping up to over $100/day probably won't reduce demand enough to make it work - i.e. reduce LL/ILL lines so guests are not frustrated by >15 minute waits for the paid service which is somewhat common right now.

Since Chapek touted nearly 50% of guests were using Genie+/ILL in some capacity, I would expect that if you were to sell a 1-time queue avoidance system like Universal Express (be it 1 time per ride or unlimited), it would need to be priced at or above the cost of an admission (similar to the price point for UE). That would mean $150+ per person per day for Disney to keep current revenues stable while still giving guests decent value for the service, i.e. reasonably short lines.

FYI, the Universal Express perk for guests staying at Deluxe Universal Resorts is an unmatched value in the industry. As an example, we paid a bit over $500 for our 1 night at Royal Pacific last month (nearly triple the cost of our night at Dockside), but we received Unlimited Universal Express for 2 DAYS at the parks, which would have cost nearly $700 for our family of 3. FWIW, we still rope dropped the parks too, primarily because that's the only way to get on Velocicoaster and Hagrid's with minimal lines since they are not included with UE. "Rich guests" aren't the only ones staying at the Universal Deluxe hotels, "smart guests" are too.

November 22, 2022 at 12:59 PM

Any immediate changes to park operations feels like a pipe dream. A strong argument can be made to do nothing. The parks are rocking it right now, there is no reason to change anything. If Disney waits until park attendance starts to fall they could use a change like this to incentivize visits. I can't say I'm a fan of this approach, just seems like the most realistic outcome right now..

I would like to see Disney return to a culture of creativity, and the moves in the Media division are a great start. Next up is bringing profitability to Disney+ to mitigate the risk of ops cuts at the parks, and free up funds for new projects in the parks. I want to see Disney announce multiple attraction and 'new land' projects in the next 18 months. I'm not getting my hopes up for any in park ops changes.

As for Genie+, agree with rebranding. Cool with higher prices for an improved experience. With the way I plan & implement park days, I would welcome an option to purchase LL for more individual attractions, with variable rates based on demand. Something like $3-7 for a 45-60min wait for non-premium rides would be cool. The ILL model works great for me. It would also be cool if they did packages, like 3 LL where you could choose your attractions and return times before paying. I don't mind paying more for an improved experience, I just hate the uncertainty, constant return time checking, & luck involved with the current Genie+. It's exhausting

November 22, 2022 at 1:03 PM

if they're making decent additional revenue off Genie+/Lightning Lane (i've never really understood the difference between the 2), they ain't going back to free.

November 22, 2022 at 1:36 PM

Russell, after seeing what a UE pass can cost (more than what it costs to enter the park on some days), I edited my post to Disney charging triple the price of admission, but looks like you may have already been typing your response.

I'm sure Disney employs a number of mathematicians and analysts to figure out how to maximize their revenue. With the cost of G+ increasing ($29 was reported the price for yesterday), Disney is still looking for that sweet spot that maximizes revenue. With G+ not going anywhere anytime soon, that price will certainly go higher the rest of the year (I'm predicting at least $40 during the week of Christmas/New Year's Day).

As for that $500 a night room at Universal: This past summer my family stayed in a 3 bedroom, 3 bath condo for $900 for the entire week. We didn't have Universal Express, but did have early entry by going through a travel agent to get our Universal tickets. I will still contend very little is free at the Orlando parks' resorts and you pay for perks, but that's my way of thinking, and I know not everyone feels the same way.

November 22, 2022 at 1:41 PM

The real issue is the feeling of nickel and diming. Disney World excelled at bundling and hiding fees while doing so—which led to incremental revenue during a trip without customers realizing. Think Magical Express, FastPass, early/late hours, hotel parking, and dining plan. Those had costs, but we’re hidden in vacation packages. Then on the trip, guests felt ok adding some extras (alcohol, another souvenir), cause think of all the free stuff!

That’s what a premium brand does. Like Delta, #1 in service and profit. It leads consumers to love a brand, and pay extra for it. Stuff is included, like a seat and food.

Instead Chapek (and Amaro) decided to take the Spirit Airlines model instead. And because of the built up goodwill of being a beloved brand, it worked for a while. Yet now it’s starting to chafe the same way Spirit does when that cheap flight suddenly is much more than you planned.

So the marching order to Amaro should be to figure out how to bundle and hide fees again. Package things back up, and end the narrative about price. (As much as I hate to say it, as the dining plan is the worst as all menus are then lowest common denominator.)

November 22, 2022 at 2:03 PM

I've been hoping and saying this for years about Disney. All I want is an express pass like Universal. You pay for it and then you get to go on any ride without reserving. Charge whatever the hell you want and it will sell regardless. If you cap it at a reasonable amount of people this might actually reduce the overall waits on some of the big rides anyways. This is pretty much the only thing that will get me back through the turnstiles of a Disney park. I want to enjoy my vacation and not spend my entire time stressing out over my phone trying to book stuff.

November 22, 2022 at 4:45 PM

People keep saying Disney should make the skip-the-line pass really expensive, so it will drive down the people who purchase it, but for people coming to Disney from out of town, there is no limit to what they will spend. You'll end up with nearly as many people buying the pass, but now everyone is even MORE ticked off because they are charging us more for something that was free, and worked better than it was.

Just up the price of every ticket by $20 and bring back the fastpass/maxpass exactly as they work, they worked like a champ, especially if you knew what you knew what you were doing.

November 22, 2022 at 7:39 PM

Good lord, endless paragraphs of how to make it simpler loses the plot !

November 23, 2022 at 9:49 AM

@thecolonel - It's not just about making it more expensive, it's also about limiting the quantity available each day. The increased price allows Disney to maintain revenue, while limiting the number sold makes the service more effective/valuable. It would probably take some time for Disney to find the right balance between price and quantity, but once they have that figured out, it will benefit all guests, not just those who are willing to buy the skip-the-line passes. Making a skip-the-line system that is more exclusive would reduce the impact to those not willing to pay the upcharge while also reducing lines for those who do buy it since fewer people would be crowding the FP/LL queues.

November 23, 2022 at 9:57 AM

Great analogy, Joseph Smith.

I would like to see the FP+/Maxpass system return, too, Colonel, but it just isn’t happening. Our best hope as park goers is to have the new management find ways to improve the guest experience with the new system.

There is a limit to the price guests will pay. If there was not, every guest would hire a private guide to take them to the front of every line as Disney offers now. But every family (or group) is not willing to pay $400+ per hour (plus ticket price) to do that. The magic number to improve the experience for all guests while allowing Disney to profit even more than they are now is somewhere in the middle of $15 per person per day and $400 per hour.

November 23, 2022 at 11:14 AM

@TwoBits -- Disney does not have front of line VIP tours. The tours only take you to the "fastpass" lane so you still have to wait in line. I've called and looked into it and for us it wasn't worth the price since you don't actually skip the line and you don't have parking, or any food included. With Universal's tour you actually get valet parking, and lunch / dinner depending on which tour you get. Plus you get real front of line access by going through the exit of the rides. If Disney did have a real VIP tour we probably would have tried one by now since it would at least avoid having to book everything in advance!

November 23, 2022 at 11:15 AM

WHY can't they bring back FP+/Maxpass? @Russell, you say they need to limit the number of passes each day--why? EVERYONE had access to FP before, and it worked great. The crowds aren't bigger than they were before, so assuming Disney could figure out a way to squeeze the cash out of people, why can't we go back to the system where everyone wins?

Disney is too expensive for only some people to enjoy the right to skip line. Charging more and more will only increase anger and resentment. We need a system where everyone can play, or not at all.

November 23, 2022 at 11:47 AM

FP+ was free pre-covid, but as a local passholder, if they brought back FP+ exactly as it was prior to covid, but had it as an add on (as photopass is now) I'd pay the upcharge. Now a lot would depend on the cost, but anything reasonable (yes, I know) I'd give it serious consideration.

November 23, 2022 at 12:59 PM

@thecolonel - Yes, everyone had access to FP+/MaxPass before, but not everyone used it, and there were still limitations. At WDW, if you didn't log on 60 days before your visit, you almost certainly weren't getting a FP for the top attraction in each park. At DL, you could still work the paper FP system or pay extra for MaxPass and run laps around guests who didn't pay the upcharge, but even then you had limitations.

I LOVED the old systems on both coasts, primarily because I was willing to do the work to maximize their value - in effect I was "paying" for a line skipping service, but instead of paying for it with money, I was doing so with my time not only in researching how the systems work but also devoting time while in the parks to maximize the systems to their fullest potential (i.e. staring at my phone constantly).

However, Disney has let the cat out of the bag by profiting from Genie+/ILL, and cannot in any way step away from that previously untapped revenue. While it's simple to say Disney can just raise the cost of admission to include Genie+ (or whatever you want to call it), that would dramatically change the division's balance sheet by shifting what is now itemized as an "in-park purchase" to "admission". It's not a simple wave of the magic wand, especially since Chapek highlighted the new-found revenue to shareholders, who would not look kindly upon the company for walking way from those bags of free cash.

While accountants would be the first barrier to rolling back to a FP+?MaxPass-like system included with admission, the other one is more fundamental. I strongly feel that the second biggest reason Disney migrated to Genie+ was that it significantly limited guests' exploitation of the service. Over the course of the past 25 years, it's been a literal cat and Mouse game between the parks establishing rules and guests finding loopholes and ways to exploit those rules. There are hundreds of internet forums dedicated to park operations and rules, and how to exploit them to save money. Every time Disney has come up with an in-park system/procedure, guests eventually find a way around it, and the same was true with the constant evolution of FP/FP+/MaxPass. Because Genie+/ILL is a 1-time-per-ride service, it eliminates many of the loopholes guests were exploiting with FP, and has more effectively leveled the playing field than any previous system. There are very few "tricks" when using Genie+ to give yourself a significant leg up on other guests, which is something I believe Disney really wanted when they developed the system after pandemic capacity restrictions were eased. Disney markets heavily to tourists, but when those guests coming for their first visit are always getting beat to the punch by guests who are on their 100th visit, it hurts Disney's chances of converting those first time guests into long term fans and repeat visitors (Disney doesn't have to do anything to get a person coming for their 100th visit to return for a 101st time). FP+/MaxPass was heavily weighted to the experienced user, while Genie+ is a dumbed-down version that is virtually impossible to extract more than 5 LLs out of in a single day (and even then you're talking about skipping a 15 minute line on a D-ticket ride/show for that 5th LL).

Disney simply can't put this toothpaste back into the tube, even though many of us experienced visitors would love to see it happen because it would once again give us a leg up. Trust me, our most recent visit to EPCOT last month was borderline disastrous in terms of the number of rides and attraction we experienced (we did not buy Genie+ and had a hiccup riding GoTG:CR due to a shutdown), and we would have easily tripled our ride count had the park still been using FP+. However that is what Disney wants, by normalizing the park experience for EVERYONE instead of having a savvy few zipping around the park riding everything through FP/LL, while a majority are wallowing in standby lines (unless of course Disney is directly profiting from those few). Personally, I think knowledge should be power, but we live in a world of "lowest common denominator", so the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few.

November 23, 2022 at 1:56 PM

Disney wants to monetize the fast pass system, and I don't think they will reverse course on that. But the new system is way too complicated, unwieldly and full of bugs. So why not simply go back to FP+ and charge money for it?

November 25, 2022 at 12:45 PM

That's a great explanation @Russell, thank you. Before pandemic, however, when it was FP/Maxpass, I didn't hear that many people complaining, because while you're right, savvy park-goers could game the system, the lines were still nowhere near like they are now. That is, even if you were a noob and couldn't capitalize on the quirks in the system to your advantage, there was nothing like the sh*tshow that Genie+ has caused, with both standby and Genie+ lines down the block. Even the noobs were happier with the old system.

And consider this: if the reason for not going back to FP is to keep things fair, keep things egalitarian, then how is the new system better? If you don't pay Genie+ now, you're more screwed than ever. And if they jack up the Genie+ price to $100, then class-based resentment will go through the roof.


Indeed, I would argue the quickest route to making everyone happy would be to revert to the old system, where I never heard any of this bellyaching (to be fair, FP noobs didn't even know what they were missing). As it stands now, everyone is unhappy across the entire spectrum of park-goers, and if you charge more for G+ it's going to get even worse.

November 27, 2022 at 12:14 PM

I’m surprised that nobody’s suggested the easiest solution to the FastPass/Genie+/ILL program: Eliminate it entirely and put everyone back in a stand-by line. Hey, it worked for the first 34 years the parks were in business, but that may have been solely because we had no other option as guests. But, yeah, I know - there’s no way Disney would ever consider giving up that revenue stream…

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