What's missing from Disney's new line-skipping service?

November 12, 2023, 2:57 PM · Let's talk about one big missing piece within Disney's Genie+ line-skipping service.

In 2021, Disney introduced the free Genie and paid Genie+ services in its official Walt Disney World and Disneyland apps. Both are designed to help you get more from your visit to the Disney theme parks. The free Genie service uses AI - along with Disney's own internal wait time and usage data - to recommend when to visit attractions that it believes that you will want to experience today. The upcharge Genie+ service replaces the old Disney Fastpass service, allowing you to book return times at select, popular attractions.

Disney's old Fastpass queue are now called "Lightning Lanes," and you can see the current available Lightning Lane return times under the "Tip Board" section of the Disneyland and Walt Disney World apps. The Tip Board also shows you the current standby wait time for the park's attractions. If you tap on those standby times, the app will show you a graph that displays the attraction's estimated wait times throughout the day, to help you decide the best time to ride.

The Tip Board is a wonderful tool to use when visiting any Disney theme park in the United States. But if you are thinking about paying for the Disney Genie+ service, there is one very important piece of information that the Tip Board does not provide.

Disney Parks Lightning Lane and Standby Tip Board

Look at those Lightning Lane return times. Contrary to what that information might lead you to believe, those are not the times that you will be experiencing those attractions, should you buy Genie+ and book the Lighting Lane. It's simply the start of the one-hour window in which you can enter the Lightning Lane queue for that ride, show or experience. You have no way of knowing (from Disney) how long after you enter the queue you will have to wait for you to get into the attraction.

And that is the piece of information that fans don't have, but need, to make fully informed decisions about using Genie+ - what is the current Lightning Lane wait time?

Those waits can be significant. This week, I saw the Lightning Lane queue for Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland extend all the way to the bridge in front of the former Splash Mountain ride. People have reported waits of up to 15 minutes just to tap into the Lightning Lane, plus the time they will spend waiting in that queue to get to the attraction's load point.

Part of the delay in getting people into Lightning Lane results from Disney's continued use of antiquated barcode scanners for Lightning Lane entry. Especially at Disneyland, guests are using their phones rather than Disney's MagicBands to show that they have Lightning Lane access. But instead of seamlessly enabling easy tap-in functionality with mobile devices, Disney's apps display barcodes for guests to scan. That slows the line at Lightning Lane entry points as fans fumble to call up those codes on their screens, adding to the frustration that some fans have felt with the Genie+ program.

Many Disney fans also have reported that the Tip Board consistently overestimates the standby queue wait times. Long ago, when I worked as a cast member in Magic Kingdom Attractions and we manually posted wait times, we tried to get it right, but were taught to err on the side of estimating a long wait, so that guests would not be frustrated by waiting longer than the wait time posted. So occasionally overestimated wait times on the Tip Board would continue Disney's long tradition of trying to underpromise and overdeliver for its guests.

But some fans have accused Disney of intentionally overestimating standby wait time - and not by a little - in order to encourage people to buy Genie+ to skip those long waits. Not knowing the corresponding Lighting Lane wait times also makes it impossible for guests to judge fairly just how much time they would be saving with Genie+, which is the key piece of information a consumer needs to decide if the purchase is a good deal for them.

The way the Tip Board works now - with often inflated stand-by wait times and Lightning Lane return times that make no mention of a wait with them - helps make Genie+ look like a great deal on many days. As a result, large percentages of park guests are buying the upgrade. Of course, the more people that buy Genie+, the more people there are crowding the Lightning Lanes, extending those unadvertised Lightning Lane wait times.

This lack of information plays to Disney's advantage, at least for now. Lots of people buying Genie+ means big increases in park per-capita spending and revenue for the company, which company executives have noted in quarterly financial reports ever since Genie+ debuted. The more demand for Genie+ there is, the easier it becomes for Disney to raise its price, too, as it has consistently since its launch.

But Disney does itself no favors over the long term when it creates products that leave fans feeling frustrated, or worse, duped. Many fans complain about the cost of Genie+, but those packed, overflowing Lightning Lanes suggest that the product might actually be underpriced, given its current demand.

I think the real problem with Genie+ is not its price but rather the mismatch between what fans expect from the service and what many of them actually get. Disney can make much of that problem disappear simply by displaying current and estimated future Lightning Lane wait times along with the other attraction information on its Tip Boards. (And by publishing more accurate wait time ranges for standby queues, too.)

If that reduces demand for Lightning Lane, well, that lost demand was artificial demand created by Disney's lack of transparency. Give fans more accurate information about Lightning Lane and then Disney can see the true, well-informed level of demand for Genie+. Third-party apps are estimating this information right now, but Disney needs to be providing it directly to its would-be customers, too.

I suspect that fans who buy Genie+ with more accurate expectations for the program would be even more satisfied with their purchase, allowing for healthy growth in the program (and its prices) for years to come. And Disney will have avoided burning any more customers with an overpromised and underdelivered service.

* * *
To keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

For ticket deals, as well as our reader rankings and advice on visiting Disney and other top theme parks around the world, please visit our our Theme Park visitors guides.

Replies (14)

November 12, 2023 at 6:27 PM

"Many fans complain about the cost of Genie+, but those packed, overflowing Lightning Lanes suggest that the product might actually be underpriced, given its current demand."


I don't get all the fans who want to go back to Free Fastpass. As if that's going to make the lines magically get shorter.

November 12, 2023 at 6:35 PM

Time to rip off the band-aid: It’s time for Genie+ to be charged at $150 and above(Keep it in the same price range as every other parks’ skip the line pass). Before you say anything about how absurd this is, remember that Genie+ has had numerous price increases and guests are still willing to pay for them.

November 12, 2023 at 7:06 PM

My Lightning Lane experience at Disney World has been pretty seemless unless delayed by downtime or maintenance issues- which should be the #1 priority as their competition Universal now has Hagrid running better than Haunted Mansion.

I do think it is absurd that wait times are being exaggerated for LL sales. Like the front line employees would ever see that money for fudging the numbers.

November 12, 2023 at 9:48 PM

So I was completely ready to hate Genie+, and when I used it, I found it substantially better than Fastpass+ (but not better than the original fastpass). On a crowded day I never waited more than 30 minutes for anything, and I did not have to plan out my vacation months in advance. All that being said:

Gripes in order of annoyance: On Rise of Resistance you skip some of the best parts of the attraction. To skip the shuttle ride is insane. You pay money for a service that has you miss the biggest reveal of the ride! That is a massive, massive mistake. Second complaint is that with Epcot and AK with all the rides going down, it may not be worth it. Also, I still am not convinced that nothing is not better. Pirates and Haunted Mansion can push many, many riders through. I bet that with no line skipping service they would be 30 minutes tops. Meanwhile the lines get over an hour. Now, the original fasspass removed the fast loading attractions.

So fastpass+ I could do 6-8 attractions in a day. Original fastpass I could do 15-20 attractions and never wait more than 30 minutes on a capacity day. Genie+ 15 attractions a day easy. With Genie+ on a very busy day I rode Guardians three times and Remy twice with Remy going down for a huge chunk of the day. It is better than fastpass+, but it is flawed. Have to say the unlimited express pass is still a million times better, but UO and IoA just don’t get the sea of people that Disney does. But please don’t have me pay $15 for ILL and skip substantial parts of an attraction.

November 12, 2023 at 10:15 PM

HappyHaunt, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the shuttle transport was probably down the day you rode. I'm pretty sure the standby/Lightning Lane merge for Rise occurs right before the pre-show with Rey and BB-8.

November 13, 2023 at 12:16 AM

@James: I concur. The only time I’ve ridden RotR it was with a ILL purchase, and the only queue portion we skipped was the snaking path through the rebel base. We were funneled directly to the point right before Rey and BB-8.

November 13, 2023 at 6:07 AM

I am pretty sure I saw the standby people coming out of the shuttle, but I could be wrong. On the last trip there were several parts not functioning.

I agree that the tip board has inflated wait times. I use multiple apps that list wait times, and it always seems that the MDE is about 15 minutes over.

I also wonder what the issue is with all the attractions being down is all about. I have never seen it so significant. Between rope drop and G+ strategic use we were good.

November 13, 2023 at 10:02 AM

Couple of problems:

1. They don't know how long the lighting lane will take, because they don't know when and how many LL passes will be in the line at any time. For example, I've been in a standby line on Incredicoaster where there was no one in the LL, and the standby line was flowing like water. Then, a parade let out, and the LL became fully clogged with people, as they all came at the same time. The standby line was stopped for nearly 30 minutes while LL people filed past, and the LL went from no line to a 15+ minute line. The length of the LL really depends on how many LL pass holders approach at any given time.

2. You write that "overflowing Lightning Lanes suggest that the product might actually be underpriced, given its current demand." But the regular rules of supply and demand or price and demand don't apply at Disney. No matter how expensive you make the LL, people are going to buy it, because they only come to Disney once in a blue moon, they are already paying out the butt, and they want the full experience. This is why the horrid Halloween and other specialty nights sell out, despite being a complete rip off in terms of dollars to time spent in the park. And if you push it to something exorbitant like $150, people are going to lose their minds, and it will breed 10 times the resentment that currently exists, 100 times. People will be throwing punches if they hike the LL over $100.

3. At this point, as I recently posted, there are days where more people have purchased the LL than not, which makes the LL the primary line, and the standby line becomes a second class citizen line, where people are made to stand stock still while dozens if not hundreds of LL people parade in front of them. On some rides, like Incredicoaster, the standby line does not move until the LL is emptied out, meaning that as long as more LL people join the line, the standby line does not move. People pay big bucks for tickets, and then are treated like complete dog crap by Disney, turned into losers because they didn't pay the $30 more. You can feel the anger in line, and oftentimes by the evening people are openly, loudly griping, and beefing with the castmembers officiating the LL lines (this is lighting? etc.)

Bottom line, there is one solution that would make guests happy and ensure Disney its filthy lucre: bring back fastpass for everyone, and tack on another $30 on the price of a daily ticket. It's absurd that Disney is going to torpedo customer goodwill over $30 a head, but if they have to do it, then at least do it in a way that doesn't so obviously undermine the guest experience. As it stands now, people in both lines are pissed off, because Disney is doing them dirty.

The free fastpass worked perfectly for decades. Anyone who says we can't go back to that must not remember how well it worked for so long.

Also, @happyhaunt: with Genie+ you can only use LL once per ride, so if you're remembering using it multiple times per ride, you must be misremembering.

November 13, 2023 at 5:19 PM

I think the biggest issue with Genie+ is that guests are paying (or at Disneyland, paying more) for what is an inferior service to its predecessor. When FP+ was free (and MaxPass was $15), guests had reasonable expectations for the service that would save them some time throughout their day. However, now that guests are paying for the line skipping service, there's an expectation that they will be a significant time savings over standby, and because of that, Disney has to deliver it, which is why both the standby and LL lines move so inconsistently. That for me is the biggest issue, and even though the cost of the service is relatively minor (compared to other parks' queue avoidance systems), guests expect value.

If Disney were to continue to increase the price, I do think fewer people would use the service, especially if they maintained the single LL per attraction rule, but with that increasing price would come increasing expectations, which would essentially mean CMs would have to immediately queue LL guests at merge points without any waiting. That would make things even worse for guests who choose not to pay for the upcharge, and further disrupt what I thought was a decent compromise under the old FP+ and MaxPass systems.

November 13, 2023 at 6:55 PM

Agreed, Russell, G+ doesn't work better than fast/maxpass, it works far, far worse, for everyone. Keep in mind that even if you buy G+, you won't be using it for every ride, and there will be plenty of times you're stranded in standby, effectively being disrespected as you watch a never-ending parade of G+ people file past. At least with FP, the ratio of FP to standby was reasonable--never were you made to feel that the standby line had completely stopped. That's not the case anymore, and even a tiny standby line, only a few switchbacks long, could take 20 minutes or more if the G+ is backed up far enough.

And I agree that raising the price would have _some effect on the number of people buying it, but the effect will be far more gradual than at a place like Six Flags, where only a select few are willing to drop the big bucks for a FP.

I also continue to believe that Disney is playing with fire here, and that guests are increasingly angry about this ridiculous G+ price gouging. Disney is a luxury vacation, if you stay overnight you are paying absolute top dollar to be there, so the idea that you have to pay more per person just to avoid being treated like a second-class citizen is particularly galling. This ain't a discount airline charging you to bring a carry-on; this is the Ritz Carlton telling you you can't have drinks in the lobby unless you pay an additional fee.

Bring up G+ when you're in line, and most everyone around you is more than ready to chime in with their dissatisfaction, irrespective of which line they're in. Say something to a cast member and watch how instantly defensive they get--they're hearing these complaints A LOT.

November 14, 2023 at 6:55 AM

Colonel, if my post said I did multiple LLs in a day, please chalk that up to poor writing on my part. The last time at DHS we rope dropped RoR, used the ILL, and then standby. It was the ILL where we were shuttled directly in the hanger and saw people getting out of the shuttle. Seems based on the comments that that is not a common thing.

Anyway, I really wonder what overall wait times would be if they just dropped all line skipping completely. My guess is many attractions would see a much lower wait, but slow loaders like the coasters would substantially increase.

My preference of all the Disney systems would be original FP, no system at all, Genie+, followed by FP+ in last place. Of course Unlimited Express Pass at Universal beats them all.

I will also say that the newer attractions at WDW are very impressive. Remy, GOTG, and Tron were all great. That being said the overall parks have not shaken the pandemic cobwebs. I monitor wait times year round (even when I am not there), and really wonder what the cause for all the downtimes are?

November 14, 2023 at 10:43 AM

"Anyway, I really wonder what overall wait times would be if they just dropped all line skipping completely."

We experienced that over the quarantine, and while crowds were obviously smaller, it was pretty obvious that everyone rides more quickly if you drop all line skipping.

November 14, 2023 at 11:04 AM

Surely there has to be some industrial engineering study on it. My suspicion is that the average overall wait would drop on all but the newest attractions and those would skyrocket, but it would only be 5-6 attractions in all of WDW. What would be smart would be to have a discounted day at MK with standby only to see how it shakes out. All that being said, Genie+ is a cash cow, so that is about as unlikely as them bringing back the Star Wars hotel. Unfortunately the pandemic showed them that they can charge more and offer less.

November 15, 2023 at 4:04 PM

Unpopular Opinion: Get rid of Lightning Lane and make it a pay per use adjustable price Express Lanes.

When you get to the entrance of the ride, there will be two lanes, both with wait times. You will tape Disney will use some fancy math to adjust the prices so that the wait time of the express lane is always five minutes.

If you live in a large city, your interstate highways may already do this. Examples I can think of are Miami, Orlando, Washington, Huston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Seattle, and more.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive