One of the most common queries we receive at ModernLifeisGood is when will FastPass+ and the Disney Dining Plan return to Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is we don’t know. We suspect the Disney Dining Plan may return this summer, but for FastPass+, the situation appears more complex. Perhaps, the question should even be, “Will FastPass+ return to Walt Disney World?” In this post, we look at why FastPass+ might not return to Walt Disney World.
The official position on FastPass+
The official statement on the future of FastPass+ is:-
As a result of the COVID-19 impact on operations, the FastPass+ service is suspended for the time being. FastPass+ service is not offered with the purchase of tickets or annual passes. We will share future updates at a later date.disneyworld.com
This statement was released before the resort’s reopening but hasn’t been updated since. The suggestion from this statement is that FastPass+ will be returning, but Disney has a history of flexibly interpreting “suspended.” Before the resort reopening, Extra Magic Hours was allegedly suspended. However, the status has now changed, and Extra Magic Hours will not be returning. Could FastPass+ be facing the same fate?
FastPass+ a mixed history
It has been widely published that FastPass+ has not been the success Disney was hoping for. The service regularly gets mixed reviews from guests and has removed a lot of vacation spontaneity. The need to start booking ride reservations months before you visit has become part of the Walt Disney World Vacation planning ritual. Worse, still poorly informed first-time visitors often miss out on riding any of the big E-Ticket attractions. The effect on standby waits has been noticeable, and by increasing the number of FastPass+ reservations available in peak periods, those standby waits get even longer. This increase has been most noticeable on attractions that previously never required FastPass.
Interestingly, according to this post, FastPass+ reduces the maximum number of guests allowed in the park. I’m not sure how accurate this information is as Disney never releases information on park capacity. Having been in the Magic Kingdom on a capacity day, it isn’t easy to imagine the park fitting in even more guests. However, it is interesting if FastPass+ has reduced the maximum number of guests allowed into each park. Based on mixed popularity and the potential to make more income by removing it, you might wonder why FastPass+ has existed for so long.
It is complicated to admit a $1 billion error! FastPass+ was part of the MyMagic+ concept introduced by former Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Thomas Staggs. While the initial reception for the new service, including MagicBands, was popular, it is noticeable the service has not been introduced to other resorts. The development of smart technology was not anticipated when MyMagic+ was conceptualized, and the upcoming MagicMobile will negate the need for MagicBands.
Criticism of the MyMagic+ service has increased over recent years, and despite rumors of change, nothing concrete has been announced. Disney Genie was announced in 2019, and although details were sparse, it likely would have altered the use of FastPass+. Disney promoted that you would be able to tell Disney Genie what you’d like to experience, and it will quickly evaluate millions of options to present you with an optimal day. It was rumored, but not confirmed, that Disney Genie would include an element of upselling. Since the original announcements, there has been no further mention of progress on Disney Genie.
Alternatives to FastPass+
Disney has a black hole in its finance and will need to make additional income. Why continue with a service that has mixed reviews when it could become a source of additional income? Disney has previously trialed some paid FastPass+ for guests staying in Club Level rooms. However, it has done this at a much larger level at other resorts. Disneyland’s MaxPass, despite costing $20 a day, has been universally popular. Guests at Disneyland still have the option of choosing traditional paper fastpasses but can pay extra for the premium service. At Paris and Shanghai, guests have the option of paying a premium price for access to select rides.
Perhaps, a more interesting proposal is Express Pass at Universal Orlando. Express Pass starts at $90 but can rise to $300 a day, allowing guests rapid access to all the rides at the resort. Universal does not tell us how many Express Passes are available each day, but we suspect it raises a large sum of money.
Guests staying at Universal’s top hotels receive an Express Pass as part of their package, and we could see Disney doing something similar, and if they do, expect resort costs to rise! Perhaps, unlimited FastPass for Deluxe Resorts, 5 FastPass a day at Moderate Resorts, and 3 FastPass for Value Resorts? Perhaps, offsite guests will return to the old-style system of 1 FastPass on demand, but using My Disney Experience rather than paper tickets? Offsite guests will, of course, have the option of paying for a FastPass upgrade.
We suspect some form of paid FastPass is inevitable and would provide a huge additional park income. Although views on FastPass+ are mixed, replacing it with a paid system would inevitably be controversial. However, the suspension probably has made that difficulty much easier to address. I can predict Disney will explain it as a way to improve crowd management in the post-covid world.
When do we suspect FastPass+ will return to Walt Disney World?
We suspect July or October is the likely date for a reintroduction of FastPass at Walt Disney World. The date will be influenced by infection rates, vaccination progress, and social distancing requirements. While it is certainly possible that FastPass+ will be reintroduced as it was prior to the pandemic we increasingly suspect this will be unlikely. Expect some form of paid FastPass will be introduced at the same time.
To learn more about Walt Disney World visit our 2021 Guide to Walt Disney World.
This Guide is part of our “Road to 2021 at Walt Disney World” series. Check out the rest of the guides for the latest information.