As you may be aware, this website collects and stores wait times at every Walt Disney World attraction in five minute intervals all day, every day. These wait times are used in a variety of ways. Most importantly, the crowd calendar relies on this “data” to identify crowd patterns and overall crowd levels. From there, the wait times are the basis for the Cheat Sheets, which include wait times based on crowd level and time of day:
This shows the wait times at Pirates of the Caribbean every five minutes between 3:20pm and 5:15pm on March 5th. To get an idea about the amount of data we’re talking about, you can take a look at this 416 page PDF file that lists wait times at just the Magic Kingdom attractions over the last 3.7 days.
In addition, these wait times are available in real time all day, every day via http://www.easywdw.com/waits so you can follow along at home.
Today, we’ll take a look at the data and see if we can get a glimpse into how FastPass+ is affecting standby wait times. To do this, we’re going to compare wait times for the first 65 days of 2013 and the first 65 days of 2014. I’ve taken the median wait time and the median peak wait time at each attraction over those 65 days in 2013 and 2014 and compared them to each other in this chart.
What we’ll see over and over again is that secondary attractions are affected more than the headliners. From there, the attractions that offered legacy paper FASTPASS with return times usually just 40 minutes in the future are most affected. DINOSAUR in particular has seen wait times that basically doubled year over year. Kilimanjaro Safaris is another attraction that has seen a significant bump in wait times.
Remember that FASTPASS/FastPass+ holders receive priority boarding. If there are 100 people waiting in standby and 100 people in FASTPASS, the 100th person in the FASTPASS line will likely board before the 30th person in standby. If there are 300 people in FASTPASS and 100 in standby, the 300th FASTPASS user will likely board before the 100th person in standby because FASTPASS users are so heavily favored. That’s how ratios work.
It’s likely that DINOSAUR is distributing far more FastPass+ daily than it ever did with FASTPASS. DINOSAUR historically has had short to nonexistent waits before 11am and after 4pm. FastPass+ users can visit as early as right after Park open, pushing up wait times as off-site guests booking same-day gobble up the last remaining FP+ upon arriving. With FastPass+ needing to be booked in advance, often at a kiosk far away from the attraction, guests somewhat blindly select attractions with no knowledge of current standby waits. An off-site guest might arrive at 10am and book DINOSAUR FP+ for 10:15am – 11:15am, not knowing that the ride is a walk-on. But since they booked the FP+, they head over at 10:30am and use it. Anyone in standby will have to wait for the FP+ user to board, in turn pushing up standby waits.
Kilimanjaro Safaris has a monster capacity, but it’s also the second most popular FP+ choice at Animal Kingdom and they routinely run out of available times by lunch. The number of people using FastPass+ is overwhelming the attraction, causing long FP+ lines and in turn, pushing up standby waits.
Other attractions are impacted much less with virtually no difference at Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest. Primeval Whirl has seen a modest bump in peak waits.
Looking over Epcot, the biggest jumps are at Journey into Imagination, Maelstrom, and Spaceship Earth. Journey into Imagination and Spaceship Earth are two attractions that historically did not offer FASTPASS. The addition of FastPass+ is pushing up wait times as users arrive with priority boarding in hand (or on phone as the case may be). The impact at Maelstrom is among the largest we’ll see, with peak waits more than doubling. You may be thinking: “Who on earth would pick their one Tier 1 FastPass+ as Maelstrom?” The reality is that Soarin’ and Test Track are running out of FP+ times by 1pm most days, leaving only Character Spot, IllumiNations, and Maelstrom as Tier 1 choices. The majority of people don’t care about meeting characters and others aren’t staying for IllumiNations or prefer to find their own spots, leaving only one choice. With Maelstrom lending much more of its capacity to FP+, we see longer waits in standby.
The two headlining attractions actually see similar median waits and peak posted waits have dropped by ten minutes at Soarin’ and Test Track.
The trend continues at Hollywood Studios, where Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Toy Story Mania have similar waits year over year. Great Movie Ride waits have basically doubled now that FastPass+ users arrive with priority. Star Tours and Tower of Terror see the biggest jumps. Star Tours and Tower of Terror are by far the two most popular Tier 2 attractions, distributing the maximum number of FP+ most days. Star Tours standby waits were so short with legacy FASTPASS that few people bothered. And with Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster legacy FASTPASS return times so far in the future, few people were eligible to pull an additional FASTPASS for Star Tours anyway. With guests scheduling their Star Tours FP+ far away from the attraction with no knowledge of posted waits, users arrive and enter the FP+ line, pushing up standby waits in the process.
Magic Kingdom is perhaps the most interesting, where median and peak waits have actually gone down significantly at the headliners and up considerably at several of the secondary attractions, most notably it’s a small world, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s hard to say how much of an effect FP+ has had at Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise in particular. It might seem obvious that FP+ is directly responsible for the uptick, but those two attractions had oddly increasing wait times over the months leading up to the initial implementation of FP+. Nonetheless, expect to wait a lot longer at both in the afternoon.
It’s also difficult to say what changes in guest behavior are causing the lower wait times at the Mountain attractions. The number of FP+ distributed for each is likely similar to the number of legacy FASTPASSes distributed last year. Guests may be going the “one and done” route where they’re satisfied experiencing a ride like Space Mountain just one time, whether it be very early or very late when wait times are short or via FP+. Casual vacationers more aware of FP+ and its benefits could be relying on FP+ instead of clogging up standby lines. And because guests can currently only schedule three FP+, commando-type return visitors may prefer to ride standby during a recommended time and use FP+ elsewhere, thus reducing the number of educated guests in the FASTPASS line riding for a third or fourth time.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is another ride with lower wait times post FP+. With the three FP+ limit and the wide number of attractions available, it seems like fewer guests would select an aging dark ride like Winnie the Pooh. With fewer guests arriving with priority, standby waits are pushed lower.
Pirates of the Caribbean has seen a significant uptick in wait times. Historically, Pirates has been a walk-on most of the day on all but the busiest days of the year. In 2013, it was a big deal when the extended queue was used. In 2014, the extended queue is required virtually every day. This may also be due to a lower capacity with a reduced number of boats in operation.
Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid is fading fast with considerably lower wait times than when it was “new” early last year. It’s also unlikely most guests will use FP+ here and it has a monster capacity, resulting in shorter waits.
Overall, FP+ is causing wait times to increase at most secondary attractions, while having a less substantial impact at the most popular attractions with the longest wait times.
The website will continue to monitor the situation.