Through their Disney Parks Blog outlet, the company announced today that guests will have the ability to select a 4th FastPass+ selection after they have used their initial allotment of three beginning Monday. The two obvious downsides from the information provided:
- The fourth FastPass+ may only be booked once the initial three are used. This greatly reduces the value of an IllumiNations FastPass+, Wishes FastPass+, Fantasmic FastPass+, or any other FastPass+ planned for late use. If you use a Test Tack FastPass+ at 11am, a Spaceship Earth FastPass+ at 12:30pm, and have IllumiNations booked for 9pm, you would not be able to book a fourth FastPass+ because your IllumiNations FastPass+ won’t be used until the Park is closed.
- A FastPass+ kiosk must be used to book the 4th and any additional FP+ selections.
You may remember the kiosk backups prior to Disney allowing off-site visitors to book 30 days in advance. Those lines have largely dissipated, to the point where there’s very rarely any wait at all should you not have a smartphone or otherwise have problems that require a kiosk. The new policy looks to force all guests wishing to book additional FP+ experiences back into one of these lines.
You may also remember the post the website ran titled “An absolutely perfect examination of how FastPass+ is affecting wait times based on every single piece of data in the world.” Unsurprisingly, FastPass+ has not had much of an impact on attractions that historically distributed the maximum number of legacy FASTPASSes over the course of the day. That includes attractions like Toy Story Mania, Rock n Roller Coaster, Soarin, Test Track, and the like. These attractions have simply switched over their allotment of FASTPASSes from paper to digital. It’s the newly minted FastPass+ attractions that are seeing significantly higher wait times under the new system. That’s also to be expected as attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and it’s a small world now have hundreds of riders per hour arriving with priority boarding FP+ in hand. With Disney pushing up to 70% of ride capacity to FastPass+, standby waits for many secondary attractions have gone up significantly.
With the ability to add a 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, etc. FastPass+, we can expect standby waits at secondary attractions to go up even higher now that the maximum number of FastPass+ will be distributed for the majority of attractions. Instead of people using up their FP+ allotment early in the day and being done with it, we’re going to have thousands of people now selecting a 4th, and potentially 5th, and 6th FastPass+ attraction. And they’ll all be boarding with priority ahead of any suckers unfortunate enough to find themselves in the standby line. So you go from 300 people an hour using FastPass+ at Pirates of the Caribbean over the course of an hour to potentially the maximum hourly allowance, which is likely north of a thousand.
Of course, we get to pick a 4th, 5th, and 6th FastPass+ selection too. It’s unclear exactly how that’s going to work. Let’s say my third FastPass+ of the day is for Peter Pan’s Flight from 12:30pm – 1:30pm and I ride from 12:35pm to 12:50pm. Will I get to book my 4th FastPass+ at 12:50pm or do I have to wait until the end of the window at 1:30pm? Let’s say it’s 12:50pm and I proceed to a kiosk. After 15 minutes in line, will I be able to select Pirates of the Caribbean for the current time of 1:05pm – 2:05pm? And if I book and ride from 1:15pm – 1:30pm, do I get to then select a 5th FP+ immediately or do I have to wait until 2:05pm?
That brings up another point, which is what will reasonably be available to book at 1:30pm in the afternoon on an average day. At Epcot and Hollywood Studios, the answer is not much. FastPass+ at Soarin’ and Test Track were routinely gone by 12:30pm in the afternoon every day from March 1st through April 22nd. At Hollywood Studios, it’s the same story for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror. So while you can “park hop” and use a 4th FastPass+ selection at a different Park than the first three, pickings are going to be thin outside of Magic Kingdom. And with just secondary attractions available, just imagine how many people are going to be booking things like Great Movie Ride, Star Tours, and yes…even Muppet Vision 3D and American Idol Experience.
That’s one of the reasons why the website (at this point) continues to recommend using FastPass+ in the late morning and early afternoon when waits peak. If you book FastPass+ first thing in the morning, the absolute earliest you could make a 4th FastPass+ selection is around 11:10am. By that time, available selections are already going to be slim at the attractions you really want to use it at like Test Track and Toy Story. And if times are available for desirable attractions, return times will likely be well into the evening. So if you use FastPass+ at Test Track from 9am – 10am, Mission Space from 10am – 11am, and Living with the Land from 11am – 12pm, you’ll be able to select a fourth FastPass+ no earlier than 11:15am. By that time, there might be FastPass+ availability at Soarin’ for something like 7:15pm – 8:15pm. But in turn, you’ve basically wasted your initial allotment and won’t even be able to book a 5th FastPass+ for any other attraction because the Soarin’ time is so late. It’s much more intelligent to hammer out the priorities in the standby line first thing in the morning, and then use that Test Track FastPass+ at 11am when the wait is 90 minutes instead of 15.
One other possible negative is that the first FastPass+ of the day are available for use immediately at Park open. One of the “nice” things about legacy FASTPASS was that with few exceptions, FASTPASSes weren’t available for first use until 9:40am, and even then, few people really returned before 10:30am, giving an hour and a half of zooming through short standby lines. As people plan around picking up a fourth FastPass+ as soon as possible, we will likely see more people planning to use FP+ earlier, in turn increasing wait times immediately after park open as people arrive with priority boarding.
Time will tell what the ramifications of the new policy turn out to be. It’s hard to imagine that a system that’s distributing even more FastPass+ priority boarding tickets will have a positive impact on standby waits.