Arts & Culture
The wins and fails of Disney’s new FastPass+
Does FastPass+ live up to the hype, or is it the anti-Christ of amusement parks?
Published: March 26, 2014
Disney’s MyMagic+ program is the most expensive, ambitious and potentially intrusive IT infrastructure overhaul ever attempted, making it a contentious topic in theme park fan forums, corporate shareholder meetings and congressional hearings. You may have seen tourists wearing colorful MagicBand wristbands (embedded with RFID tracking chips) or watched Hulu ads hawking “tests” of the nascent system. But this brave new Walt Disney World – which involves using FastPass+ to reserve ride times and exclusive performance viewing areas a month or more in advance – has until now been off-limits to Mickey’s most fervent frequenters.
Disney recently retired its popular paper-ticket-based FastPass ride reservation system, replacing it with touchscreen kiosks where guests can receive FastPass+ attraction appointments – provided the resort’s on-site hotel guests haven’t gobbled them all up first. I experimented with same-day FastPass+ over several weeks with mixed results, but until this month was unable to evaluate advance FastPass+ firsthand. Those features have now finally rolled out for all Walt Disney World Annual Passholders, allowing anyone with a full-year ticket full access to FastPass+ up to 30 days in advance.
But increased availability hasn’t quelled complaints from some camps. Does this billion-dollar-plus investment live up to CEO Bob Iger’s hype, or is it the anti-Christ of amusement parks, as online detractors insist? Here’s a fair and balanced assessment of FastPass+, counting the ways I’ve seen it simultaneously win and fail.
FastPass+ wins because you do everything on your phone or tablet: For annual passholders getting started with MyMagic+ and FastPass+, it’s easiest to visit MyDisneyExperience.com with your web browser to register an account, link it to your ticket ID and customize a free MagicBand to be shipped to your home. Then install the free My Disney Experience app for Apple or Android, which displays current wait times, show schedules and more.
FastPass+ fails because you do everything on your phone or tablet: You’ll need that app inside the parks to change and confirm FastPass+ appointments, but between inconsistent Wi-Fi connections and constant GPS usage, your phone’s battery will drain double-time; my iPhone 5S barely lasts five hours. And don’t get me started on people lugging iPads around theme parks.
You can reserve three FastPass+ times at once: The old system only allowed you to pull one return ticket at a time. Now Annual Passholders can hold three FastPass+ reservations per day, on any seven days within the next 30.
You can only reserve three FastPass+ times once: Once you use those three reservations, you are stuck with standby for the rest of the day. This is the biggest problem for former FastPass power-users, who could snag 10 or more tickets per day. Conversely, if you only want two reservations you’re forced to take three and waste one.
> Email Seth Kubersky