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Jungle Cruise FASTPASS station

Disney is set to follow in the footsteps of its inferior rivals next year and introduce a paid-for version of its FASTPASS queue-jumping system. This is a move that I've campaigned against for a number of years, and I feel obliged to once again point out why this is a bad move for the company.

Rumors of the "XPass" system, which would enable guests to pre-book queue-jumping slots for the entirety of their vacation at Walt Disney World, have been flying around for some months. They were lent credence by statements earlier this year from Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, who revealed that company was working on a "version of FASTPASS for (visitors') entire Disney vacations". Most recently, Jim Hill Media claimed that the new system will be introduced next year and will be offered only to guests staying at Walt Disney World's Deluxe Resorts.

To be fair to Disney, it doesn't appear to be following in Universal's footsteps and offering blanket queue-jumping privileges (without any time window restrictions) to all of its high-paying guests. Instead, it will blend XPass in with the existing FASTPASS system, which enables guests to return to an attraction during a specified time window and skip the regular line. The new system would work alongside this, with the key difference being that XPass users could pre-book their time windows months in advance (at a price).

Nevertheless, the introduction of XPass would mark the latest in a series of moves towards a two-tier system by Disney - and here are 5 reasons why it should rethink its plans.

1. It will create an "underclass" of guests

It's impossible not to feel a little irked when you're waiting in a lengthy standby line at a Disney park, and a rush of FASTPASS-holders race past you and skip straight to the front of the line. However, at the back of your mind you always know that you too could have taken the FASTPASS option, and probably opted to use it for a different attraction instead.

With XPass, that's suddenly no longer the case. As with Universal's Express Pass, other guests are suddenly skipping by you simply by virtue of the fact that they've paid more money than you. Ordinary families that have scraped together enough cash for an already-expensive Walt Disney World trip will be made to feel like "peasants", even if it's difficult to tell an XPass user from an ordinary FASTPASS holder.

2. It will be seen as profiteering

Disney will try and sell XPass as the next level of convenience - a way to pre-plan your entire vacation so that you can relax when you get there. No more dealing with hours and hours of standing in line - just follow your itinerary and you'll waltz onto all of your favorite rides.

Except, um, those lengthy lines are a direct result of the capacity limitations of Disney's rides. I'm not suggesting that any theme park can realistically eliminate those lines completely (although many could do a better job), but charging guests extra for the privilege of avoiding them leaves a sour taste in the mouth. This is not the case for FASTPASS, which has the opposite effect of making guests feel grateful to Disney for attempting to limit their time spent waiting in line.

3. It will hurt the existing FASTPASS system

Inevitably, to accommodate the XPass system, Disney will have reduce the number of standard FASTPASSes that it distributes at each attraction. I haven't done the maths yet on what impact this will have (although I intend to), but given that XPass presumably won't have the same "1 pass at a time" restrictions as FASTPASS, it will inevitably go down significantly.

Again, this reduces the quality of experience for regular Disney guests. They'll be spending more time waiting in line - and resenting Disney for having raised the financial bar for those who don't want to burn in the Florida sun for hours on end.

4. It limits spontaneity

OK, so I'm not the most spontaneous Disney guest. I tend to follow one of Len Testa's brilliant touring plans in order to minimize my time spent waiting in line. But I always have the option of diverting from the plan on a whim, and quite often do (particularly if it's the first time I've visited a park, or there's a new ride on offer).

For anyone who has pre-booked all of their ride time-slots, there's going to be a real sense of obligation to stick with their original plan (particularly as they'll have paid dearly for it). This might suit some guests - but for others, some of the magic of exploration may be lost.

5. It's against the "Disney philosophy"

This is a less tangible argument than the other four, all of which directly impact on the guest experience at Disney parks. It could be even more significant, though, if it damages Disney's brand - arguably, the company's most valuable asset of all.

Walt Disney's original philosophy for Disneyland was that guests should leave the park with money left in their pockets, creating long-term brand loyalty. That has long since gone out of the window - but the company has managed to avoid some of the more obvious money-grabbing schemes that its rivals have adopted. XPass is straight from the book of Universal or Six Flags, and in my eyes it makes the company just that little bit less special.

Share your thoughts

Am I alone in thinking that FASTPASS is one of Disney's greatest differentiators, in a world where almost every other theme park chain has introduced a paid-for queue-jumping scheme? Would you feel like a second-class citizen if you couldn't afford to use XPass? Let me know through the comments section below!

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Comments

I think your comments are spot on. I'd be disappointed if Disney initiated this two-tier system. The business logic seems fuzzy at best since it appears the majority of Disney's visitors who stay on property are lodging at one of its value or moderate properties rather than its luxury resorts. The value and moderate properties now account for about 75% of Disney's on property rooms. A better business strategy might be focusing on strategies that create a perception of greater value for these guests rather than disenfranchising them with this two-tier system.

I agree wholeheartedly. If this "system" were available to everyone visiting (which is what I had initially thought that it was, even if for a price), then it might be a unique and interesting way to book certain things, like a last-ride-of-the-night on the Tower of Terror or a guaranteed spot at Fantasmic if you book so many months in advance, even against a small down-payment.

Instead, the feeling I get is that Disney has been sitting on this idea, just waiting for the economy to lift a little so that they can unveil it. After all, if they'd had this plan come to fruition two years ago, I think people would've been outraged. That was a time when people had to use years and years of savings to get their family to the parks, so arriving and then being "demoted" when an XPass user requires a dozen rides on Toy Story Midway Mania would've been infuriating.

In the same vein, however, amusement parks (and especially such premier ones) are, by their nature, expensive places to visit. When I go to Universal or Busch Gardens for a day, I buy their respective front-of-the-line passes because I think that my time is valuable, and I have enough disposable income to spend how I'd like. I don't think it's a "moral" issue in the sense that some make it out to be. Some people can't afford to go to Disneyland at all, so should those who can afford it feel bad, or ashamed? That in and of itself is a "tiered" way to look at things.

My problem with the X-Pass system is that it is not available to anyone in the same sense that QuickQueue or Flash Pass is. Money is not the only condition. One must also stay in an ultra-expensive Deluxe Disney hotel. My generalization is that people staying in those hotels are not pressed for time the way a family who just barely managed to snag a stay at the economy hotel is. In essence, the people this program is targeted for are the people who already have enough time and money to spend at Disney, and that's a shame. Especially with their very, very successful Fastpass system that has worked wonders for their parks seemingly without issue, it's silly that they'd resort to a "paid" option like everyone else and disguise it as a way to simplify people's vacations. That's my problem with it.

I really think it depends on how this implemented. If you got to book one time for each fast pass ride per holiday, I think it is great. I don't think it is worse than the fast passes, just that you get to pick your time. I think especially with the $10 per reservation cancellation fee for sit down meals and enforcing the fast pass end times, that being able to pick a fast pass time is a real convenience that I certainly would pay for (especially since they charge often if you are late at the restaurant). How often should you keep coming back to the fast pass machines to get the time you want? It certainly is a disappointment when you spend thousands getting to Disney World and not even be able to ride a great ride once.

I know at Univerval they have the two tiers; one where you can ride each applicable ride once, and one where if you are staying on-site that you can ride as much as you want. I can say, that I stay at Universal just because of this; otherwise I would be just as likely to stay at Disney and hop over for a day.

Magic Mountain in California is even worse in my mind. With the best flash express you get to stay on the ride twice which really annoys the people in that roller coaster slot (they have often missed two times just because they got in the wrong line).

I cannot believe that Disney would even pull such a stunt!! I visit Disneyworld every year and spend a week in the parks which in itself cost me more than my airfare to get there from Virginia. I will assure you that if you do this me and many others will probably find other vacation spots to go to that don't show what I call favortism to certain guest. I already pay a hefty price to get into the parks with park hopper as it is now. If you go to this system I most definitely will quit coming every year and when I do come my days will be more like three rather than seven or more. Walt Disney would be appalled at this new stunt you are getting ready to pull out of your pocket. It like being on the Titanic and being in steerage. That leaves a nice tast in your mouth and just makes me want to come back and spend my vacation money there. NOT!!!!!!!!!

The only way this XPass can work is by making the rest of the people wait even more. That means that if you had to wait for half an hour for a ride before, now you will have to wait even more time because you will have to wait for all those people who have XPass to step over you. As stated before, Fastpass is different because it does look like an effort to help people go through faster, anyone can try and get organized to do it. But this new XPass is different, it means they're looking for ways to profit from something people don't like to do, and that is to wait in line for so long. And there is nothing wrong with making a profit from that except for the fact that those who can't afford to pay even more for Disney are going to be stepped over and will have to wait for even longer lines.

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