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5 reasons why Walt Disney World's XPass is an Xceptionally bad idea

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!

There are 29 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.

There is nothing I hate more in this world than waiting in line. The Universal Orlando system of getting a FP if you stay at their hotel makes going to their parks feasible.

If scheduling a few highly-popular rides will help me plan better & avoid waiting in line on my vacation -- which is supposed to be *fun*, not a bunch of standing around waiting to have fun -- I am all FOR it.

Would be willing to pay more for it too. I would rather do Disney ever 3-4 years & save up for it & not wait in any lines, than do it every year & wait around to have fun.

Your mileage may vary.

I'm already going broke for our Disney Vacation, but I have spent ALOT of time planning carefully to make the most of our vacation. A big part of that planning includes using Fastpasses (and utilizing the fact that they don't expire). But your right, if it comes to the point where I can't plan my vacation as precisely as I do now just because I don't have as much money as the next guy (or gal), that will REALLY cause some resentment while at the park!!!! Apparently, the current Fastpass system is working for the people that choose to use it, why mess with a good thing??? Answer: to make an extra buck....seriously?

Did you notice ... the FastPass system changed (not the XPass). WDW will be enforcing a return time for use of the FastPass. It will NO LONGER be valid for the entire day.

I think its a GREAT idea. It gives people that are paying a premium to stay at the flagship resorts a reason to return and/or try different deluxe accommodations. I think that since they've changed the monorail hours, etc. some additional perks given to those guests willing to shell out $500 a night for an ok room at the "deluxe" resorts are worth it.

I don't agree that adding this experience for some guests will hender anyone else's enjoyment. They often run out of fastpasses for Soarin' for instance, it didn't ruin my day. I pay a few extras bucks to take a lot of the backstage and segue tours. Does it make the people that choose not to do those things feel left out? Because they are awesome, they're just not part of the basic package. Its like every experience in life, you pick your own adventure based on tastes and budget. My time personally is much valueable than a couple hundred bucks or whatever. And honestly, if you think WDW is serving everyone equally, you're insane. We rarely plan our vacations more than a few weeks ahead (although I did have that opportunity recently!) and with a nice $50 you can get a table anywhere you want anytime you want a on property.

I thought part of the beauty of WDW was that it was supposed to cater to everyone - from people staying at the value resorts and those that can blow some serious cash. If anything, I think that WDW needs to add a true luxury resort, more of a Waldorf/Ritz quality resort. They had orginally planned for several more monorail lines, why not up the game a little bit? It may that I've been able to stay at some truly lux places now in and out of the US, but I swear the deluxe hotels and restaurants were so much more special seeming when I was a child, not that they were more themed than now, but that everyone had better manners and was dressed better and generally the place worked better. I remember being young when the Swan and Dolphin first opened and my folks taking a chance on the Epcot resorts, I was floored by the big fountains and that we could walk to the food and wine festival. It was the first time not at home I'd gotten to try a sip of a wine and I thought we were SO sophisticated.

I guess I just feel like the bad vibes are miss placed. Everyone should be serviced at WDW, and yes, that includes people that are willing to spend a few bucks more on the experience.

Sorry, I just looked at our pics. The first time we stayed at the Swan, was 1991 (I was 11) and it was in June - so it obviously wasn't Food and Wine Festival, but I do have an awesome pic of my mom, obviously wasted drinking champagne in a plastic glass from France - classy. I think that was the same night I got a few sips, my brother did too, we were SO grown up. Does anyone know when the Food and Wine festival did actually start? The first one I attended was '02.

WDW is getting so popular that Disney can actually charge enormous rates for their hotels and theme parks. And like always the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer - Disney sees a good thing. The XPass will probably cost $150 or more - no small sum. And the funny thing is that just outside the WDW entrance are homeless people staying in old motels. We all know life is unfair, but it has gotten to outrageous insanity. To really have the full WDW experience (inc. Deluxe on property) you have to be rich ($150K+ household income*/Double income/single)or a Florida resident.
* Top 10%

This is obsurd! I'm a theme park fanatic, but I'm annoyed that the other theme parks make you pay extra on top of the already-ridiculous ticket prices. That is why Disney has always been my favorite, no heirarchey of park guests. This new system would eliminate that magic for me. I might not go to Disney again if they actually implement this system!

I go to WDW once a year, and one of the things I love about it is the way guests are treated. We usually stay for at least eight days. I would definitely feel like I was being treated as a second class citizen for not being able to afford to stay in a deluxe resort and buy an x-pass! One of the things that puts Disney above the rest is that the fastpass is an equal-opportunity decision as to whether one waits in line or not. I totally agree that even though it is mildly annoying to have people walk by in the fastpass lane (emphasis on "mildly", just as it is when I state I feel mildly special when I walk by the stand-by line when I use fastpass), we all know that I could have made the same choice. I think that x-pass will generate a lot of bad feelings toward Disney from some of its most loyal fans.

One of my biggest pet peeves about WDW is someone potentialoy paying a 3rd of what I am a night takes 15 minutes to waddle off their mini SUVs to get on a ride or a bus, thereby halting the entire process because they are too lazy to drag their own bodies around the parks. Thank you Disney. They finially did something for the people that can pay for a truely better experience, and that already do on a regular basis. Not some stupid gimmic aimed at you buying some junk you don't need. You people who don't like this obivously don't get it. You get what you pay for. Do you feel like 2nd class citizen now when you take the monorail through the comtemporary and there are people everywhere spending 3 times the money you are and your kid asks why your days inn doesnt have a monorail or mickey at the restaurant? Are you a 2nd class citizen when you can't go on rides during extra magic hours? Sounds like a lot of jealous people to me.

Wow...Maybe Disney should just restrict the whole park to rich people like yourself who can't spell. Why should those handicapped people or working families who have to stay off property even be allowed to go? I'll tell you why-because if it was filled with people like you, it would be the most unmagical place on earth.

Dave my concern is people like yourself being the one's to purchase these passes and here is why. Part of the reasoning behind the orginal fast pass was to help those with a disability who "waddle" around the park. It is people like you who feel having money entitles you to a better experience while in reality because of your poor attitude toward others you will never have a true Disney experience in the way that is was intended. My family goes to Disney atleast once every other year and while we do tend to stay on property and we participate in pin trading I have had the misfortune of meeting guests similar to yourself. I however am able to pray for you and hope that you can one day become a better person. Oh and just to brighten your day I will let you in on a little secret my family with my undeserving little girl who has autism and others with a disability will be in every fast pass line you are in and we will only pay a 3rd of what you paid have a great day!

Dave, do everyone else a favor and stop going to Disney World. Your disgusting display of entitlement isn't impressing anyone. You should be ashamed of yourself.

SUCKS! VERY disappointing! Time to write a letter!

Assuming they'd sell, Disney should just buy and incorporate RideMax or something like it.

Finally! This is how it should be. I'm entitled to use my superior earnings to bypass all those wretched, impoverished crowds. Enough with the princesses already. Let’s celebrate and embrace the values of hedonistic, self-serving capitalism. I look forward to a future of using my advanced means for creating an enhanced magical experience compared to all those shabby little beasts.

I think it stinks, and Disney should be ashamed for even suggesting this idea. We are a middle class family who has to save up money and sacrifice other things to go to Disney World because we love it so much. We can barely afford the value resort rates these days, but we don't want to give in a stay in a condo like many people do because we want the whole experience every time. We have three little kids, and we need use fastpass to make our trip more manageable. The thought of people getting to go in front of us just because they have more money makes me sick. First they get rid of Mickey and Minnie's house, and now this! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

How do you convince people that Xpass is worth the money? Make the non-Xpass line wait longer. This is a financial incentive for Disney to make the non-Xpass line wait times longer. If they can get more people to buy into the Xpass idea (and I mean BUY into) then they make more money. My family has reached the tipping point and won't be going to WDW for a long time. We realized we can go on two vacations for what we spend at WDW, and we don't have to wait in line on those other vacations.

Before everyone gets into an uproar, it should be noted that (a) the XPass system WILL NOT carry an additional charge (like FastPass, it will be a free service), (b) the guests staying on property at the deluxe resorts will be the first to take advantage of the system, but it is supposedly rolling out to the guests at moderate and budget resorts "shortly" afterwards, and (c) XPass is not an unlimited perk a la Universal (where guests paying the extra charge get to skip the lines at all of the rides once); Disney park-goers will get a set number of XPasses to use per day (sounds like a max of 4). This info is per Jim Hill's site.

I really hope you're right. That sounds more like the Disney I know.

Noooo! This is an horrible idea!

My family just spent an insane amount of money on a family trip....we had gotten stuck on a lot of lines as it is bc there were just way too many fast passes given out with Disney enforcing the time slot rule.

Now to add to that, Disney will either take away the amount of free fastpasses or add to wait times? Come on. If that would be the case....I would have to figure either going to the parks during a really off season time or just go somewere else.

After reading your article I agree with you 100% I have been a long time visitor of Disney, I have been going there since it opened. Been there well over 100 times and I have seen over the last several years the parks getting way over crowded and I hear a lot of guest complaints about it, Now if they start offering the XPass and it is a paid for pass I can see even more guests complaining and more problems with guests. I have seen guests argue with each other almost to the point of fighting over lines and who cut in front and such and the XPass will make things worse. I think Disney needs to look at ways of reverting back to Walt’s vision of treating all guests equal. They keep coming out with more vacation clubs and such and raising the prices so average income families cannot afford to go, or at least cut their trips down to once every several years. I went every year till I moved to Florida and then went a lot and my children have gone a lot because we are pass holders and I live close to Disney but if I had to get a resort and pay the price for food I just couldn't do it. Disney needs to work on keeping their prices down and build another park instead of trying to figure out how to cram more people into their overly crowed parks. XPass is a bad idea and I think Disney needs to reconsider it.

How Do i know what I want to do months in advance....I adjust what I do cause of weather,energy,etc. I certainly don't want to pay so I can xpass on the safari in animal kingdom only to have it be pouring rain! Charging for this privilege is a no no...
.......Walt must be turning in his grave! As a DVC member I go to Disney 2-3 times a year, love fast pass, why couldn't they just improve that system...they will not get a dollar from me for an xpass. This is another step down for Disney ... that stupid dining plan is pay for food and if you don't eat everything you are either giving Disney free money or you stuff yourself cause you don't want to waste money....and that magical express..not! Took it once waited an hour for the bus to leave , had to stop at 3 hotels before my stop....2 hours to get to my hotel...hell I take a cab now and I'm in the park while all the other fools are taking their "magical" bus I'll continue to do Disney my way and have fun without disneys double talk...

Actually it is an awesome idea. It will force Florida residents to not buy passes and lower park attendance from those rats of human beings from Florida.

I mean, I'm from florida and it is unlikely I will go but every 3-5 years from 3-5 times a year once they impliment a system which hurts my vacation.

Dead On! The magical experience of Disney is slowly disappating with all of the bean counters. It seems the focus is to make money and only money at the parks recently. A majority of the Cast Members anymore do not have that so called "Pixie Dust" in making your visit enjoyable. I have heard them yell and mistreat guests frequently, though every now and then you do receive an extraordinary effort. I agree with the Class difference, it seems that is the way the whole country is going. We purposely have not extended our annual passes for the very reason Disney seems to be greedy and has adopted policy's that have not been true to the original format. I do not believe the xPasses are a good idea and agree that it will cause damage to Disney's reputation. However; odds are the Disney exec's will be laughing at us all the way to the bank!

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