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Turning Point: Age of the Paid FastPass

One of the joyous aspects of a Disney theme park visit has always been that it’s egalitarian. Everyone is treated the same at the Happiest Place on Earth. The Walt Disney Company is a business, though. In recent years, they’ve walked that tightrope between maximizing profit and satisfying all customers. A pair of recent changes may have tipped that scale forever. Let’s examine a crucial Turning Point, the instances when Disney sneakily introduced paid FastPasses at their theme parks.

The origins of FastPass

Image: DisneySeveral years ago, I wrote a Theme Park Tourist article about Disney’s ongoing attempts to improve theme park wait-times. FastPass+ was still a relatively new technology at the time, one that Disney spent more than a billion dollars creating and implementing. When Magic Bands first arrived, the company had grand ambitions about the way that they would improve the theme park experience.

During the years that followed, Disney became even more powerful thanks to the ascension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, clever expansion of the Star Wars brand, and increased profit at the parks. Those theme park revenues partially come from Disney’s recent emphasis on upsells. The company’s stated goal is to employ price hikes as a method of maintaining a steady flow of traffic throughout the year.

Image: DisneyOne of the most controversial decisions in recent memory was Disney’s move toward surge pricing. Their parks started charging more for visits during the most popular times of the year while selling cheaper tickets during the off-season. In a perfect world, Disney would sell the same number of admission tickets in mid-January as Christmas week and Spring Break.

FastPass, while less controversial, is another method of achieving the same goal. Disney wants solid control of theme park traffic within the day. By knowing where guests will be during certain times of the day, they gain a better ability to anticipate overall crowd behavior. Its intent is pure, but some master of the Dark Arts has persuaded Disney executives to bastardize the FastPass. In fact, they’ve done it twice recently.

The first paid FastPass

Image: DisneyThanks to Magic Bands, Walt Disney World has claimed superior FastPass technology in recent years over its West Coast peer. In July of 2017, Disney used a Trojan horse to introduce a digital version of FastPasses at the Happiest Place on Earth, only it didn’t make everyone happy.

The new system is the MaxPass, an option service that allows Disneyland guests to book FastPasses via smartphone. The catch is that it’s not free. MaxPass started at $10 a day and costs $15 a day at the time of publication. Every member of your party must have MaxPass enabled to schedule a FastPass for the group. Yes, the cost of MaxPass for a party of four is $60 daily. It’s hefty.

Image: DisneyDisney would quickly point out that MaxPass hasn’t replaced FastPass. It’s supplementary. The old system is still in place, allowing guests to walk to kiosks and get a FastPass ticket to their favorite attractions. Disneyland guests know the truth, though. MaxPass is much better and more convenient. It’s the equivalent of My Disney Experience, only it’s not free.

To be fair, MaxPass does come with extra features that aren’t available on My Disney Experience, at least not for free. Specifically, PhotoPass is included with MaxPass. It’s a service that’s worth $15 a day on its own in my opinion…although I’m not sure it’s worth $60 a day for a family of four.

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