Disney World FastPass

Disney World Launches Paid FastPass+ for Club Level Guests

The Disney blogosphere was set abuzz this week.  How?  When Disneyland launched the MaxPass program we all should have seen this coming.  Disney essentially announced to the world that it was on the hunt to monetize the FastPass+ program.  The only question was what the next step in doing that would be.  We now have the answer.  And the fireworks it has set off have been impressive.  If you are wondering why I picked the post header image I did, that’s why.  So what’s this deal all about about?

FastPass + For Club Levels

What Disney World made public this week was the fact that they are going to pilot providing additional FastPass+ options to resort guests that are staying in Club Level Rooms or Suites.  The option will also be available for guests staying in a cabin at Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge or in a Bungalow at the Polynesian Village Resort.  You must be staying on a three day park pass or have an annual pass.

What the option gives these resort guests the ability to do is:

  • Select FastPass+ options up to 90 days before guests visit the parks (other resort guests can select up to 60 days before their visit, non-resort guests at 30 days)
  • Make three additional FastPass+ selections for each day of their trip
  • Reserve these three additional FastPass+ selections in multiple parks if the Park Hopper add on is selected
  • These passes will include preferred viewing for the nighttime spectacular activities at each park, which includes Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot, and Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

According to ClickOrlando.com, “A Disney spokesperson said the pilot program is limited and that this is something new resorts are trying as a new option for guests to help personalize their stays.”

The new pilot program will cost an additional $50 per guest per day (plus tax).

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR RIDE and fastpass+ availability

Certainly, this is not a good thing for the rest of park guests who are not afforded this luxury. In most of the blogs and message board around the internet, you can only imagine this has not been met with a positive reaction. And while I agree that it isn’t something I would want, I don’t think it will mean the end of regular people getting fast passes for good time slots on the rides that are in demand. We’re looking at you Flight of Passage! The optics for Disney are certainly not good. Putting people who can afford to pay more in front of everybody else smells terribly like a small-scale version of class warfare.

Alas, I think the fears and upset feelings this has cause are largely overblown. It is simply a function of math. First, let’s look at the take rate that Club Level guests will have on paying for this add on. If you have a family of four and you take this add on for your average 5 day/6 night stay, that would equate to another $1,000 plus tax if you took advantage of this feature (4 guests x $50 x 5 days). I don’t care how well to do you are, adding a cool grand to the tab on your Disney trip is a lot of money. This alone will dampen the number of guests who take advantage of the add on.

Next is actually need. Some of these guests may not have a need for this option on the parks as they could be playing golf, going to Disney Springs, or doing something else on the property that makes the service not needed for at least a few days.

Lastly, there is some level of vacancy in the resorts. Not every club level room is occupied ever day of every year. Suffice it to say, those taking this option will likely be below 50% of the available guests.

Next up is the overall capacity of the parks compared to the number of guests who take this add on.  As of this writing, there are only 8 resorts on property that offer the club level or suites with a combined 822 rooms.  They would be:

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge (74 rooms)
  • Beach Club and Yacht Club Resort (184 rooms)
  • Boardwalk Inn (57 rooms)
  • Contemporary Resort (80 rooms)
  • Coronado Springs (estimated at 60 rooms, but not confirmed)
  • Grand Floridian (181 rooms)
  • Polynesian Village (108 rooms)
  • Wilderness Lodge (78 rooms)

If you assume an average family of four per room, you are talking about approximately 3,300 guests each day that could have access to this program. Let’s say 40% of the guess take advantage of this add on. That leaves you with about 1,300 guests taking advantage of the program. Evenly split between the four parks you get about 325 guests per park running around with three extra fast passes. While Disney World never gives out official attendance numbers or park capacities, it has been estimated that capacity can range from 60,000 – 100,000 guests per day, depending on the park. Let’s take the low end of that range. That means you have approximately 0.5% of guests getting an extra three fast passes. Given the throughput of most rides, I would consider it highly unlikely that this change will result in noticeable changes in ride availability or the ability to use fast passes.

At the end of the day, I think a lot of the reaction comes from the perception of this being unfair. That those with more money to spend can get preferential treatment and availability. I completely understand the sentiment, I just don’t think it is born out in the facts of how many people go to the parks on a daily basis or how many will actually be willing to drop that type of money for these services. But, what could this mean for the FastPass+ program long term?

The Future of The FastPass+ and other Programs

As noted in the ClickOrlando.com article, this is merely a pilot program. If it is successful, and they can convince families that dropping an extra $500 to a $1,000 on a trip is a worthy investment, you can be assured it will no longer just be a pilot program. Lest we forget, Disney is a for profit company with shareholders to satisfy. The question in my mind becomes, do they stop with just club level rooms. Does this become something that any guest staying at a delux resort could buy into?

I think this would be a very likely next step for the FastPass+ program and would greatly increase the total number of people who could potentially adopt the add on. However, as you move down the pricing spectrum, you will continue to see a more price conscience consumer, who will be less likely to take this option.

So what does this represent? Another in a continuing string of ways that Disney World is continuing to up the pricing structure on a trip to the parks. As I said earlier, Disney is a publicly traded company and the way they get their stock price up is by increasing earnings. The way you do that is cut costs and increase revenues. There are blunt force ways to get revenues up, like increasing the base ticket prices.  Then there are subtle ways, like nickel and diming you for every perk or add on. And while we do expect to see base ticket prices take a (hyperspace) jump forward when Galaxy’s Edge opens in a few years, the trend is definitely there to increase pricing at the margin.

For our taste, we get that this is how things work and increasing revenue is what Disney has to do. I’m not actually upset about this particular notion. I’ve worked for publicly traded companies, I understand why prices get increased.

For me, it’s about the optics of what this signals.  A program like this starts to stratify the Disney World guests into classes. The haves and have nots. Those of high economic standing and those not as high.  I think of what Walt envisioned and I don’t think this would be in line with his beliefs.  He didn’t feel people should have their economic situation determine the level of enjoyment or number of times you got to ride certain rides. I don’t think this FastPass+ pilot program is in line with that spirit.  While I laid out the case of why it won’t be a big deal in the near term, someone at Disney should be looking at things beyond financial models and thinking about the message that programs like this send to their customers.

Tell us what you think

Enough of what we think, drop down into the comments section below and tell us what you think about this program and the general direction that Disney world appears to be heading on pricing.