Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The long-rumored upcharge FastPass program at Disney World looks like it's finally about to launch

Posted By on Tue, Dec 31, 2019 at 9:30 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SETH KUBERSKY
  • PHOTO BY SETH KUBERSKY
For better or worse, Walt Disney World’s FastPass+ system has become a standard part of Orlando vacations, but unlike their competitors, Disney’s skip-the-line system remains complimentary for all guests. Exactly what is included, however, with that complimentary offer may soon change.

As early as 2007, there were indications that Disney was considering a paid FastPass system. In early 2017, the basic concept for the system at WDW was beginning to materialize. Disney rolled out a pay-to-play option in both Shanghai Disneyland and Disneyland in California. Those two systems were a bit different, with the Shanghai one being for specific attractions, while the California one was more of an app-based, day-of pre-reservation system.

By late 2017, multiple insiders were indicating that there were plans for a similar upcharge FastPass system in Orlando. Then in January 2018, a new program allowed Club Level hotel guests staying three or more nights to purchase an extra three FastPasses for $50 per guest per day. The upcharge FastPass also opened up the scheduling window a full 30 days before it typically opens, allowing for guests who use the service to schedule their FastPasses 90 days prior to their visit. Around the same time, Disney began offering a handful of new "tours" that allowed guests to skip the lines for specific lists of attractions, with most of the attractions offered on each tour grouped by a theme, such as thrill rides or iconic family attractions.

For some guests, this allows them up to have up to six FastPasses per day, ahead of their visit. According to industry journalist Jim Hill, Disney is looking to eventually allow guests to reserve up to nine experiences ahead of their visit. Many of the tours currently offered provide access to between six and eleven rides. The tours range in price from $249 to $349, with more luxurious tours costing up to $12,000 per person per day.



Both the upcharge Club Level FastPasses and the tours have generally been well received. Since at least 2016, there have been constant rumblings that Disney would roll out more upcharge FastPass options, including for day guests. In March 2019, a well-respected Disney historian and known insider who goes by "Martin" posted on the WDWMagic forums details on what Disney was looking at. He laid out various scenarios that were being considered. According to him, multiple packages will be offered. The paid FastPasses may also show availability for attractions or times that non-paid FastPass show as unavailable. Martin also explained that some popular attractions might become available for paid FastPasses, ahead of being offered for complimentary FastPasses.

Martin chimed in again last week, confirming that while the original timeline has been pushed back, the upcharge FastPass system is still moving forward at Walt Disney World.
click image IMAGE VIA DISNEY
  • Image via Disney
It’s believed the upcharge system may be integrated into the artificial intelligence-driven planning tool Disney Genie that was announced during the D23 Expo in August. The new digital tool will help guests plan their day on-demand in real-time. Early screenshots of the tool shared by Disney show groupings similar to the ones offered in the tours that Disney has begun offering. According to Disney Parks Communications Manager Avery Maehrer, it will “interact” with WDW’s existing My Disney Experience and Play Disney Parks apps.

It’s unclear how the Disney Genie app and the new, yet-to-be-announced upcharge FastPass programs will interact with each other, but they are both expected to roll out by late 2020, just ahead of WDW’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 2021.

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