As with death and taxes, increases in ticket prices at Walt Disney World are inevitable.
If past trends tell us anything, Disney will be increasing their ticket prices again sometime within the next few weeks, but this year the change might point to something bigger.
It’s no secret that FastPass+ hasn’t been the runaway success Disney had hoped for, despite reportedly
spending well north of a billion dollars
on the project. Recent years have seen the company try to salvage the program with tiered offerings everywhere but the Magic Kingdom, and cracking down on loopholes
. Now the resort has a new president, Josh D'Amaro, who, after spending years leading Disneyland, has been quick to address certain less-than-ideal conditions at the Florida resort.
In an interview with the Orlando Business Journal
, D’Amaro acknowledged the resort was already improving transportation, enhancing break room amenities, and promoting healthier dining options for cast members.
According to some insiders, most notably Martin Smith
on the WDWMagic forums, after years of trying to work out the kinks with FastPass+, there is now an understanding that unforeseen flaws
within the program and its corresponding app may never be adequately addressed. This has apparently led some within the company to advocate for cutting its loses and moving forward without the current system.
There have been multiple indications
of a paid type of FastPass system in the works at Disney World, but previously, the understanding from most reporting on them was that any such paid system would be developed on top of the current system. Like those systems, this rumored top-to-bottom overhaul
would be brought out ahead of the resort’s upcoming 50th Anniversary celebration that kicks off next year. Any such rollout would need time for the resort to adjust it, ahead of expected record-breaking attendance. Even if the official festivities don’t debut until later in the year, near the official anniversary date of Oct. 1, the crowds are expected to begin showing up by this fall as multiple new attractions open.
The current system has guests planning their dining reservations half a year ahead
of their visit, and planning their rides up to three months out
. This is at odds with the preferences of millennials, who want more spur-of-the-moment vacations and all-inclusive, stress-free trips.
If the overhauled FastPass system does happen, it’s believed it would be announced at the same time as the updated pricing for the parks. A bundled announcement of this type may offset the negative press of Disney "charging for previously free" services like FastPass. It’s thought the new, paid FastPass program may be similar to the extremely popular MaxPass, the paid FastPass program that Disneyland uses and which D’Amaro has previously spoken positively about
Unlike in Orlando, Disneyland California's FastPass system, including MaxPass, is only available on a day-of basis, creating far less stress than the months-long planning required for a trip to Walt Disney World. It's unclear if the new FastPass system rumored to be heading to the resort would totally throw out ride reservations made in advance of visits, but it would dramatically shift when and how a guest could book such reservations.
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It’s also unclear if the "upgraded" paid FastPass system would be marketed with park tickets, but the timing seems to point to just that. As previously reported, ride reservations are going to be an integral part of the soon-to-launch, AI-enabled Disney Genie app
that was announced at last year’s D23 Expo. In screenshots shared by Disney of that app, it seems to show park experiences grouped into topics similar to upgrade tours currently offered at the resort.
It’s possible that the new upcharge FastPass system could include a pre-selected group of park experiences based around various topics. Guests would purchase these FastPass packages alongside the park tickets and would then be able to augment them with other FastPass experiences once they arrive at the park, similar to how the current system allows for a guest to add additional FastPasses once they use their first three.
A Disney Genie screenshot shows a day at the Magic Kingdom booked under the title "The Royal Treatment," with experiences including a trip to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a ride on Under the Sea, a reservation to visit Belle in her interactive meet-and-greet, lunch reservations, and reserved parade viewing. A reservation later in the day to ride the carrousel is removed and the app automatically replaces it with a new princess-themed meet-and-greet. Another screenshot shows "Thrilling Adventures" at Animal Kingdom, where ride reservations include a trip on the safari, character dining, Everest, and Flight of Passage. A similarly named option is also shown for Hollywood Studios. According to Smith, there are at least three groupings for guests to choose from.
Ironically, this new system seems is similar to the original ticket books
that Disney once used, where guests had to pay for each attraction individually. While the new systems would still likely have standby or other wait systems for guests without reservations, it does seem odd to revive a concept the company did away with nearly forty years ago.
Another consideration with the new ticketing system may be the addition of timed entry into the parks. Timed entry has been used at numerous other attractions, most notably at large museums, and Disney has tested the waters with a Mid-Day Magic ticket
that allow guests to enter after 12 p.m.
It’s unclear if the updated FastPass/Disney Genie system will be announced with the upcoming ticket price increase, or if they will wait until this fall's likely price increase. Either way, any such update requires notice months in advance and time to train vacation planners on the new system. As with any rumors, nothing is set until Disney officially announces it, but if you’re planning a trip to Disney World this year, it might be wise to go ahead and buy those tickets before that rumored price increase rolls out.