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Will Disney Parks & Resorts officially unveil XPass at next month's annual shareholders meeting?

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Will Disney Parks & Resorts officially unveil XPass at next month's annual shareholders meeting?

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Over the past week, there's been a lot of talk on Disney-related discussion boards about the policy change that the Walt Disney World Resort now has in the works when it comes to FASTPASS return times.

To be specific: Starting on March 7th, Guests who arrive 5 minutes ahead of their ride reservation return time will now be allowed to gain entrance to that show or attraction. Likewise WDW visitors who show up 15 minutes past the return time that's actually printed on their FASTPASS will be allowed to enter. But outside of this 80-minute window, these FASTPASSES will no longer be honored.

If you talk with WDW insiders, they'll flat-out admit that this new rigid-FASTPASS-return-time policy is being implemented next month to help with the roll-out of XPass (i.e. that soon-to-be-announced Disney World vacation package program which will -- among its many perks -- allow Guests to book a full day's worth of FASTPASS ride times for a particular theme park weeks & months in advance). Another less-talked-about aspect of the coming XPass roll-out is the installation of new FASTPASS machines all over property (EX: the system that's in the process of being installed at Epcot's "The Seas with Nemo and Friends" pavilion). Which will then make it that much easier for XPass purchasers to pre-book their rides on many of the WDW theme parks' high profile / more popular shows & attractions.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"So when is Disney Parks & Resorts going to officially announce that  XPass vacation packages are officially available for booking at select WDW Resorts?," you ask. Back in December, the scuttlebutt was that this program would officially be unveiled at the Company's annual meeting of shareholders. Which will be held on Tuesday, March 13th at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, MO. With Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa being selected as the initial test site for this next generation Guest experience.

But nowadays ... I've been hearing that certain higher-ups at the Walt Disney World Resort would like to push back the official XPass announcement for at least a month or two. Just to make sure that -- by the time this enhanced Guest experience goes live -- that enough of the NextGen perks that are supposed to be the heart of this new vacation package are actually operational. With the hold-off-on-officially-announcing-XPass-for-a-while argument being that you only have one chance to make a great first impression. And if the first people who book XPass vacation packages find the initial version of this NextGen Guest experience wanting, in this age of social media, that news will fly around Facebook and Twitter like wildfire. Which is why veteran WDW managers want to err on the side of caution here.

On the other hand, the members of senior management at the Disney Company who actually authorized the estimated $1 billion that has (to date) spent on the development & implementation of all of this NextGen stuff .... They'd like to see the Company start to get a return on this huge  investment. Which is why they're pushing from their end to have XPass announced as soon as possible. So it's going to be interesting to see which set of insiders ultimately wins out here when Bob Iger takes to the stage next month in Kansas City and then reveals what the Mouse has in the works for 2013 & beyond.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

One point that's worth noting here is that -- while online Disneyana fans are mourning the coming end of the "Come-back-anytime-after-your-FASTPASS-window-has-expired.-Your-pass-will-still-be-honored" era -- 99% of Disney theme park visitors actually believed what what was written on their FASTPASS. So when these people would get a ride reservation for Splash Mountain which stated that they needed to be back between 1:25 - 2:25 p.m., these Guests would then move heaven and earth in order to get back to that thrill ride in time to ride. I've heard stories from veteran servers who work at super-hard-to-get-it WDW eateries like Cinderella's Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom about Guests who would bolt their meals, blow off the chance to have their pictures taken with the characters, frantically gesturing for a check ... All because these people had a FASTPASS for Space Mountain that they didn't want to expire.

So for these WDW Guests, Walt Disney World tightening the return window for FASTPASS isn't really going to have all that big an impact. But for those Disney insiders who have been gaming this ride reservation system for a dozen years now, who have been taking advantage of the Company's lax enforcement / relaxed attitude when it comes to FASTPASS  return times ... This policy change (much like that $10 per-person cancellation fee for missed WDW dining reservations which was put in place back in October 26th) will have its biggest impact on those WDW veterans who regularly read all of the Disney discussion boards and believe that they now know every possible trick when it comes to cutting corners / working the system.

And speaking of that recent change to Disney World's dining reservation policies ... Though you'll never ever get anyone in WDW management to go on the record about this particular policy change, I'm told that the Resort's Food & Beverage staff are absolutely thrilled with the positive impact that this $10-per-person-in-your-dining-party cancellation fee has had on some of Disney World's most popular eateries. Now that WDW Guests are required to give a credit card number in order to make reservations at popular places like Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort (More importantly, that these same people will be charged a $10 fee should they opt not to show up), the no-show rate at WDW's signature dining experiences or character meals has dropped from a high of 25 - 30% to a low of 5 - 10%.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Disney's hoping that next month's change to the FASTPASS return policy will have the same sort of PR footprint that October's $10 cancellation fee announcement had. In that -- after some initial grumbling on various Disney discussion boards around the Web -- there was a nary a ripple about this WDW dining reservations policy change out in the real world. Though given the millions of theme park visitors who have taken advantage of this ride reservation system since FASTPASS was first introduced back in 1999, one wonders how Disney World veterans are going to react when they learn that the Resort's previous your-FASTPASS-can-be-used-all-day policy is being replaced by a 80-minute-long window.

Your thoughts?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was reworked on February 13, 2012 to clarify the new FASTPASS return times. Which will actually be 80 minutes long, rather than the 20 minutes long mentioned in a previous draft of today's story.

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  • You keep saying 20 minute window but I had assumed it was an 80 minute window. Will the new Fastpasses say come back at 2:35 or will they still say come back between 1:35 and 2:35 allowing you to come back between 1:30 and 2:50?

  • Why does Iger have to constantly change what's already working... We have been involved with Disney for over 20 years. During FP days we have never run into a problem coming back at a later time on our FP... Please leave the FP the way it is.

  • Jim, you have way underestimated how many people take advantage of the flexible time.  Literally everybody I know does this.  If you get a fastpass, then go on another ride with a 60-90 minute wait you will probably miss your ride time.  That is not the guests fault, it's Disney's.  Disney continues to make changes to it's park to annoy guests while Universal and Sea World continue to innovate.  If this disaster expansion failure doesn't succeed, it's policies like this that will continue to drive guests away.  Xpass will fail too.  I can't wait to see the outcry when guests are turned away from being late to a ride, while minimum wage kids are standing to explain to a guest why they can't ride an attraction when guests have paid literally thousands and thousands of $$ to travel to see. WOW.  Disney is losing the battle and they think adding another Dumbo ride is the solution and make loser decisions like this.

  • XPass sounds like a major rip....basically anyone who buys into it is going to schedule a full day's worth of FP rides, correct?

    Doesn't that negate the entire point of being ON VACATION?

  • I'm a passholder but I always thought you had to go back during the printed time, so no big deal about the change.

  • You know what is truly annoying? Following the stated rules with the majority of park guests only to constantly run into mouth breathers who think that the rules don't apply to them. "Why can't I watch the parade from this spot?" "No flash photography? But I need to use my flash!" "What do you mean I have to have a wrist band to stay for Mickey's Christmas Party? I've paid thousands for my tickets, I'm staying" "How dare you load that handicapped person into the bus first, I've been waiting for a half an hour!" (true story)

    I have been in FastPass lines that were nearly as long as Standy-by. How can this happen? Doesn't Disney understand their ride capacities and their peak times? Of course they do. So how can I wait so long in a FastPass line? Because people were allowed to disregard the times on their passes and come back whenever they pleased. I applaud Disney for enforcing their rules. If you don't like their policies you could always scream loudly at the cast members until they cave in to your ridiculous demands, and in the process, teach your children that there are no rules so when they become adults they can act even worse in public. That will show Disney. Go to StupidGuestTricks.com to find out what the cast members really think about this type of guest.

    One more question that I already know the answer to. How can it possibly be Disney's fault that a guest is unable to properly manage their time at the parks? Answer: It's not.

  • Fastpass is a great service that only works when you stay with the rules.

    People who think the rules don´t apply to them are arrogant selfish retard who needs to grow up and try to understand the system. If your planning skills are so bad you can´t do it don´t take the fastpass and go stand in the regular line.

    And no, it´s not Disney´s fault that when you stand in line virtually and you go do another ride (that has wait time estimates) you can´t make it back, that's just a stupid augment.

  • I'd love to see the business case for all of the NexGen stuff.  I can't see how revenues are going to increase substantially enough to justify this huge investment given these types of initiatives (XPass, interactive queues, etc.).  Maybe I'm missing something, but it's not adding up to me.  As a Disney shareholder I would have much preferred the capital to be invested in new attractions/lands, fixing WDW infrastructure issues like transportation, etc. -  tangible enhancements that would result in cost savings and/or higher spend per visit / more frequent visits / longer stays.  To me, this entire initiative has way to soft of a return, and too high a risk in its potential to degrade the customer's experience.

  • Take it from a CM, Fastpass doesn't really work as well as it could. Once the time window enforced, wait times will go down for both lines. As for the "Outcry" that some predict probably will be minimum. Most people come close to their window of time anyway, only a few families out of hundreds I see in line come past their time.

  • I can't believe Disney didn't give "literally everybody" that DC knows a buzz to make sure they were down with the FP changes.  I say DC should boycott.  That'll teach em.

    Jim, a quick question... You mentioned the no show rate improvement under the new $10 rule.  Are they seeing less reservations in general or still filling up 4 months in advance (Le Cellier notwithstanding)?

  • You all do realize that by gaming the system you have been making things worse for the people standing in lines right?  For every person that shows up at a later time they are making the standby line wait that much longer at that time.  Maybe if everybody went along with the actual fast pass time it would make for shorter standby waits so you would be better able to make your fastpass time.  Imagine a world in which only a certain number of fastpasses are distributed per hour so the returns evenly distributed instead of in bunches that hold off the standby lines.  I know that's just crazy talk.

    Here's your counter-argument in a nutshell:  But MY vacation needs are more important than anyone else's so I should be able to get what I want.  You all disgust me with your selfishness.

  • I'm really disappointed in the change.  I don't think that I really abuse the system, but it is not uncommon that I would return with my Fastpass 45 minutes to an hour later than the return time. I don't think a lot of the comments here are really taking into account all of the issues that could come into play here.  Dining, for example, is also a nightmare.  I was at WDW at the end of last month (which is not a busy time) and for each of the four dining reservations I had, I was SEATED at least a half hour later than my reservation time (for which I was early in each case).  I don't care about them seating me late, but if I have a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania and the Prime Time Cafe is running behind (AS IT IS EVERY SINGLE TIME), this is suddenly going to start becoming an issue for me.  Another issue is the monorail/ boat transporation which are both very difficult to account for.  I'm going to be less likely now to make dining reservations at The Poly or The GF if I'm going to have to worry about getting back to the park to  make Fastpass times.  How about in a park like EPCOT, which is HUGE?  If I have a return time for Soarin' at 1:00 and it's 9:00, I'm not going to want to hang around Future World for 4 hours, but at the same time, I am not going to walk half of the showcase and run back to catch it.

    The real issue for me, however, is not so much that they would change this as the fact that they would prevent people from returning outside the Fastpass time, so that they can charge others (what is bound to be) an absurd price for the privledge.  I'm sure I won't be able to afford it, and I certainly cannot afford to stay at the GF, so there is really no way that this change is not going to negatively impact my experience at WDW.

    In regards to standby lines, maybe I am the jerk that others who have posted might imply, but I don't wait in them for any ride that has a Fastpass - EVER, and I can't imagine why anyone would unless you get there first thing in the morning or are there late at night.

  • Please no.

  • An idea I had is that maybe with XPass, it may plan out an order, or suggest the next stop after the current one.  It may be running algorithms all day to change plans so that if 50's Prime Time Cafe takes two hours to eat, it would bump your fast pass times out later in the day, or maybe move your next Fastpass at RNCC to later in the day after you first do TSM.

    Let's not judge the entire plan until we know what it is.

  • I still love WDW and we have gone at least 2-3 times a year for the past 20 yrs, but there is no spontaneity anymore involved with going.  If I have to plan everything to the minute, how is that relaxing?  It just seems that WDW tries to do anything they can anymore to make a buck.

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