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First day of xPass / FASTPASS+ field testing suggests that Disney World may have a new Guest pleaser on its hands

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First day of xPass / FASTPASS+ field testing suggests that Disney World may have a new Guest pleaser on its hands

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So we're two days into WDW's first real field test for the Resort's new xPass / FASTPASS+ system. And the results so far look rather promising.

Perhaps the biggest news so far is that we've discovered one of the ways that Disney is recruiting Guests to take part in this two-week-long field test. And that's through randomly selecting people at Orlando International Airport as they head downstairs to check-in for Disney's Magical Express

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Once they get down to the first floor of the main terminal, these folks are then directed to a Cast Member with a laptop. Who -- during a relatively speedy check-in process that takes only 3-to-5 minutes -- first gets the test subject's name and e-mail address. Then these Guests are shown a bookmark-sized piece of paper that lists five attractions on one side of the Magic Kingdom and are asked " ... which two of these five are you most interested in experiencing while you're visiting the Magic Kingdom?"

After the test subject picks two rides & shows, the Cast Member flips this bookmark-sized card over to reveal five more attractions that are located elsewhere in the Magic Kingdom. Where -- again -- the Guest is asked to pick the two that they'd most like to experience during their day at the Kingdom.

Then -- from there -- these recruits are asked when exactly they'd like to begin their visit that theme park: morning (9 a.m. to noon), mid-morning (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), afternoon (noon to 5 p.m.) or all day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). After that, the Cast Member collects some additional information to help personalize these people's itineraries (EX: Is this anyone in that party's first trip to the Park? Is anyone in this group celebrating a birthday or anniversary while they're visiting Walt Disney World?) and then issues yellow xPass / FASTPASS+ RFID cards for everyone in the party.

Copyright Disney Enterprises,Inc. All rights reserved

And once this is done, these field test recruits are then directed to the appropriate Disney's Magical Express line so that their WDW vacations can officially begin.

"And what happens after this?," you ask. Well, once the Guests check into their respective WDW Resort, later that same day they receive a copy of an e-mail  which reads:

Thank you for participating in the Disney's FASTPASS test experience. We are continuously looking at ways to improve our Guest experience. The offerings you participated in may or may not be representative of future plans. You will receive an email after your visit to provide comments on your experience during this test. Your feedback is important to us as we look at the future Disney's FASTPASS experience.

Photo by Kent Phillips. Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

Please enter the Disney's FASTPASS entrance at the attraction between the times noted above. Cannot accept early or late arrivals. Valid only on date and times specified above. Operating hours of the attraction are subject to change without notice. Attraction may close temporarily without notice. Not valid for admission to any theme park. All posted height restrictions apply for each attraction.

As you might expect, this xPass / FASTPASS+ confirmation e-mail includes all of the ride times that these test subjects have previously selected & locked-in back at OIA.

And beyond that  ... Well, once these people got to the Magic Kingdom, they obviously had fun because that they had 4 pre-booked FASTPASSES+ for that theme park's most popular attractions. But the truly weird part of this tale is how excited the WDW Cast Members were when they were presented with these yellow xPass / FASTPASS+ RFID cards.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

You see, these Disney World employees (just like the rest of us) have been following all of the stories & the rumors that have been swirling around  the Company's Next Generation efforts for years now. So to finally have this new system actually being field tested at the Magic Kingdom was a very, very big deal for most Cast Members.

So when people walked up for the entrance of these attractions and then pulled out their yellow cards by that RFID reader, it was hard to tell who was more excited: The Cast Member or the Guest.  The WDW employee would often call their managers over so that they could show them what happened when that xPass / FASTPASS+ was waved in front of the RFID reader. How the iPad that this Cast Member in the Greeter position would suddenly reveal that Guest's name and whether they were celebrating an anniversary or a birthday during their visit to the Park.

Beyond that, the only real difference between a regular FASTPASS and this version of xPass / FASTPASS+ was that -- at the point where the Guest typically surrenders their FASTPASS to a Cast Member before boarding the attraction -- this yellow RFID card was scanned one last time and then returned to that Disney World visitor.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Best of all, this RFID card acts like just like a standard WDW admission ticket. Which means that -- if you stick it into a FASTPASS machine -- you can then score a fifth (or -- if you're lucky and/or extremely canny about how you use that card -- a sixth) FASTPASS ticket which you can then use during your visit to the Magic Kingdom.

Another intriguing aspect of this xPass / FASTPASS+ field test  is that there are now these kiosks scattered around the Magic Kingdom that -- should you forget the times & what order you're supposed to experience your pre-booked attractions in -- will then show you the rides & shows that you have yet to experience.  And if you've already completed your itinerary by the time you visit this kiosk, the message that you'll receive when your yellow RFID card is scanned is "You have no events scheduled."

Okay. I know. We're only in the first two days of a two week-long field test. And  as you might expect, there were the usual hiccups that happen when you're rolling out a brand-new, basically untried technology. But overall things went relatively smoothly yesterday.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And then when you take into consideration that this particular iteration of xPass / FASTPASS+  only makes use of a 10th of the features that Walt Disney Parks & Resorts eventually plans on making available to Guests through this Next Generation program ... It looks like the next few years are going to be very, very interesting for both WDW visitors as well as Cast Members.

Because based on people's reactions so far, it looks like the Mouse may have a new Guest pleaser on its hands.

Your thoughts?

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  • Was the worry EVER that folks holding Mickey's Golden Ticket would be disappointed? I thought the REAL concern was the folks who DO NOT have an xPass, their ensuing jealousy, and the inevitable 'That's not fair!' tirades aimed at cast members.

    As it stands now, there simply aren't enough people using them for the average non-xPass park guest to even notice. Once xPass usage climbs over 33.3%, I'm pretty sure you'll begin to witness that enchanting sense of entitlement seen so often in the parks.

    (Oh, and just wait until my fellow APs start to notice a minor bump in the amount of time that they have to wait in the Fastpass queues. City Hall is gonna have a line longer than Toy Story Mania!)

  • Sounds great, can't wait to see more of it, and I'm glad to hear that it's going well!

    Nice tease there at the end "only makes use of a 10th of the features that Walt Disney Parks & Resorts eventually plans on making available", care to share a little bit of your insight? What else do they have planned for this? I'm guessing, the RFID will replace room key as well as key to the world, photopass card, but what else?

  • Yup. Too soon.  We need more data...as does Disney; to see if that little "+"  added at the end of that FastPass logo, really improves guest experience.

    I'm still not convinced this will go over with the family demographic and Disney's guest majority. The biggest singular demand from park guests IS NOT shorter wait time at an attraction or event.; It's "cost"!  An argument can be made for Disney promoting this as a "Biggest Bang for the Buck" process; but even then, the average park guest would rather just use the freely offered FastPass and then grab a bite to eat - watch a show - or visit another attraction until it's time to head back and ride. There's no question that the FastPass system is dated; considering it only works about 50% of the time allowing standby riders and single riders to zip by without them, But advanced "time- alloted" planning isn't the answer as this will further disrupt wait times for standby guests, as well as irritate the elite park holders who paid more for practically "nothing". I fear this will crate a queue caste system amongst guests while ultimately and inevitably causing friction between guests and Da Mouse.

    But, only time will tell. It's just too soon to see if this works. Here's hoping it does "plus it!"

  • I think people are confused. The Xpasses aren't additional passes handed out. They are passes subtracted from the pass pool. There will be no increase of wait time. Also, if anything, it would be the Extra Magic Hours that still causes the most friction. Having up to three free extra hours in a park versus a few preselected passes (on top of which that can't get extra passes if the time overlaps) sounds like a bigger cause of a schism. I don't think this will cause a caste system as some say because they're just Fastpasses that they got ahead of time. So far that's the difference...they just scheduled the passes.

  • Of'course everyone will be thrilled, they get off a plane and get this "gift" for a day at the park.  Wait until day 6 of their vacation and they don't want to stick to the plan anymore.  It's one thing setting your itinerary the day you arrive, not going to be the same 3 to 6 months out, especially if you can't revise it within a week of arrival (especially when they change the operating hours every month)!

  • I'm still well beyond skeptical. Of course everyone liked it. It's not affecting anything.

    When everyone in the deluxe resorts are using these, or everyone on property... what happens?

    The current FastPass system is the most efficient and fair system. It's free. You actually have to put in the work to be there. The "average" once every five years Disney guest doesn't need a new system. Whether they know how to use fastpass or not, they're happy when they leave Disney World.

    This is going to affect Disney's once-a-year or multiple-times-a-year guest the most, especially people who don't stay on property. 1000s of people have grown up using TouringPlans or the like and know how to work the parks properly. Not being able to secure fastpasses the way you want is going to change all that and piss a lot of regulars off.

    Welcome to Universal Studios where you buy your place in line.

  • I think this is just one more perk in a long list of perks aimed at getting WDW visitors to stay onsite. Disney keeps adding lodging capacity in an already saturated Orlando market. When this program is fully implemented I think it will definitely increase the desire to stay onsite, but it also may decrease park attendance. After all who will want to go to Disney World and be treated like a second class citizen (no fast pass for you!) ? You either will pay up to stay onsite or not go. The people who won't or can't pay Disney's onsite lodging prices will deduct from overall attendance.

  • Jim, how can you EVER think something new could please the Disney cognescenti?  Why, this can't be any better than the original fastpass, or DVC, or the dining plan, or, or . . .

    Oh, I give  up, maybe they'll like this too.

  • What good is this if one doesn't carry a laptop to WDW or have a smartphone with internet access?

  • Great. But what about me the annual passholder/Fl resident?

  • Is it anticipated that guests staying at lodging other than onsite WDW resorts will not have access to the xpasses?

  • Remember, this is just a test. They were given to people staying on property for the test. It was an easy way to randomly identify guests who were definitely going to Disney World. Jim's previous post in Feb. suggests that this will be available to ALL park guests for free.

    Basically, it's just a Fastpass that you don't have to run to the kiosk to get. Instead, you can go see other stuff and go at your allotted time instead of making 2 trips to the ride. It will probably just work for existing Fastpass attractions because these are the rides that have high demand and work well with a Fastpass system. Also, I think letting CMs know about celebrations gives them the opportunity to make extra magic happen for guests celebrating something, or at least make them feel more special. (And welcoming a child by name could make them feel real special and a part of the Disney community even if they aren't celebrating something.)

    Disney has tinkered with Fastpass stuff for a long time, even the existing system. It won't "kill" magic any more than a 2 hour wait in line when you can do nothing more spontaneous than come up with silly games and see how long it takes before you need to shift your weight to keep blood circulating through your legs.

    I think the best thing Disney has done is enhance the queues, like Winnie the Pooh. Truth is during certain times of year, people will always be standing in a long line. Giving people a break from that once in a while really increases user satisfaction. If you go during the busy seasons and don't use Fastpass ever, then gripe about the new system.

    As for missing the time window, well, I've been at the end of a park day and still had Fastpasses unused. I just gave them to someone else. If you don't go on a ride with the Fastpass+, then you are giving the other FP holders the gift of a shorter line.

    An hour time window is pretty generous for allowing for eventualities if you know you need to be somewhere. And if you are doing something you need instead (like a meal or break) or enjoying magic elsewhere, then who cares?

    As for people talking about the good old days, Disney World has a lot higher attendance than in the 70s, and that's a good thing because more people from different places and circumstances have been able to visit. (Try to beat my $350 total budget for 2 people for 4 nights, car rental, food, flight, and park visit while my husband was in grad school). Yes, we ate canned soups, PBJ, and Ricaroni, but we were in Disney World! As crowds get bigger, the lines get longer, and giving people a few perks a day really helps them (me) forget about the hour in line I spent at the other attraction.

  • I have heard from multiple sources that this will just be rolled out to guests staying at Deluxe Resorts and then to the guests of the Villas. On top of paying extra for this option, you also have to stay at the most expensive resorts?!? This is crazy! I think that those people with families that cannot afford to stay at the nicer resorts or who stay off property should not be punished because they cannot afford the "Deluxe Disney" experience.

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