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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Enforcement of FastPass Return Times at Walt Disney World

Will Walt Disney World really enforce FastPass return times?  And, if they do, how will it impact our vacation?

Let me begin with a bit of an explanation of FastPass.  FastPass is a ticket that “holds” a place in line of certain attractions so that guests can return later and use the FastPass line rather than the Stand-by line.  Only certain attractions are FastPass attractions and each park has FastPass attractions.  The return time on the FastPass ticket is typically an hour long, say 2:30-3:30 pm, as an example.  Guests may use their ticket media to get FastPass tickets at the attraction using the FastPass kiosks. 

Now, will Disney begin enforcing the return times?  Yes, we have not returned to attractions during the hour long window on the FastPass, as we learned the “secret” years ago that guests can return anytime after the beginning time of the return time window.  So, if the return time was 2:30-3:30 pm, we could return anytime after 2:30 pm.  If we didn’t get to that attraction until 6:00 pm, our FastPass would still be honored.

Rumor on the web—nothing official from Disney as how can they officially announce they are now going to follow their own rules—is that beginning March 7, 2012, FastPass return times were going to be strictly enforced.  The info coming from various sources cites that 5 minutes prior to the start of the FastPass return time and up to 30 minutes after will be honored.  Other than that, no way.  I’m trying to picture guests being turned away at the FastPass entrance because they were more than 30 minutes past the return time window.  Hmm. . .

One reason the “secret” of using the FastPass anytime after the start of the return time window was so great, is that it let you relax—and enjoy your vacation-- if you were stuck in a line, say waiting to meet characters or if you were eating at Crystal Palace and Piglet had yet to arrive at your table.

I’m envisioning servers at various restaurants now being rushed to bring the check, character handlers being chased down, and other hectic, blood pumping scenarios happening so that folks can get to the attraction in time to use their FastPass.

It would be one thing if a guest could choose their return time when getting a FastPass, but it is up to the FastPass machines to issue a ticket with the next available return times.  Will we now see guests standing not-so-patiently outside the FastPass Kiosks waiting for the return times to roll over to get to the time window they are needing based on ADR’s and other touring plans?

Why would Disney suddenly begin enforcing return times?  The information coming via the web indicates readiness for a next generation FastPass system that using scanning rather than a Cast Member to take your tickets.  Something about the scanners not accepting FastPasses that are beyond the time limits.  The use of advanced technology is going to make the system dumber, not smarter?  Surely Disney can figure this out and make the technology accept FastPasses beyond the designated time limits.  Or, change the FastPasses themselves to have an unlimited time of return, with only the available time to get the next FastPass having limits.  That would be fair, more palatable for guests, and make the new scanning system work.

How will this impact our vacation?  Potentially, incredibly.  We are FastPass collectors and use them later in the day.  This is how we ride Splash Mountain twice in a row or Toy Story Mania three times during the day.  We adhere to the rules for obtaining our next set of FastPasses, as the machine won’t spit them out if we try again before the time clicks over, but we have taken advantage of the “secret” for numerous vacations. 

I’m still mulling this around as to what to do.  Will we get fewer FastPasses?  Will we stand in more stand-by lines?  I’m leaning towards waiting to see what happens after March 7 and then making a decision.  Part of me wants to try and see if the Cast Members enforce the rule before changing our touring plans.

Already a Disney vacation can be laden with expectations, cost/time variables, and the ideology of a “once in a lifetime” variable.  The news of enforcing FastPass return times can add stress to Disney vacationers and reduce the “magic” of their vacation.  It isn’t like Disney to reduce magic, so we will wait and see what happens.

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