Wondering what will replace FastPass+ at Walt Disney World now that all of those ride reservations have been cancelled and the service has been temporarily suspended? In this post, we cover the likelihood of virtual queues or longer standby lines replacing FP+ as well as the possibility of Disney Genie as a long term replacement. (Updated July 5, 2020.)
In case you missed it, guests with upcoming trips have been notified that Walt Disney World Will Cancel All Reservations–Free Dining, Restaurants, FastPass+ & Dining Plan. There has already been a significant backlash to all of this among fans, but little attention has been paid to what that means for attraction queueing.
When this post was initially published, there was some question about whether FastPass+ would be replaced by an alternate virtual queue system, as the functionality has already been built into the My Disney Experience app (and a similar free service has been tested at Shanghai Disneyland, called the “Disney Standby Pass“). However, it now appears that this will not be the case…
Walt Disney World has since released an official update clarifying that no virtual queues will be used (nor will Single Rider lines be offered). As for the future of the FastPass+ service, Disney will “share any future updates on the service at a later date.” To be honest, we’re not entirely sure what the future holds–much of this is speculative.
What we do know is that FastPass+ reservations have been cancelled, and that “ride reservation” system definitely will not be used in the near-term. This is unlike Advance Dining Reservations, which have also all been cancelled, but only so Walt Disney World can clear the slate and reopen ADRs with a 60-day window rather than a 180-day window.
The assumption by many based upon a straightforward reading of Disney’s official update is that the parks will use the FastPass queue space for additional standby capacity. However, that doesn’t make a ton of sense for many attractions.
In a lot of locations, the FastPass and standby lines are totally distinct. It’s not possible to easily retrofit the FastPass line so that it could accommodate more standby capacity.
Now, it could be done with some serious and permanent infrastructure changes (like what happened when FastPass was first introduced two decades ago), but that would be significant work for what Walt Disney World has called a “temporary” suspension of the service.
It’s entirely possible that the physical FastPass+ queue will still be used for Disability Access Service (DAS) and select VIP guests. There already has been confirmation from Club 33 that those members will still have priority access, and that’ll need to be accomplished somehow.
It’s also possible that another virtual queue, like the one used for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, will be rolled out at a later date. Perhaps this will occur a few weeks after operations resume and everything is going smoothly. (That’s what happened with the Disney Standby Pass at Shanghai Disneyland.)
Many Disney fans have experience with other same-day virtual queue systems–a couple of which are arguably better than FastPass+, anyway. The first is legacy or paper FastPass.
This is what Walt Disney World used prior to the all-digital FastPass+ system, and meant visiting physical kiosks in the parks (or having a “runner” do it) to obtain paper slips with return times. This system remains in partial use at every other Disney park complex, including Disneyland Resort.
The second system at Disneyland is MaxPass. It took us a while to come around on MaxPass, primarily because it’s an up-charge for regular ticket holders, which doesn’t sit well with us (MaxPass is included in higher tiers of Annual Passes).
The primary advantage of MaxPass is that it allows you to be more dynamic in your plans for the day, making FastPass reservations as you go, adjusting your schedule on the fly based upon your actual progress (and crowds) in the park, rather than making than months in advance. MaxPass allows for more spontaneity, which is a breath of fresh air.
Even with physical distancing markers on the ground, standby queues are less attractive to us than virtual queues right now. For one, there’s no way to police where people stand. If photos from other theme parks, grocery stores, or virtually anywhere are indication, many guests will simply disregard the markers.
Additionally, you’d still be spending more time in closed, stagnant-air environments. Minimizing the time guests linger in confined, indoor spaces (like queues) should be a priority for Walt Disney World if safety is actually paramount and it’s not just theater.
This is the route Universal Orlando has gone, utilizing the Virtual Line feature to minimize time in lines and help facilitate social distancing.
Virtual Line allows guests to select a time to experience an attraction via the app so they’re minimizing the time they’re actually waiting in the queue line. Guests can make Virtual Line selections while they’re onsite at the parks on the day of their visit.
Now, for some rampant speculation. I think it’s entirely possible that FastPass+ will never return.
It’s entirely possible that it’s being announced as a temporary suspension of FastPass+, but six months from now, we’ll see an official statement with the words “due to overwhelming feedback from our guests and extraordinary demand…” Disney has a way of strategically using misinformation to ease guests into changes.
In the company’s defense, Walt Disney World fans are infamously resistant to change. No matter the change, you’ll find a vocal group who disdains it. There have already been countless complaints about FastPass+ being temporarily suspended, and probably would be even more if it were the only announcement instead of a small aspect of a veritable sea change for visiting Walt Disney World.
It feels like the distant past now, but fans were up in arms when FastPass+ was announced to be replacing paper FastPasses, which regulars had grown to love. If social media were around when original FastPass was introduced, there undoubtedly would’ve been anger then, too. (Even today, there’s a large contingent of Disney fans who are anti-FastPass.)
It’s no secret that the entire NextGen project–including My Disney Experience, FastPass+, MagicBands, and interactive queues–was not the success Disney had envisioned for the multi-billion dollar initiative. We don’t have the time to do a deep dive into that, but you can read “The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness” and “Behind the Scenes at Disney As it Purged a Favorite Son” for a partial picture.
Suffice to say, there’s a reason why every single park complex in the world that has since rolled out digital systems subsequently has not used the same tech infrastructure as My Disney Experience. Moreover, a big reason Walt Disney World stuck with it was to save face. With most of the leadership of the NextGen days no longer with the company–and new executives looking to leave their fingerprints on the parks–now could be the time for big changes.
Enter Disney Genie. Remember that? Probably not–even though it was announced less than a year ago.
Disney Genie promised a revolutionary new digital offering set to debut in late 2020 that will enhance the way you plan for and experience a trip, with optimized itineraries, real-time tips and updates, recommendations for experiences it thinks you’ll love, and help navigating the theme parks with added convenience and comfort.
Before all of this, I was extremely skeptical that Disney Genie would deliver on any of those promises. From accounts I had heard, the announcement was rushed and took an idea that was being toyed with and presented that as something more. (It’s also not as if Walt Disney World’s IT track record instills much confidence.)
In any case, Disney Genie evinces a desire within the company to overhaul My Disney Experience. While I still question whether it’ll come to fruition as announced, I do think the “temporary suspension” of FastPass+ offers an opportunity for a soft reset of Walt Disney World’s ride reservation system, with the permanent replacement coming next year via Disney Genie (or whatever the branding ends up being).
There’s also Walt Disney World’s obvious desire to monetize its ride reservation system, as Disneyland has done (to minimal complaints and rave reviews, we might add). There have been rumors of paid FastPass for years, and at some point, those will be brought to fruition. Now is most definitely not the time for that, but a soft reset of the ride reservation system would lay the groundwork for it to happen a year or so down the road.
Supplanting FastPass+ with a temporary system is a way to ease guests into something similar for the future. Many longtime fans will be understanding because the circumstances dictate a temporary change–in the process, some fans will “forget” about the days of free FastPass+ and be less upset when a paid virtual queue is rolled out. We just hope it isn’t exclusively a paid system, like the Disney Premier Access service also being tested right now at Shanghai Disneyland.
Ultimately, we’re on board with a wholesale overhaul of the FastPass+ system, replacing it with something more akin to what’s used at Disneyland Resort. Even though that means a paid system, it’s infinitely better and less convoluted–and there’s still a free option in place at the California parks. (We are not on board with only a paid system.) Again, we should reiterate that this is almost entirely speculation. All Walt Disney World has announced is that FastPass+ will be temporarily suspended. We’re simply guessing that it’ll be replaced by Disney Genie in the long run.
If you have questions about the closure, including policy changes and what we know thus far, please consult our Walt Disney World Reopening FAQ & Info, which should answer most inquiries. See our other WDW Closure & Reopening Updates for the latest news. If you’re planning a Walt Disney World trip, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.
What do you think will replace FastPass+ at Walt Disney World? More standby space? Same-day virtual queues at FastPass attractions? Interested in how Walt Disney World will implement the new system? Think FastPass+ will return next year, or do you likewise think it’ll be replaced by something else? Agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!