Walt Disney World has announced higher prices for Genie+ via date-based pricing for the paid FastPass service. This post covers details of how the cost will increase on higher-demand days, the price range for this month, and our commentary about whether this is a good or bad change from a guest experience perspective.
While we’ve seen a few tweaks since the start of fall, Walt Disney World hasn’t really made any big adjustments to curb demand for Lightning Lanes since Eliminating the Genie+ Ticket Add-On at Walt Disney World. Back when that change was made, Disney stated that it was being done because the goal from the outset has been to “launch, learn and evolve” after seeing how guests are using the “popular and in high demand” service.
The other notable change was that Walt Disney World permanently moved one Individual Lightning Lane attraction per park to the Genie+ service. Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Frozen Ever After at EPCOT, and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom are all now included in the flat-rate Genie+ service after temporarily shifting there for the busy spring and summer seasons.
These aren’t the only changes Walt Disney World has made to the Genie+ service, both good and bad. Those value judgments depend upon your perspective and priorities, as every change creates winners and losers. This has all been in an effort to balance supply & demand, and has included “warning” guests that Genie+ essentially amounts to paid FastPass.
Other changes have been more well-received among fans, such as adding more entertainment and character meet & greets to Genie+ in an attempt to provide more capacity to the highly in-demand service. We’re not going to rehash all of that here, as even a short history of the changes to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes would be quite lengthy at this point.
In a nutshell, there have been two types of changes being made to Genie+ at Walt Disney World over the last several months: ones that theoretically rebalance supply & demand, and ones that alter the service to change its utility (improve or reduce, depending upon your perspective). This move to date-based pricing for Genie+ at Walt Disney World should, in theory, fall into the former category of reducing demand. Here are full details of the change…
Effective immediately, the Genie+ service prices will vary by date. Meaning that on days when demand is projected to be higher at Walt Disney World, Genie+ will cost more. This will function very similarly to the date-based ticket system, minus the pre-published calendar with ‘at a glance’ price points for each month.
However, this is not ‘pure’ demand-based or dynamic pricing. The prices are set in advance based on internal attendance and demand forecasts. Since Genie+ is now only for same-day purchase, you won’t know how much it’ll cost until logging into My Disney Experience each morning at 7 am. Think of it as a fun little game! 😉
For October 2022, Walt Disney World has revealed that Genie+ prices will range from $15 to $22, plus tax. That’s simply example pricing, and no details have been provided about the minimum or maximum over the course of the year.
However, it’s safe to assume that Genie+ pricing will more or less track with date-based ticket pricing. Single-day ticket prices this month max out at $154 on Saturdays, which are also presumably the $22 Genie+ days. In November and December, day ticket prices max out at $159, meaning Genie+ should cost no more than $23 on those days.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Walt Disney World isn’t releasing a price range for dates beyond October 2022 because the ceiling has not yet been decided upon. If demand remains strong for Genie+ at $22, maybe the weeks of Thanksgiving or Christmas will hit $25.
Or, perhaps there was no ulterior motive with with the range only being released for this month. That might be the range for the entire year. I wouldn’t bet on that being Walt Disney World’s intentions in only releasing October, but that could still be the outcome.
The timing of this move to date-based pricing shouldn’t be too surprising. In last week’s wait times report, Fall Off-Season is Over at Walt Disney World, we addressed how wait times have worsened. Since then, fall break crowds have arrived in full force, with every single day of the holiday weekend having 9/10 or 10/10 crowd levels, with the worst wait times since Easter on 3 of 4 days.
The goal of all these changes is to avoid a repeat of the week before Thanksgiving last year, when Genie+ Collapsed in Crowds. With Veterans’ Day, Jersey Week, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all right around the corner, the time is right for more big changes to better balance the Genie+ service.
To that end, you might recall that we praised Walt Disney World’s decision to eliminated the Genie+ add-on. We argued that it would have the effect of reducing demand because rather than buying the add-on for the duration of their vacations as as a matter of convenience, people now have to deliberately purchase Genie+ each day. The end result is fewer sales, as many guests realize they don’t want or need (or both) Genie+ every single day. Others review their daily spending on vacation and decide it’s not a pragmatic purchase.
When the add-on was first announced, we called it a “savvy move” on Walt Disney World’s part because guests don’t know how many days they’ll want Genie+ before actually using it. Whether it’s a matter of overestimating its usefulness or peace of mind, there’s a high probability that consumers buying the Genie+ add-on will spend far more than those who would purchase it on a daily basis, even if they buy the Genie+ add-on option at a “discount.” It was like the Disney Dining Plan all over again! (That comparison wasn’t a joke–the idea is exactly the same behind the two product offerings.)
That more or less summarized my perspective on the Genie+ ticket add-on being eliminated. I also acknowledged that many Walt Disney World fans would nevertheless be upset about the change, preferring the ease of pre-purchasing rather than having to buy Genie+ each day.
Those fan frustrations were understandable, as buying Genie+ each morning adds another layer of friction to the whole process. There’s also the uncertainty about whether the paid FastPass service will sell out. (In my opinion, Disney’s biggest blunder with that announcement was the “subject to availability” asterisk, which suggested that Genie+ could sell out. That has yet to happen, and probably never will in light of today’s date-based pricing change.)
My take on eliminating add-on was a very unpopular opinion, with approximately 0 of the 100+ commenters on that post agreeing with my perspective. Nevertheless, I stand by every word of it. You might wonder why I’m rehashing it here…perhaps it’s because I relish playing the villain? (No, not at all.) Maybe because I’m a bootlicker who praises everything Disney does? (Some of you seem to think that!)
Rather, it’s to set the stage for wholeheartedly rejecting the contrarian perspective here.
The ‘unpopular opinion’ here about the date-based price increase for Genie+ is easy to foresee because it’s something we’ve seen before on countless occasions. The viewpoint is that price increases are actually good because they decrease attendance and help cut crowds. This was a go-to line of the Iger regime when raising ticket prices, and one that was mindlessly parrotted by a certain subset of fans.
We have rejected this perspective time and time again. And do so yet again. For one thing, there is ample evidence to the contrary, as attendance has increased by millions of guests per year in the pre-closure decade. For another, if Disney wants to reduce crowds, there are ways to accomplish that–building more attractions or not taking 84 years to open a cloned roller coaster in an otherwise empty warehouse. In reality, Disney has little desire to reduce attendance–they want to “optimize” wait times, staffing, and pricing.
When it comes to paid FastPass, there’s a variation of the above argument. This is more or less that Genie+ would be better if prices were higher since Express Pass works well at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. That service costs significantly more but is included for free with stays at Universal’s three top-tier hotels.
For some Walt Disney World fans, the idea of Express Pass checks all of the right boxes. Exclusive but included with select on-site resorts, frictionless, and tech-free. To be sure, Express Pass is better than Genie+ from a usability perspective. We aren’t doubting or debating that. We’ve used Unlimited Express Pass extensively, and it’s far better overall. No question whatsoever. However, date-based pricing for Genie+ with the current cost range is not a move in that direction. (Not to go too far off-topic, but Walt Disney World could not replicate everything people love about Express Pass since its inputs differ.)
Whether it be for park tickets, resorts, or the Genie+ service, date-based pricing is an effective way for the company to its desired optimizations at Walt Disney World. There are certain times of year that experience higher demand for a number of reasons–school schedules, seasonal events, weather, etc.
Charging incrementally higher prices for these times of year allows Walt Disney World to capitalize on and profit from that inherently higher demand. That’s the goal–not redistributing attendance or whatever the talking point might be. There’s a reason spring break, summer vacation, and fall/winter holidays continue to see heavier attendance than any other time of year and have not leveled off with random dates in mid-January, early May, late August, etc. Increasing prices on that quasi-captive audience is simply savvy business or opportunism, depending upon your perspective.
The same thing will play out with date-based pricing for the Genie+ service. The more expensive dates won’t have a better guest experience; if anything, it’ll be worse. Demand for Lightning Lanes will be higher because crowds are higher, and the Genie+ date-based surcharge over the low or regular seasons will be relatively insignificant.
Worse wait times creates a higher incentive for bypassing lines, meaning higher uptake of Genie+ even when it costs more. Keep in mind, those visiting during these peak weeks are already paying more for their vacations. The difference between $16 and $24 (after tax) is relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and won’t cause many guests to balk at pricing. What’s another “few dollars” on top of a multi-thousand dollar trip if it’ll offer a competitive advantage?!
None of this is particularly speculative. We’ve seen it play out for years with date-based pricing on everything else. Not only that, but Individual Lightning Lanes already have a rudimentary form of date-based pricing, and that form of line-skipping is more “popular” when it’s more expensive. Again, the rationale is simple–people are willing to pay more to skip lines when they’re worse.
This isn’t necessarily to argue against Walt Disney World moving to date-based pricing for the Genie+ service. It’s simply to refute the misconception that Disney is doing guests a favor with price increases by (supposedly) reducing demand, crowds, or whatever. That probably would be true if the cost jumped from $16 to $80 per day, but that’s not the case here. Instead, Walt Disney World is trying to thread the needle by incrementally increasing prices in an effort to keep demand relatively inelastic.
Ultimately, there’s no good quick fix to this issue for Walt Disney World. The immediate alternative that I could get behind is simply capping Genie+ at a reasonable level and letting it sell out at the current price on peak season days. However, as the backlash to eliminating the ticket add-on demonstrated, many people would not be on board with that. Another option would be a price jump so large that utilization of Lightning Lanes dropped dramatically, thereby improving the standby experience.
It’s also hard to fault Walt Disney World for not leaving money on the table. While we hate all of the price increases of the last 2-3 years and believe there will be negative long-term ramifications, it’s also patently obvious that Disney has pricing power and no shortage of demand right now.
Long-term, the solution to all of this is building more attractions. As noted above, queueing is a zero-sum game. No approach to lines–not all standby, not paper FastPass, FastPass+ or Genie–changes capacity. The only meaningful way to alter the equation is by actually increasing capacity.
That’s done by adding entertainment, attractions, or extending operating hours. Everything else is a matter of rearranging the deck chairs, and having different guests or demographics come out ahead or behind. In this case, the “winners” (air quotes) are those willing and able to spend more during the busiest times of the year at Walt Disney World.
If you have questions about the basics of using–or not using–the paid FastPass service, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQfor all of the foundational need-to-know info. This whole system is confusing and convoluted, so you might have a question or two-dozen. That answers all of the most common ones we’ve been receiving from readers.
What do you think of the move to date-based pricing for Genie+ at Walt Disney World? Disappointed that it’s happening, or do you see the upside from a lowered demand perspective? Thoughts on our perspective that demand for Genie+ will continue to be highest on the busiest/most expensive days? Any other considerations we failed to take into account or details we missed/got wrong? Will you purchase Genie+ or is $20+ too expensive for you? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? 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!