Just when you thought the Genie+ UI couldn’t get any worse, Walt Disney World has said “hold my beer” and made more guest-unfriendly changes. This post runs through recent changes to the paid FastPass service, explaining how this will be a frustrating way to start the day for Lightning Lane power users.
In the last several months, Walt Disney World has been making a ton of tweaks to Genie+ in an effort to balance supply & demand, while also attempting to improve dismal guest satisfaction scores. The most recent of these was Eliminating the Genie+ Ticket Add- at Walt Disney World. That was met with a lot of doom and gloom and complaints, but Genie+ has yet to sell out anywhere or any day.
Walt Disney World has also added more entertainment and character meet & greets to Genie+ in an attempt to provide more capacity to the highly in-demand service. In some cases, those additions have been reverted–as happened with a trio of meet & greets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Still, those were positive, guest-friendly changes from Genie+ perspective.
There have also been a slew of changes that amount to lowering expectations or reducing complaints. To that end, Disney added a ‘warning’ that “on average, guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using the Lightning Lane entrance if the first selection is made early in the day.” (Read more in Genie+ Really is Paid FastPass+ at Walt Disney World.)
Unfortunately, recent tweaks to Genie+ can be filed under “lowering expectations” rather than “positive, guest-friendly change.”
The latest change is that during the high-demand window from the time Genie+ goes live in the morning at 7 am up until 7:30 am, guests will not be able to see the Lightning Lane return window.
Instead, My Disney Experience displays a “Check Availability” message that requires an extra tap to see the return window. Same goes for Individual Lightning Lane with a “See Available Times” message.
This is undoubtedly being done to “address” a common complaint, which we covered in our recent Genie+ Wish List: 3 Big Improvements for Walt Disney World. In that, our #2 problem was times shifting. That expressed the frustration of being up early, seeing the perfect Genie+ return window, quickly clicking through and reviewing the confirmation screen, only to discover that your “perfect” 9:00 am return time has shifted a little bit…to 5:40 pm!
Our suggestion for fixing this was simple and reasonable: locking selection time windows once clicking an attraction. This proposed solution comes from…pretty much every other online reservation system in use everywhere else? Holding a selection time for 60 seconds, 5 minutes, or whatever is deemed appropriate to give guests adequate time to complete the process without any surprises would fix the issue and reduce guest headaches.
Walt Disney World’s approach can’t really be called a “fix” or even a “duct tape solution.” It doesn’t do anything to address the problem, it just hides it. I guess the thinking is that people won’t complain about shifting return times if they can’t see return times? But that doesn’t actively address anything, it just obfuscates.
The underlying guest-unfriendly issue still exists, it just isn’t as easy to articulate what’s wrong. So if the goal is simply avoiding specific guest complaints, not improving actual satisfaction with the paid FastPass service, mission accomplished?
If you’re making ride reservations right at 7:00:00 am using our Genie+ Speed Strategy, this change doesn’t really impact you.
At worst, it’s a lateral move. In that scenario, you weren’t relying on the accuracy of those return times but were clicking through as quickly as possible and relying on your fast fingers (and internet connection!) more than anything else. It’s a distinction without a difference–the return times were likely to be inaccurate anyway, and didn’t provide any better or worse information than the “Check Availability” message. Both are equally worthless and should be disregarded.
Unfortunately for other Walt Disney World visitors, this is actually going to be a negative change–not just a lateral one.
If you were holding off on booking and instead using the Ride Reservation Refill Rules at Walt Disney World to book between ~7:07 am and ~7:25 am, this throws a monkey wrench in that. No longer will you be able to refresh and see when the refill has occurred. Instead, you’ll have to click around a bit more. For Genie+ power users, it’s another layer of frustration in a system that’s already plenty frustrating.
For those who are unfamiliar with these reservation refills, the above screenshot illustrates one of them. Compare this to the previous set of screenshots and you’ll notice that the return times are earlier. That’s because Walt Disney World quietly refills ride reservation availability at various times throughout the day–and we caught one such instance of that.
Unfortunately, you now wouldn’t be able to observe this occurring from the Tip Board between 7:00 am and 7:30 am. It would require clicking on each individual attraction to “Check Availability,” which is quite tedious.
Our recommended approach for the 7 am sharp super strategists would be to book your first selection using the speed strategy without pausing to check times or review anything. Once you made your reservation, check the time to see if that conflicts with your schedule–or whether you think you can do better.
If so, cancel and wait for an anticipated refill time and book again then. This approach entails more risk and committing more time, so understand that before proceeding. For most people and attractions, simply booking at 7 am as speedily as possible is still going to be the best and most straightforward strategy.
With that said, we have to acknowledge that power users should not be the intended beneficiaries of Genie+ changes. One thing we’ve stressed since the original announcement of the whole Genie system was that its policies were formulated in response to complaints from Walt Disney World first-timers.
In particular, we’ve pointed to same-day selections, rather than those made 30 or 60 days in advance. While the latter is favored by many savvy planners and repeat visitors–disproportionately the readers of blogs like this one–it was not popular with park-goers as a whole. Unfortunately, many first-timers had no clue they could make ride reservations until arriving. By then, it was already too late.
Two of the guiding principles behind Genie were monetization and democratization–making it easier to use for more guests and making money in the process. It has been an unequivocal success at accomplishing one of those goals.
However, the Genie system went off the rails at some point during development. It launched as something convoluted and confusing to all (so I guess in a sense it did level the playing field…but not in the way intended!), rather than being an easier and more intuitive–albeit paid–system. In any case, this is mentioned because changes should be evaluated at this point based on whether their guest-friendly and positive for inexperienced users of the system, not seasoned pros.
This “Check Availability” change benefits no one. At best, it reduces confusion about why times shifted–but that’s really only in theory. It doesn’t even properly resolve that, as there’s still not any sort of time lock. All it really does is add an extra click, and one that doesn’t yield anything positive for anyone.
In the end, you could say this is the equivalent of a duct tape solution…if your phone had a cracked screen and you opted to fix it by covering the crack with duct tape. In other words, not much of a solution at all, in practical terms.
On a different note, we’re now less than two weeks away from several Genie+ headliners reverting to Individual Lightning Lane status. In case you missed it, 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 have been included in the flat-rate Genie+ service for spring and summer.
Way back on February 25, Walt Disney World moved one Individual Lightning Lane attraction per park to the Genie+ service. This was done in response to the system (yet again) coming close to collapsing under the weight of Presidents’ Day crowds/demand, just as had previously happened for the prior holiday season. At that time, the change was made effective through August 7, 2022–for a total of over 5 months.
From the beginning, we’ve written that this change would occur through “at least” August 7, 2022. Our assumption has been that, at some point, Walt Disney World would quietly remove the August 7, 2022 asterisk from its official site and make the change permanent. After all, this change debuted last year at Thanksgiving and will almost certainly be necessary then. If October returns to normal, the added Genie+ capacity might be necessary much sooner–possibly by Columbus Day.
It doesn’t make much sense to keep bouncing these attractions around, changing their status from Genie+ to Individual Lightning Lanes and back multiple times per year. The whole Genie system is already a morass of random rules and policies that seemingly change on a weekly basis with little rhyme or reason as to why. (Spoiler: more changes are coming later this year and in early 2023!) There’s no compelling justification for reverting these rides to Individual Lightning Lanes once the off-season starts.
Of course, there is a reason for it–capturing more revenue during the off-season when Genie+ doesn’t technically “need” the added bandwidth to function as intended. That’s not a good or compelling reason, unless you’re looking at it from Walt Disney World’s perspective.
If Disney makes this guest-unfriendly move, our advice would be to respond accordingly. First, don’t buy Individual Lightning Lanes for any of the aforementioned attractions. Second, don’t purchase Genie+ for EPCOT or Animal Kingdom. Now, we’re not suggesting this as some sort of “moral stand” that fans take.
Rather, you should do so as a rational consumer. If those attractions are removed from the Genie+ ride roster, the service is no longer worthwhile for EPCOT or Animal Kingdom. The value proposition changes, it’s as simple as that. Moreover, it’ll be the off-season when crowds and wait times are lower (decreased demand is what’s allowing Disney to make the change in the first place), so Genie+ won’t be as necessary or useful. Same deal with Individual Lightning Lanes on those attractions–it’ll be quite easy to avoid long lines at those attractions without paying extra.
Ultimately, we’re still hopeful that Walt Disney World will make the changes permanent between now and August 7, 2022. It’s the right thing to do, both logistically and in making things easier on visitors. As for the frustrating change with return times from 7:00 am until 7:30 am, we really hope that’s simply a temporary duct tape fix, as it’s not helpful or a real solution in any way whatsoever. It simply hides the problem which is not the same as actually addressing it.
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.
Do these ride reservation refill rules make sense to you or is it too overwhelming? Will you use this strategy for scoring Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane selections? Have you had success in getting Slinky Dog Dash during one of these refills? What about headliners in other parks? Thoughts on leveraging Genie+ refills versus other strategy? 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!