I don’t think you quite realize what you got here! So, why don’t you just ruminate, While I illuminate the possibilities! All you gotta do is rub that phone And I’ll say Walt Disney World fan, What will your pleasure be? Let me take your order Jot it down You ain’t never had a friend like Ge-nie (plus)
Sorry for butchering that classic song, but let’s say you’ve got three wishes for Genie+ improvements to the app feature, to be exact. And ixnay on the wishing for free FastPass (or more wishes). That’s all. Three. Uno, dos, tres. No substitutions, exchanges or refunds. What ways would you like to see Genie+ improved at Walt Disney World?
As someone who has used Genie+ at Walt Disney World many times, I have a list that’s three miles long, no doubt. However, of that multi-mile list, there’s a trio of high-priority improvements that immediately jump out to me and are realistically for Walt Disney World to implement. So Abracadabra, let ‘er rip, let’s make those issues disappear! (I’m sorry, the song is stuck in my head; I shouldn’t take that out on you all.)
3. Modify Button – Genie has a number of user interface “quirks” that make it seem like it was thrown together quickly without much reference to its predecessor, and with next to no field testing. Without question, the most frustrating omission is the lack of a modify button on existing Lightning Lane ride reservations.
This oversight is particularly puzzling because the ability to modify a selection was present in the old FastPass+ system. How it worked is pretty intuitive. You would simply click on one of your existing FastPass+ reservations and then click a modify button, rather than cancel. That pulled up a version of the booking flow, allowing you to access the full list of attractions with FastPass+ availability, including different times for your existing attraction selection.
If that’s difficult to visualize, pull up an Advance Dining Reservation and click the modify button on that. It’s the exact same idea with ADRs or, you know, pretty much any other online reservation system!
The lack of a modify button is so significant because that one simple feature would provide a safety net. It would allow you the ability to lock-in a ride reservation and then continue searching, looking for better options. In particular, ride reservation refills and cancellations. If you’ve never used Genie+, this missing feature may not seem like a big deal. Just cancel and rebook instead, right?
In theory, that works. In practice, the process of searching for a new Lightning Lane, then cancelling your current one and rebooking is incredibly time-consuming and involves several clicks. I’d hazard a guess that, 9 times out of 10, by the time you cancel and get back to the booking screen, whatever you wanted is already gone. (I have literally never had success canceling and rebooking something better. I don’t even attempt it anymore.)
Beyond that, losing your original reservation can put you in a worse position, as you have to continue searching until you find a suitable replacement. Meanwhile, the clock has reset on the 120 minute rule. It really feels like having the rug magic carpet pulled out from under you.
2. Lock Times – Speaking of having the magic carpet pulled out from under you, let’s set the scene for the next issue. You’re up early, fully caffeinated, and ready to go. You get all of the speed strategy pre-steps squared away. Right as the clock rolls over to 7:00:00 am on time.gov, you refresh. You snatch Slinky Dog Dash with a perfect 9:00 am return time. Success!
…Or so you thought. After quickly clicking through and reviewing the confirmation screen, you’re surprised to discover that your “perfect” 9:00 am return time has shifted a little bit…to 5:40 pm. (Think that’s bad? Now imagine the same scenario, but with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, an attraction you specifically paid extra to book at a specific time.) That won’t work, as you have an ADR for Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at that exact time you booked 60 days ago at the crack of dawn.
Now, you could modify the Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane…oh wait, no you can’t. There’s no modify button. Naturally, those highly coveted Sci-Fi ADRs are long gone (in reality, you probably booked this over 60 days ago), so you can’t modify that, either. We probably don’t need to further elaborate on why this Lightning Lane return time drift causes problems–this example tells the whole story.
Worse yet, you manage to snatch a coveted Lightning Lane selection, and while clicking through to complete the booking process, it disappears. You get the dreaded “Currently Unavailable: The Lightning Lane entrance for this experience is not available to book at this time. Please check back throughout the day or try selecting a different experience now.” Translation: someone with faster fingers booked the Lightning Lane out from under you. Tough break, pal!
Again, the suggestion for how to fix these issues comes from…pretty much every other online reservation system in use everywhere else? Lock the selection time for 60 seconds, 5 minutes, or whatever is deemed appropriate to give guests adequate time to complete the process without any surprises.
Neither of these first two suggestions are anything revolutionary, and that’s part of what makes them so frustrating. These are both painfully obvious features that should’ve existed from the get-go. The omission of both is conspicuous, and suggests that Genie+ was rushed to market with insufficient development time, resources, and testing. (Two things that frustrate me to no end as a consumer are when companies charge me for a service they didn’t properly invest in themselves or when they don’t value my time. Disney is arguably the biggest offender on both fronts.)
1. Start Upon Park Entry (not 7 am) – Another big complaint we’ve heard from readers concerns the stress of having to wake up early to book Lightning Lane ride reservations at 7 am. Our suggestion here is that Walt Disney World use the rule in place at Disneyland, which is that booking begins as soon as guests enter the park for the day. This policy at the California parks is sensible and workable–we know that because it’s exactly how both MaxPass and paper FastPass before that operated.
While the first two conspicuous omissions are inexcusable, I’m a bit more forgiving of Walt Disney World’s decision to use the 7 am start time for Genie+ booking. While this might seem unprecedented, this rule is actually inherited from the virtual queue system used at Walt Disney World. To understand the “why” of this (which is important context), we’ll go back to the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. For the first couple weeks the attraction was open, guests could enter its virtual queue immediately upon tapping into Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Realizing this, guests showed up earlier and earlier to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Even though the official opening time wasn’t until 8 am, people were packing the area around the entrance several hours before that. Walt Disney World likes to avoid crowds outside the turnstiles for safety reasons, so they quietly opened the park long before then (between 6 and 6:30 am) before moving up the park opening time to 7 am. That fixed nothing. All it did was cause guests to arrive even earlier, wanting to beat the crowds and be the first to score spots in the virtual queue. (The photos above and below are from the morning before sunrise–not the evening!)
This problem persisted to the point that Walt Disney World instituted the 7 am entry time for the virtual queue. Because demand far surpassed supply, guests also had to be in the park. There continued to be an early morning crush of crowds, but it wasn’t as early since there was no advantage to arriving increasingly earlier. Someone who showed up at 4:11 am might get a worse boarding group than someone who arrived at 6:59 am.
With the reopening of the parks, Walt Disney World wanted to avoid high crowd situations and earlier opening times, so they tweaked the process yet again. This time, the assist of Disney Park Pass allowed for the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue entry process to be limited to only guests with reservations. Why am I recapping the evolution of virtual queues in a post about Genie+ improvements? Because this history informs how the 7 am ‘rule’ came to be, and why it’s not so unreasonable.
Nevertheless, I would argue that this this policy–so clearly inherited from the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue and not part of the Genie+ experience at Disneyland–has outlived its usefulness. For one thing, Walt Disney World long ago dropped any semblance of concern about congestion as was the case shortly after reopening.
For another, park hours have normalized to the point that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is regularly opening to the public at 8 am once again. In addition to that, the tapstiles are typically open by 7:30 am, with a steady stream of guests entering at that hour–a far cry from the onslaught of early 2020.
The argument could be made that changing the Genie+ policy to allow guests to make their first Lightning Lane ride reservation only after entering the park would change this dynamic. It would pull forward crowds, a repeat of that unpleasant scene in early 2020. I’m highly skeptical that would be the case for a couple of reasons.
First, there’s the simple reality that Early Entry precludes the majority of guests from doing so even if they wanted. As it stands, on-site guests are able to enter the parks (or proceed past a certain point, in the case of Magic Kingdom) long before off-site guests.
Indirectly, this would also give on-site guests another advantage, and at a time when perks for booking Walt Disney World resorts are limited by historical standards. Being able to book their first Lightning Lane around 30 minutes before off-site guests would give on-site guests better return times, and potentially mean 1 extra booking per day with Genie+.
Second, aside from Slinky Dog Dash and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, no attractions are running out of availability particularly quickly with the Genie+ system. (Add Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind to that list soon.) So to the extent that this problem would even theoretically occur, it would only happen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
However, it probably would not even happen there, as it’s not happening with Early Entry. Even on busy days, there is not the same ‘crush of crowds’ stampeding DHS each morning to be among the first to experience them during Early Entry. This could be a matter of awareness, but that’s doubtful. (It’s avoidable at Epcot by using a virtual queue for Cosmic Rewind.)
To be sure, changing the approach is a risk for Walt Disney World (albeit one specifically confined to DHS). It’s one thing for me to express confidence in this not being a problem as an armchair analyst with a guest-centric point of view. There’s no accountability for me in being wrong (other than saying: “my bad, maybe they shouldn’t have done this”). Moreover, this would almost certainly be a win for early-rising tourists staying on-site, even if it might cause problems for others.
Admittedly, I would not have this same confidence if I were in charge of operations and my words had consequences. Instead, my perspective would be “maintain the status quo at all costs” because so many alternatives had been tested (with the Rise of the Resistance VQ) and so many did not work. In other words, it’s understandable why operations wouldn’t want to rock the boat.
Nevertheless, I think it’s worth the risk. This 7 am start time is incredibly frustrating for a huge segment of guests, and also makes availability go faster (again, primarily for DHS). Changing things up might be a bit of a gamble, but there’s also the reality that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance isn’t the shiny new thing it was 2 years ago, and Slinky Dog Dash isn’t worth that much effort. A lot more people were willing to get up early and jump through hoops for a “free” brand new blockbuster attraction than will do so for a ~2 year old ride that costs $15/person or a weiner dog-themed outdoor roller coaster that’s also part of a paid package.
I’m willing to bet that if the policy were changed to allow the first Lightning Lane reservation to be made upon entering the parks, it would normalize demand. There would be some pull-forward of guest arrival times to the parks, but also a slow-down of distribution/return times.
While it’s not directly analogous due to demographic differences, this is more or less what can be observed at Disneyland. (Even if it played out differently, there are other fixes for this–like staggered refill times, and a bit more transparency about them.) By and large, the guests who were always going to wake up early would do exactly that, and those who wanted to sleep in would do that.
In short, starting Genie+ booking when guests enter the park would strike a better balance, dial down the competitiveness, and make for a more pleasant overall experience. The story is similar with the top two improvements, too. If the complaints we’re hearing about Genie+ are representative, this trio of improvements would be a nice compromise between the current system and its FastPass+ predecessor, which would be very welcome by Walt Disney World fans. It wouldn’t instantly address all of the outrage, but it would like make guests happier who have come to terms with now paying for something that was once free.
What do you think of these suggested improvements for Genie+ at Walt Disney World? Do you think any of these wishes are bad ideas, or ones that could have unintended negative consequence? Assuming that advance booking days/weeks/months is out of the question, do you favor making reservations at 7 am or upon entering the park? What would be your three Genie+ wishes? Do you agree or disagree with my picks? 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!