Since the launch of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes last fall at Walt Disney World, there’s been no shortage of problems, guest complaints, and tweaks to the system meant to address those issues and adjust guest expectations. This post takes a look at the latest such instance of this, in the form of a pop-up warning message in the Disneyland app.
As intimated above, this is hardly unique. During last year’s holiday season and the week of Presidents’ Day this year, Walt Disney World moved Individual Lightning Lane attractions to Genie+. The motivation was adding availability, and (theoretically) how many standard Lightning Lane selections guests who purchase Genie+ can score in a day when attendance is high.
Since then, Walt Disney World has added a ‘warning’ to its official resources about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, including on the splash screen before guests purchase the Genie+ add-on. Among other things, this states 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.)
The former change was made to buoy guest satisfaction. Before those rides were moved over to the Genie+ service, many consumers complained of limited ride reservation availability. Prevailing reader sentiment suggested that people felt they were paying for nothing, getting more headaches than value for their money.
The latter change was made to lower expectations about how much guests can accomplish via Lightning Lanes. It was also notable in being a high-visibility warning that would actively discourage some guests from buying the Genie+ line-skipping service. Disney trying to reduce sales of an upcharge is relatively unprecedented.
However, all of this occurred for good reason. When Genie+ is useless or guests feel they aren’t getting their money’s worth, there are long lines at Guest Relations, refunds are issued, and guest satisfaction scores drop.
None of this is hypothetical. Lines at Guest Relations have grown since last fall and frustration has increased with the paid replacement for FastPass. As we’ve discussed in several other posts, the company has been silent on the topic of guest satisfaction since Genie launched after touting its resilience for several quarters during quarterly earnings calls.
Instead, those same executives have expressed surprise about how many guests are buying Genie+ and Lightning Lane access, inferring popularity from those purchases. They have offered the naked assertion that Genie “improves and enhances the guest experience” without explaining how.
This new warning comes against that backdrop, with a new “Pardon the Inconvenience” message that began popping up in the Disneyland app during the Easter weekend:
“We strongly encourage you to check today’s Lightning Lane availability and other park details before purchasing Disney Genie+ service, as purchase of Disney Genie+ service is nonrefundable. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
This is relatively noteworthy and is actually a bit surprising (and downright odd) for several reasons…
The unsurprising aspect is the timing. This is happening the weekend of Easter, which is one of the busiest holidays of the entire year at Disneyland. The long weekend always draws big crowds from Northern California and nearby states, as visitors flock to Southern California for pleasant April weather.
This whole week is a big one for spring break in California, including Los Angeles County Schools. That alone made weekdays at Disneyland incredibly busy in the lead-up to the holiday weekend. In reviewing wait time data, the 7 busiest days of 2022 at Disneyland have all come since April 11.
As with the previous warning message at Walt Disney World, the pop-up can be construed as Disneyland attempting to dissuade some guests from purchasing the Genie+ service. It doesn’t explicitly state as much, but that type of language “strongly encouraging” guests to review availability before buying obviously is not meant to spike sales.
Even the most charitable reading is to adjust expectations so that guests know exactly what they’re buying and realize Genie+ is nonrefundable. However, by that logic this message always should’ve appeared prior to purchase–and this warning never appeared until now. This isn’t the type of thing that just gets added by happenstance–and with such sharp language. It wouldn’t exist if something weren’t going wrong.
That Disneyland would be actively discouraging Genie+ sales isn’t even the oddest aspect of this. I’m still struggling to understand the motivation for adding this warning at Disneyland. Here’s a look at Lightning Lane availability on April 16 at around 7:45 pm Pacific:
Again, this is 7:45 pm. In other words, at night.
Show this to someone who has visited Walt Disney World recently, and their mind is likely going to be blown that Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Matterhorn all still have availability. The parks having relatively good Lightning Lane availability in the evening hours is what makes this truly odd.
To be clear, this is not “selective screenshotting” on our part. These images don’t omit any attractions, nor were the screenshots captured after a big ride reservation refill. This is a normal look at availability.
The only unavailable attractions on the Genie+ side were Space Mountain and Indiana Jones Adventure. On the Individual Lightning Lane side, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was also gone. While the Galaxy’s Edge headliner sold out at about noon, the two Genie+ headliners still had availability after 5 pm. Even on the busiest days of the year, nothing at Disneyland is booking up in the morning, let alone at or before park opening.
So what prompted this at Disneyland? I have a couple of theories, but it’s really difficult to say if any of them are valid.
First, there are the underlying differences between Walt Disney World and Disneyland guests. The latter sees fewer first-timers; even those who aren’t Magic Key passholders tend to visit on an annual basis. Disneyland regulars likely would’ve been familiar with MaxPass, which was similar but superior to Genie+. It’s thus possible past MaxPass users were expecting more or better out of Genie+.
Disneyland’s most fervent fans also hold the company to a higher standard. Since more have visited in the past, they have knowledge about how things used to be done. Once in a lifetime visitors are easier to satisfy than those with years or even decades of experience visiting the parks. Disneyland visitors are vocal, and their threshold for complaining is far lower than Walt Disney World guests.
In other words, guest expectations differ between the coasts. It’s entirely possible that Disneyland is receiving more guest complaints about Genie+ than Walt Disney World, despite the service being objectively superior at the California parks. (Genie+ is not just a little better at Disneyland–it is significantly better. Yet this warning only appears in California and not Florida.)
Another possibility is that management holds Disneyland to a higher standard. This is really nothing new, and has driven decisions for years. Walt Disney World is perceived internally as the cash cow, whereas Disneyland is the sacred one where Walt actually walked.
Being a short drive from Glendale and Burbank, the California parks are also the ones frequented by senior leadership and corporate executives as actual guests. When these individuals visit Walt Disney World, they’re usually doing so as part of guided tours that direct their attention towards what Orlando management wants them to see, and away from what they want to avoid. By contrast, they’re visiting Disneyland with their kids on the weekends, and usually without plaids.
Finally, it’s possible that there’s confusion and complaints about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Radiator Springs Racers, or the Spider-Man ride not being included in Genie+ and costing extra via Individual Lightning Lanes. We’ve lamented the unfortunate branding and likelihood for consumer confusion since this whole system was announced. There are no doubt plenty of guests every day who don’t realize they can’t use Genie+ to make a ride reservation for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance until it’s too late.
Obviously, this issue is not unique to California. If this is the core complaint, why the warning is popping up in the Disneyland app and not the My Disney Experience app for Walt Disney World is a good question. Again, it could come down to local leadership. Anaheim has the reputation for being more responsive to and cognizant of the guest experience and satisfaction. While this hasn’t always appeared to be the case since reopening, it is historically true.
I have some other theories as to why this pop-up appeared in the Disneyland app and not the Walt Disney World app, but I won’t subject you to them. They are firmly in “tin foil territory” and likely reading too deeply into one little message.
All I will say is that this wouldn’t be the first time that Anaheim and Orlando were at odds over how to approach line-skipping services. It also wouldn’t be the first time that Disneyland pushed back on Genie–just the first time since launch.
Ultimately, it’s an interestingly odd message and one that suggests (to me at least) that there’s more to this story. While I think there might be nuggets of truth to each of the aforementioned potential reasons, there are probably other motivations, as well. Or, maybe the explanation is far simpler and there’s even less to this than meets the eye.
With all of this said, we continue to recommend anyone visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure purchase the Genie+ service, at least for one day. Like its predecessor, Genie+ works pretty well at Disneyland…minus some new tech issues and rule quirks. That still appears to be the case even right now, but we’ll be testing Genie+ again soon and reporting back on the good and bad of our experience. For now, everything you need to know, including ride priorities and much more is covered in our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Disneyland and DCA.
Thoughts on Disneyland’s warning about Lightning Lanes availability and that no refunds are offered? Thinking we’re making too much of this language tweak, or is it fair to point to this as the paid FastPass system not meeting expectations in Anaheim? If you’ve purchased Genie+ in April at Disneyland Resort, how many Lightning Lanes were you able to reserve? Was your experience positive or negative? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or sticking to free standby lines at DLR? 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!