Disneyland Paris has officially announced Disney Premier Access, which replaces free FastPass in those two parks. In this post, we’ll share details & pricing, how the upcharge line skipping service will work, and discuss the potential implications for Walt Disney World, where a paid replacement for FastPass+ feels like all but an inevitability at this point.
In a number of app-related updates, Disneyland Paris shared that the free Standby Pass is returning. This is essentially a hybrid system that combines a virtual queue with a physical standby line. It allows guests to spend the first part of their wait time for select attractions outside of the queue, and then joining the line for the home stretch.
Standby Pass is available at Disneyland Paris certain times of the day, subject to availability and dependent upon operational needs of the parks. Essentially, it’s offered when Disneyland Paris is running out of physical queue space–so during peak times of busier days. When available, guests can use the Disneyland Paris app to book the next available time slot to enter the physical queue line of an attraction, return within the allocated 30-minute time slot, present the Standby Pass QR code, and stand in the queue for the remainder of that time.
You might recall that late last year, there were rumors that Walt Disney World would implement virtual queues for Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run and Jungle Cruise. Other attractions, like Peter Pan’s Flight and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, actually cut their queues at some points when demand was high. At Disneyland, Indiana Jones Adventure actually did use a virtual queue for several weeks post-reopening.
This was for precisely the same reason as the Standby Pass is offered–those physical queues were running out of space at certain times. While it has ceased being an issue since physical distancing was dropped, it’s also worth pointing out that Walt Disney World is still capping park capacity. So physical space in standby queues could once again be an issue, albeit for different reasons, come October 2021.
Back to Disneyland Paris, those parks will also give guests the option to purchase Disney Premier Access on the Disneyland Paris App. This digital service allows guests to pay to skip the regular queue line for popular attractions, including Autopia, Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, Star Tours: the Adventures Continue, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
From anywhere inside the parks, guests can use the Disneyland Paris App to purchase an assigned time slot for the aforementioned attractions. Pricing for Disney Premier Access will be per ride, ranging from €8 to €15 (~$10 to $18) depending on the attraction and day of visit. Think of it like Express Lanes on toll roads–dynamic pricing that increases with demand.
This is not Disneyland Paris’ first foray into paid FastPasses. Three years ago, those parks rolled out “Disney Access One,” which allowed guests to purchase what was essentially an instant FastPass, bypassing the standard multi-hour wait associated with drawing a traditional FastPass and redeeming it. These Access One passes cost €15 per person per attraction, with discounts for Annual Passholders.
A few months after that, Disneyland Paris debuted two new paid FastPass options: the Super FastPass and the Ultimate FastPass. The Super FastPass bundled together thrill rides or family-friendly attractions for one-time line skipping with no set return times. The Ultimate FastPass granted both immediate and unlimited access to all FastPass attractions. The pricing on these options ranged from around $30 for the Super FastPass during off-season to $175 for the Ultimate FastPass during peak season.
It’s also worth noting that the new Standby Pass and Disney Premier Access combo that Disneyland Paris has unveiled is nothing new. Shanghai Disneyland has been using this exact same system for a little over one year.
However, free FastPass still exists at Shanghai Disneyland, which is obviously a critical distinction.
I’m going to guess that there are a fair number of Walt Disney World fans–who have absolutely zero intention of ever visiting Paris or Shanghai–reading this post with bated breath. There’s understandable, as the writing is on the wall. Some form of monetized FastPass is almost certainly coming to Walt Disney World in the not-too-distant future.
Over the course of the last three-plus years, we have heard a number of rumors about paid FastPass coming to Walt Disney World, ranging from preposterous to highly credible. In the last couple of months, the rumblings have become more frequent and detailed, with some major commonalities as well as minor inconsistencies among them.
At one point, the most credible rumor for Walt Disney World was the per-ride Access One system at Disneyland Paris plus various packs (e.g. “Magic Kingdom Mountain Range”) but no unlimited option. Keep in mind that this was years ago–it even predates the announcement of the Disney Genie app.
Given its use at two other resorts, the combo of Standby Pass plus Disney Premier Access is a plausible route for Walt Disney World. Or at least, that same general infrastructure. If current rumors are accurate, branding would likely be different at Walt Disney World but the mechanics would be more or less the same.
Trying to distill all of the FastPass replacement rumors for Walt Disney World and square those with the above announcement for Disneyland Paris is not difficult. In addition to a lot of similarities, it’s likely such a system will be announced in the near future (July or August) and be implemented shortly thereafter (September or October).
What’s unclear is whether Walt Disney World’s replacement for FastPass will debut with or ahead of the Disney Genie app. Nothing I’ve heard directly indicates the two are tied together, but that has been rumored elsewhere–and appears possible. (Disney has brought up the Genie app on a handful of occasions over the last 6 months, suggesting that app is not dead.)
Don’t be surprised if whatever Walt Disney World launches is more convoluted, has its own branding, and more options. As a general matter, all of those things are safe guesses since that’s just how Walt Disney World does things. It’s more of an extended vacation destination than any of the other worldwide resorts where the average guest only visits for a day or two at a time.
At a minimum, it’s likely that Walt Disney World will offer paid line skipping on a per-attraction basis, with a limit on how many ride reservations can be purchased and return time windows that guests can select. That system would undoubtedly use the former FastPass+ line, and likely have a lower adoption rate than free FastPass.
Paid FastPass with lower utilization would in turn necessitate Standby Pass or some form of virtual queue at select attractions. This is because there simply is not enough physical standby queue at many attractions under normal full capacity scenarios.
In the past, FastPass+ caused standby wait times to balloon, which resulted in more guests balking and not queueing up. This was due to the ballpark 80:20 FastPass-to-standby ratio, which meant far fewer guests were in line for a 30 minute posted wait than would be without FastPass. (Without FastPass, standby lines constantly move and are much more pleasant–but they also take up much more physical space.)
Assuming Premier Access is used by fewer guests (a very safe bet if it’s only directly monetized), the ratio will be more balanced or favor standby lines. That would also mean standby queues would see higher utilization levels and regular wait times wouldn’t be as long. Thus, more guests would queue up and additional standby space would be needed.
That still leaves many unanswered questions, perhaps most significantly whether on-site guests at Walt Disney World would receive any kind of access included as part of their resort stay. There has been a lot of chatter about this–not just recently, but over the course of many years. I have not heard anything credible about whether on-site guests might receive anything, but it strikes me as plausible that they would–perhaps based upon the resort tier. However, that’s entirely speculative on my part.
Whether on-site guests receive some level of line-skipping access likely depends upon the degree to which Walt Disney World feels the “need” to incentivize on-site resort bookings. Given how strong those are right now and with early entry and extended evening hours perks debuting this fall, Walt Disney World might go solely for direct monetization on the FastPass replacement.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Walt Disney World hold off on additional on-site benefits until resort occupancy rates drop. In which case, we might see Disney Premier Access (or whatever Walt Disney World calls it) debut this fall and something more beneficial to guests (Disney Genie?) debut towards the end of the 50th Anniversary. Again, entirely speculative.
With that said, it’s still possible that Walt Disney World and Disneyland will borrow features from the MaxPass system that was in use at Disneyland pre-closure. We really liked MaxPass and would love to see that expanded to Walt Disney World, albeit with a free component.
It remains a possibility that the systems rolling out at Walt Disney World and Disneyland will differ from Paris and Shanghai, as well as from one another. All of these parks have their own unique wrinkles, and Walt Disney World in particular is a more complex operation than the other parks, so it might merge multiple systems.
I don’t want to over-emphasize it, but Walt Disney World switching to this system would also have potential upside for guests who were not FastPass+ power users. Far fewer guests will use the ride reservation system if it costs money, which in turn means standby lines will move faster and those wait times will generally be shorter. There’s no way the ratio will be 80:20, because there’s no way that many people will pay to skip the line.
It’s hard to say what the ratio will be, but I’d be surprised if it’s over 20:80 most days. (Unless some access is included for on-site guests, which would totally change things.) By how much will almost certainly depend upon the day and season. If crowds and wait times are lower, fewer people will likely purchase the paid option to avoid long waits. That in turn will mean even shorter standby lines. Conversely, more people will buy on busier days, exacerbating the problem.
With all of that said, we’re opposed to Walt Disney World charging for something that was previously included free of charge as a matter of principle. Regardless of how we feel about individual changes, Walt Disney World’s overall direction is more than a little concerning, and there has been a proliferation of nickel & diming, cutbacks, and price increases over the last several years. It would be one thing if additions and subtractions netted one another out, but Walt Disney World has been burning the candle of fan goodwill at both ends, so to speak.
FastPass+ was not without its faults, but the system also was not broken. The new system probably won’t be as bad as many fans are envisioning, but it’s also an unnecessary “solution” to a nonexistent problem–and one that, like so many other things, will be monetized. There might be minor upsides to this, but the only real winners here will be Disney and those for whom money is no object.
Ultimately, what Disneyland Paris has announced with the Standby Pass and paid Disney Premier Access replacing free FastPass is likely a window into what’s on the horizon for Walt Disney World. Nothing is official at this point, but we would strongly recommend bracing yourself for the (strong) possibility that Walt Disney World will likewise retire free FastPass and roll out something similar–but probably not identical.
Given the proliferation of rumors on the topic in the last couple of months (where there’ssmoke…), plus Walt Disney World gradually scaling up park capacity, plus the World’s Most Magical Celebration starting October 1, it’s likely Walt Disney World will make an official announcement within the next month or two, and have the system ready to roll by sometime in September or October 2021. Who knows–maybe the rumors are all wrong and free FastPass+ will return! That’s not what we expect to happen, but we’ve been wrong plenty of times before.
Do you think Standby Pass and Disney Premier Access will be rolled out at Walt Disney World? Think it’ll be a similar system, but debut with the Disney Genie app and offer its own branding and unique wrinkles? Or, do you think this is all wrong–that FastPass+ will return unchanged later this summer or fall? Do you prefer fast-moving standby lines only, or the FastPass and standby combo? Interested in how Walt Disney World will implement the new system? 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!