Disneyland Paris has debuted Disney Premier Access in its two parks, which replaces free FastPass. Given the strong rumors that a very similar system will be announced for Walt Disney World and Disneyland within the next month or so, you might want to know what pricing looks like and how the in-app purchases work.
In case you missed the announcement last month, Disneyland Paris has replaced FastPass with a hybrid system for attraction access. In addition to the paid Premier Access, there’s also the Disney Standby Pass 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. In essence, Standby Pass is a mix of (same-day) FastPass+ and traditional queues.
Standby Pass is offered when Disneyland Paris is running out of physical queue space, which is more likely to happen when the priority queues are not in use or are underutilized. (That’s why there are extended queues spilling out into walkways all over Walt Disney World right now, even though physical distancing is long gone.) When available, guests can use the Disneyland Paris app to book the next available Standby Pass time slot to enter the physical queue line of an attraction, return within the allocated 30-minute time slot, present the QR code, and stand in the queue for the remainder of that time.
Even though it shouldn’t be, the change that has received more attention is Disney Premier Access, which guests can purchase via 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, and is dynamic. It depends upon the attraction and crowds on the day of visit. Think of it like Express Lanes on toll roads, Uber’s surge pricing, or to a lesser degree, Walt Disney World’s date-based ticket and hotel prices.
With Disneyland Paris debuting Disney Premier Access today (August 3, 2021), we have our first look at real time pricing…
In terms of pricing in dollars, the least expensive option is Autopia for $9.50 per guest (current standby wait of 35 minutes) and the most expensive is Peter Pan’s Flight for $18 (also a current standby wait of 35 minutes).
Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast is also $18 per person, with a 30 minute wait. That’s $72 for a family of 4 to bypass a posted 30 minute wait time, with an actual wait that’s probably more like 15-20 minutes.
Color me skeptical, but I just don’t see utilization of Premier Access being very high. (In fact, this isn’t Disneyland Paris’ first rodeo with paid FastPass–not many guests bought its previous incarnations.)
I think that’s going to be the case at Disneyland Paris, and I also think it’ll be true at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, “if” (when) similar systems debut in the United States parks.
Contrary to popular perception in the reader comments to our Extended Evening Hours at Walt Disney World posts, none of the Disney parks are destinations for “the rich” or elites. To be sure, there’s a very small subset of wealthy guests visiting the parks. For the most part, these are one-and-done visitors doing the obligatory rite of passage vacations to appease their children.
While it might feel satisfying to vilify other guests (for some odd reason) and treat them as the “other” or enemy, visitors to Walt Disney World are overwhelmingly middle class. That is objectively true of guests at every resort tier, regardless of what anyone might like to believe. Some are saving for longer periods of time, splurging more, or going into debt to pay for their trips. Of course, outliers exist–but that does not change the core guest demographics.
This is significant because it’s easy to believe something like Premier Access will be a huge success if you’re operating under the assumption that half of all Walt Disney World guests are wealthy. Not so much once you realize that the vast majority are middle class, and things like VIP tours, Club Level, and other various upcharges are niche products. (And even those have a large “splurge factor.”)
Moreover, these various upcharge offerings are purchased by hundreds of guests per day–not used by tens of thousands of guests per day, as was the case with FastPass.
That, in turn, is important because Disney Premier Access would need to be purchased like it were a more mainstream offering in order to have a significant impact on wait times. It’s not going to have anywhere near the utilization rate of traditional FastPass. For many people, paying any amount of money to skip the line at an individual attractions is a total nonstarter.
Personally, my max for the vast majority of attractions is $0. While I’m definitely unrepresentative of all guests, consider how many Annual Passholders, DVC Members, and other repeat visitors there are at Walt Disney World and (especially) Disneyland. Some regulars probably have a higher threshold than I do, but what percentage would pay $72 for their family to do the Buzz Lightyear rides? I would be absolutely shocked if it’s over 5%.
If we were to take our parents or only visited once per year, there are probably a handful of lines we’d pay to bypass–Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, Frozen Ever After, Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, Indiana Jones Adventure, and a couple others come to mind. The problem there is that the amount we’d be willing to pay is maybe $25 for our group, which would still put us below the minimum. For us, there are no circumstances in which we’d pay $72 (or anywhere close to it) for our group to be able to ride literally anything.
Of course, everyone is going to have their own price ceiling. Many will be higher than us–but also, many will be lower. The salient point is that any individual attraction line-skipping access is going to be bought by far fewer guests than the number that used the free FastPass+ system. As a general rule of thumb, free is more popular than not free. (Hard to believe, I know.)
In the past, Disneyland Paris also offered attraction bundles for certain types of attractions. I’m shocked they aren’t doing that again. For one thing, bundling allows pairing more popular attractions with less popular ones, which creates the illusion of greater value. There may be zero value to Premier Access at PhilharMagic, but include it in a bundle and people will nevertheless ascribe value to it. Perception is everything.
For another thing, bundling obfuscates actual per attraction costs. It makes consumers less likely to deliberate over whether the cost is “worth it” because there’s no way to assess on a line item basis. This is why all-inclusive packages are so popular (e.g. Disney Dining Plan) even in scenarios where they’re potentially worse. It’s why people drop $100 on a cable television package without second thought, but are more picky when it comes to subscribing to individual streaming services.
Beyond consumer psychology, there are a number of other logistical reasons why I’d expect Walt Disney World to embrace bundling when its version of paid FastPass debuts. I don’t know the specifics of what’s coming to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, but I strongly suspect it’ll be tweaked to the operational realities of each location. (My guess is both a bundle option and a la carte for Walt Disney World.)
Please don’t misconstrue any of this as me advocating for Disney Premier Access. I’d much rather see the return of FastPass+ or debut of something akin to MaxPass. I don’t see us ever buying Premier Access, which will put us at some degree of disadvantage under this system.
However, I also don’t think it’ll be cataclysmic or have as negative of consequences for those who don’t buy the paid FastPasses as many fans anticipate. My biggest concern is more generalized–that Premier Access is a continuation of nickel and diming practices that I abhor.
I’m actually curious and cautiously optimistic about how the Standby Pass will work in practice (I get it in theory), as this sounds like it could be a nice mix of (unpaid!) MaxPass and traditional physical queues. Such a same-day hybrid system is my personal sweet spot (YMMV), especially if lines are constantly moving and waits in the physical line are reasonable.
That’s exactly what I expect to happen due to few guests buying Disney Premier Access when a similar system comes to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Of course, many unknowns remain that will impact this, including if on-site guests receive some degree of included access, whether there are bundles or it’s entirely a la carte, and more. It’s unlikely that Walt Disney World will use this exact system, but rather, certain elements of it. We should learn more sometime this month! (For more commentary, see the original announcement of Disney Premier Access.)
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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!