I spent all of last week in Walt Disney World with Unofficial Guide author Bob Sehlinger, using FastPass+, listening to questions that guests asked to Cast Members, and seeing how guests used the new FastPass+ kiosks and lines.
One thing we noticed was that FastPass+ lines could grow quickly at an attraction, if even the simplest thing went wrong at the front of the FastPass+ line. Because we’re geeks, we tried to identify both the root cause of the problems, and their solutions.
We think that Disney can reduce guests’ waits at FastPass+ lines through a few simple operational changes. Here’s our list of suggestions.
1. Build a Recovery Zone Next to Each FastPass+ Entrance
The main reason for long FastPass+ return lines is that the guests at the very front of the line don’t have valid FastPass+ reservations. During our trip last week, this happened every 1 or 2 minutes, at every attraction, for a variety of reasons:
- Guests arriving outside of their FP+ window
- Guests not having a FP+ reservation for that attraction
- Guest not understanding how FP+ works
These issues are compounded if the guests don’t speak English.
Maybe the most common FastPass+ issue we saw was guests arriving too early for their FastPass+ reservations. Unlike paper FASTPASSes, MagicBands don’t have a way to display your return time, and checking the My Disney Experience app is a lot of effort. As a result, many guests just scan their MagicBands to see if they work.
If the MagicBands don’t work, a Cast Member has to figure out the problem, explain it to the Guests, and provide a resolution (let’s call this the Recovery Process, “Recovery” for short). This stops the entire FastPass+ line dead, because the Guests are still standing right in front of the FastPass+ readers while the CM is doing Recovery. Here’s a diagram showing the problem at Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland:
(Clearly, my drawing aptitude is giving my singing skills a run for their money.)
Disney should build a dedicated area for FastPass+ Recovery, just to the side of the main FastPass+ return line, and direct there anyone who needs help. This keeps the main FastPass+ return line flowing while guests needing assistance get their help from FastPass+ Cast Members. It’s also less embarrassing for the guests who need help, because there’s not a line of angry people behind them. Here’s what it might look like:
2. Add 2 More FastPass+ Readers at Every Attraction
Each FastPass+ line entrance has 2 FastPass+ RFID readers, and we estimate that together they can process up to 1,350 people per hour. (The lowest we counted in steady traffic was 800 people/hour. We think around 1,200 people/hour is a realistic estimate of what most attractions can process with the existing FastPass+ setup.)
If one of a ride’s RFID readers breaks, however, long lines will happen almost instantly at popular attractions, because 1 reader isn’t enough to handle the guest volume coming in to use FastPass+. So this is just a problem waiting to happen.
Disney can avoid this by adding 2 more readers at the FastPass+ entrance of popular attractions. In addition, these extra readers mean that each attraction could handle more FastPass+ guests per hour, reducing the wait to use FastPass+ and improving guest satisfaction. It would be almost exactly like the RFID reader setup Disney has at the entrances. Here’s a sketch:
3. Put a Cast Member at Each FastPass+ Reader
Another common FastPass+ problem occurs when only one Cast Member is assigned to monitor two FastPass+ readers. If a guest has a problem at one of the readers, the Cast Member can’t simultaneously solve the guest’s issue and pay attention to what was happening at the other reader. What we saw happen again and again was someone walk up to the second reader, get a blue light that indicates a problem, and continue on into the FastPass+ line anyway, while the Cast Member was busy with another guest. And a few minutes later, we’d see that same person walking back through the FastPass+ line, because they were stopped at the ride loading area by the second FastPass Cast Member.
Not only does this stop the FastPass+ line at the boarding area, but it’s embarrassing to the guests. One way to address this issue is to put one Cast Member at every FastPass+ reader, so that any problems can be addressed quickly by directing the guest to the Recovery Area:
Another possibly solution is to change the readers’ warning light from blue to orange, or another universal “warning” color, so guests know that something is off. Or adopt the symbols used at pedestrian crossings, where a green, walking stick figure means “go” and a red hand means “stop.”
Of course, I could be wrong. Let us know if you’ve seen any other FastPass+ issues, and how you think Disney could solve them.