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How FastPass+ Is Affecting Your Wait In Line – An Update

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FASTPASS vs. FastPass+

Back in early February we took at look at How FastPass+ Is Affecting Your Wait In Line At Disney World. We saw a small increase in standby wait times for secondary attractions like Spaceship Earth and Great Movie Ride, and a small drop in standby wait times for super-headliners like Space Mountain and Expedition Everest. With 2014’s Presidents’ Day and March Spring Break crowds behind us, it’s time to take another look.

Attendance is Up, And So are Wait Times

Walt Disney World attendance increased about 4% in 2013, and attendance is up about 4% again in the first quarter of 2014, or a little more than 8% over the past two years. To put that in perspective, if the average wait at Soarin’ was 60 minutes at 2012’s crowd levels, it’d be about 65 minutes adjusted for 2014’s higher crowds. When we’re looking at the impact of FastPass+ on standby wait times, the first thing we have to do is factor out the higher attendance.

For this analysis we’re comparing standby wait times from February 1 through March 31, 2014, with data from the same months in 2012 and 2013. To factor out the 8% increase in attendance from 2012 to 2014, we’ve increased 2012’s wait times by 8%. To factor out the 4% increase in attendance from 2013 to 2014, we’ve increased 2013’s wait times by 4%. (Disney doesn’t release official attendance figures, but even if our estimate of attendance increases is off by 1-2%, the results don’t change significantly.)

For data, we get posted wait times for every attraction about every 5 minutes, from both Disney’s My Disney Experience app and from our Lines community. That works out to about 250,000 wait times just for this study.

Comparing Holidays with Holidays

For each attraction, we’re comparing the average wait on each day between 10 am and 5 pm. And to make things as equal as possible, we try to match the wait times from 2014’s holidays with the same holidays in 2012 and 2013. So while Presidents’ Day was on February 20 in 2012, February 18 in 2013, and February 17 this year, we compare all of the wait times from all Presidents’ Days together. We do the same for other holidays, the Disney World Marathon days, other events, and then everything left over.

How To Compare Before and After FastPass+

Suppose we flip a coin 10 times. You’d expect it to land on heads about 5 times and tails about 5 times. But we wouldn’t be surprised if it came up heads 6 times and tails 4 because of simple random chance. And if we flipped the same coin 1,000 times, we’d expect it to turn up heads about 500 times and tails 500 times, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it was 501 heads and 499 tails, or 499 heads and 501 tails.

But what if the coin came up heads 600 times and tails 400? If it’s a fair coin, what are the chances that we’d see that kind of difference from the 500 heads/500 tails average we expect?

A common way that statisticians answer these questions is with a t-test. A t-test measures two groups and tells you how likely it is that that the groups are really different. In our case, the two groups are these:

  • Average posted standby wait times before FastPass+
  • Average posted standby wait times after FastPass+

In our examples above the chances are above 99% that a fair coin flipped 1,000 times will end up with something other than exactly 500 heads and 500 tails. And there’s a less than 1% chance that 1,000 flips of a fair coin will result in 600 or more heads. So if that happens, you can be pretty confident that you’re not dealing with a fair coin.

The Results

The chart below shows the average difference in wait times, in minutes, for the attractions that make up our crowd calendar.

Attractions in green have lower standby wait times after the introduction of FastPass+. Attractions in orange have higher standby wait times with FastPass+. There’s no statistically significant difference with FastPass+ for attractions shown in white.

T-Test Comparison

Wait times are down at Winnie the Pooh (-11 minutes), Space Mountain (-11 minutes), Tower of Terror (-7), and Expedition Everest (-6). For an attraction like Pooh, that’s the equivalent of lowering the standby wait time by 2 crowd levels. One possible reason for the decrease in wait times is that prior to FastPass+, guests would use legacy FASTPASS much more often. Now that there are limits on the number of FastPass+ reservations guests can have, people are riding these attractions less frequently.

Wait times are up at DINOSAUR (+12 minutes), Pirates of the Caribbean (+10), Primeval Whirl (+7), Jungle Cruise (+7), Haunted Mansion (+6), Spaceship Earth (+5), and Kilimanjaro Safaris (+5). We think waits are up at DINOSAUR because Disney requires guests to choose 3 FastPass+ attractions, and DINOSAUR appears at the top of the alphabetized list of attractions to choose from. In the past, people would have had to hike to a remote corner of the park to find DINOSAUR’s FASTPASS machines. Now that DINOSAUR is a more visible choice in the app, it’s getting more traffic. Also, it’s been winter for the last couple of months, and people may have chosen not to use FastPass+ at Kali River Rapids. It’ll be interesting to see whether some FastPass+ volume shifts from DINOSAUR to Kali as the weather warms.

Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and Spaceship Earth didn’t have FASTPASS in the couple of years leading up to the introduction of FastPass+. We think the increases in wait times here are primarily due to the preferential treatment FastPass+ guests get in boarding these rides. It’s possible for cast members to load 10, 20 or 30 FastPass+ guests for every 1 standby guest in line, and enough people are selecting these attractions as their 3rd FastPass+ choice to make that policy have an impact.

We don’t have a good explanation for the small increases in Kilimanjaro Safaris or Primeval Whirl, both of which had legacy FASTPASS prior to FastPass+. Maybe, like DINOSAUR, Primeval Whirl is the 3rd choice of a lot of Animal Kingdom guests. Maybe people who would have otherwise run to the Safaris standby line in the morning are sleeping in a bit more on their vacation. If you’ve chosen either of these two attractions for FastPass+, let us know why in the comments below.

Wait times at all of the other attractions are about the same, including Soarin’, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Big Thunder Mountain, Star Tours, and more.

Could It Be Tiering?

If you noticed, most of the attractions that have a change in standby wait times are at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. One thing that is different for Epcot and Hollywood Studios is there are tiering rules when selecting your FastPass+ reservations. If guests want to ride multiple attractions in the first tier, they are going to be queuing up in the standby line. The tiering system places more restrictions over the choices available to guests, thereby distributing guests among more attractions.

For more information on FastPass+ and how to optimize your use of FastPass+ check out our FastPass+ Tips Page.

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Steve Bloom

By helping continue to reach the most accurate crowd level predictions, Steve finally found a way to meld his training in statistical analysis with a lifelong passion for Disney. He first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1972, just a few months after it opened. Now he enjoys frequent trips with his two kids. At age four his son insisted on wearing cowboy boots to reach the height requirement for Test Track, and his daughter believes that a smoked turkey leg and Dole Whip make a perfectly balanced meal. Even though she doesn't quite get it, Steve's wife is supportive of his Disney activities.

17 thoughts on “How FastPass+ Is Affecting Your Wait In Line – An Update

  • David Ackerman

    You neglect to include the lines to do FP+. I suspect when you include that, the total time spent waiting is up. I’ve also noticed that the FP+ lines are considerably longer than the old FP ones. Some of that may be the fact that the “windows” for FP+ return don’t seem to increment by 5 minutes – they are more like 15-20 minutes.

  • A blog post that explains a t-test. I love it!

  • This certainly looks like what my family has seen. Unfortunately, we do not do the bigger thrill rides and our favorites (Safaris, Mansion, Spaceship Earth, and Dinosaur) have had significantly longer waits than we are used to.

  • Jamison Braly

    This is simple:
    JUST LIKE legacy Fast Pass, a MAJORITY or guests think that Fast Pass is “Extra” and something you “have to pay for”.
    The MAJORITY of guests do not take time to get on a computer and deal with Fast Pass+.
    They buy tickets, they go to park… just like people do at every. Them. Park. In. America.
    So now take LEgacy FP away… most WDW pros remember “Meh, Pirates/Haunted/Small world are never long lines, just do FP+ for the big ones.”
    And by doing so, there are fewer people coming back at scheduled times for the ‘lower end’ rides, thus, making the rides longer.

    I have been to WDW about 7 times between the ages of 5 years old and 37 years old.
    Only once in my life have I waited over an hour for Haunted and Pirates and Small World. Those times were my last trip… and during the slowest season of the whole year; Late January.

  • Chris Chevela

    Agree with one of the above posts. Arriving early and using a touring plan will seriously lower the wait times for rides you are on. We were there last Christmas and were able to get the majority of the “big” attractions out of the way in the morning, thus being able to use our FP+ ressies on the “smaller” attractions.

    Where we used our FP+ ressies on bigger attractions, the fact we rode on them in the morning just allowed us to go on the big rides 2 or 3 times. Tiering does come into play in being able to select the right mix of attractions, so keep that in mind when planning ride reservations.

  • We were at the parks the last week in March and found fastpass to be such a hassle at times that 1 day we didn’t even bother getting any and 2 days we waited til afternoon to get them. If you are staying outside of Disney, the wait at park opening to book a reservation was 45 min at hollywood studios and 30 min at magic kingdom. Then the rides we wanted were not available. It did save us on time when we just didn’t bother reserving in the a.m. and reserved after lunch for whatever we could get. Then we watched in annoyance while friends booked on their phones b/c they were staying on site.

  • Frederick

    Quoting from the article:

    “attendance is up about 4% again in the first quarter of 2014”

    What is the source for this?


  • I personally have visited numerous times since Passholders were able to make advanced FastPass+ reservations and I have never experienced a long wait in the FastPass queue. My only observation is the line outside the actual queue is long, the Space Mountain one is my favorite to see, but that is only due to guests being unfamiliar with how to use the RFID touchpoint or they are coming outside of their time frame. Overall I am very satisfied with FastPass+, especially once park hopping and additional entitlements become available!

  • Rob Drieslein

    As usual, a very well written post with lots of great statistics and other data points. Per David’s comment above, however, to dissect wait times and not include the massive increase in Fastpass lines makes this entire post totally irrelevant. Silly even. Spend any time on social media – search Twitter for Fastpass+ – and you’ll see miles of tweets bashing the new system, often complete with photos of the huge Fastpass lines. It’s been an unmitigated disaster that has driven away smart patrons who used the parks efficiently in the past. Not debatable. My family cancelled a trip this year, and I suspect many others have, too. Given the announcement from Disney to loosen up the Fastpass+ (big surprise considering its problems) we’ll consider a trip in 2015.

    I’ve been a big fan of TouringPlans for several years, but a blog post ignoring the length of Fastpass+ wait times is so ridiculous that I start stewing conspiracy theories. Please,, tell it like it is: Fastpass+ stinks. It has dumbed down park accessibility so that intelligent visitors (many of whom followed TouringPlans maps) experience significantly fewer park attractions. The sad reality is that, at least until last week’s announcement, Fastpass+ probably made’s actual park touring plans mostly irrelevant.

    Please tell us why has not taken Disney harder to task for the terrible Fastpass+ program. (BTW, the hard-hitting blog post from “Len” suggesting the three simple ways to reorganize the front of the lines was just sad.) It’s just hard for me to take this website seriously when I see an obviously intelligent blog post ignoring the herd of elephants in the corner. Give your readers a little credit.

  • This will be very useful for our next trip! Thanks!

  • bobaloo000

    Can’t argue that if nothing else FP+ has been the most controversial change to WDW in maybe forever and of course social media has really brought this to the masses. I can’t recall so many people posting on the various sites about any single change before. I thought the change to their disability access last fall stirred people up but that was nothing compared to FP+. I wonder how long until the first lawsuit is filed.
    I also don’t understand the hostility toward the author. With FP limited to three a day everyone is spending more time on standby lines so this article is very relevant.
    Finally, I wonder if the stand by increase for three AK attractions has more to do with Legend of the Lion King (LLK) being on hiatus than the order of the attractions. I think once LLK reopens it will suck a lot of people off of the standby lines and also become a popular FP+ selection. How that impacts the wait times at the other attractions will be interesting to follow.

  • bobaloo000

    I just realized I forgot to ask my question. Why a t-test and not a z-test?

    • For paired data, I have always to use a paired t-test. The t distribution approaches the z distribution as the sample get large, with this analysis the p-values would not be much different if we used the z distribution.

      • My daughter Annie 5, wants to know what the wait time to see Anna and elsa have been like w/so fast pass. We have trip planned in October

      • The standby wait times for Anna and Elsa have been crazy. Wait times have been over 100 minutes on most day. Do your best to get a FastPass+ to meet the sisters. If you are staying on-site you can make your FastPass+ reservations 60 days out.

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