Disney’s Hollywood Studios started testing the use of a FastPass+ only line this week, where the standby line for Toy Story Midway Mania has been eliminated, at least for the time being. Guests were directed to kiosks or the MyDisney Experience app to schedule a ride time and not allowed to use the standby line.
Online discussions about this temporary change have led to some guests being very upset about the removal of the standby line, and being forced to schedule a time. Many have already complained about not being able to just go to the standby line and wait for whatever the standby wait time was, something I find a bit puzzling, considering waits for this attraction can be 90+ minutes on most days.
I’ve speculated in the past that Disney might try to roll something like this out on a broader basis where the majority of attractions, or at least the popular ones would work this way. Some insiders have said that this is just a test for the rumored addition of the third track for TSMM. Regardless, my thinking here assumes that they would go ahead with such a plan. With that in mind, and the uproar it’s caused, led me to an idea on how to potentially accommodate these guests in their desire to wait in the standby line, if they really were to roll out FP+ only lines on a wider scale.
The idea is pretty simple (at least in my head), and focuses around the whole concept of getting guests out of line to wait for their time. Sounds familiar, right? Wasn’t this one of the original promises of FastPass? Yes, it was at least part of the marketing campaign and still is part of the marketing for FP+.
It involves creating a virtual standby queue/line where guests in the park are given the option of choosing a FP+ (scheduled return time), or a virtual spot in line. I’m going to call it “Virtual Queue” or “VQ”, but it could be called “Virtual Pass” or “Standby+” or even “FastPass”.
Essentially, it would build into the FastPass+ system, the capability to allow a certain percentage of guests to use FP+ and others (smaller percentage) to use VQ. It sounded easy enough when I first thought about it, but when trying to figure out how to do it, I realized it was a bit more complicated. The fine details and calculations of how it would work will have to be figured out using numbers I don’t have. However, for the purpose of demonstration, I will use Toy Story Midway Mania, and its estimated 1000 riders per hour capacity. Rumor has it the actual number is somewhere between 900 and 1000.
Listed below are a couple of ways I could envision this working:
1) Fixed, alternating standby queue availability. Fastpass+ and Standby alternate, with FP+ receiving higher priority and more allocations.
9:00 – 9:10 – 160 FP
9:10 – 9:15 – 80 Standby
9:15 – 9:25 – 160 FP
9:25 – 9:30 – 80 Standby
9:30 – 9:40 – 160
9:40 – 9:45 – 80
9:45 – 9:55 – 160
9:55 – 10:00 – 80
This would equate to 960 guests per hour – 640 FP+, 320 Standby. The numbers don’t add up to 1000 intentionally, in order to allow some flexibility.
2) Variable, system assigned, next available time. Smart logic to vary the availability of FP+ and leave a buffer of open/unscheduled times for every time slot.
Each hour can be broken down into 4, 15 minute blocks, allowing for up to 240 guests per block. By default, the system would reserve 20% for standby in each 15 minute block. This number could be adjusted based on demand forecast by the day and/or hour.
FP+ times would be assigned in 15 minute blocks, where every 15 minutes instead of the system allowing 240 slots to be filled, it will only allow a percentage, based on the expected demand for the day. So, if it’s a busy day, it might reserve 40% for standby (96), leaving only 144 slots available for pre-scheduling.
The FP+ selection time process (MDE) would have to incorporate this functionality, and vary the times available in such a way as to allow for this kind of flexibility.
As an added feature, and maybe in order to help alleviate some of the issues that might arise from such a system, the last hour of the day could be left open/unscheduled to allow for a traditional standby line. This way, anyone could ride regardless of whether they had used a FP+ for the day or gone thru the standby line. It would also give those that wanted to re-ride the opportunity to do so.
Here’s how it might look in action:
1. A guest approaches an attraction with FP+only line
2. The guest will scan their MagicBand as if entering for FP+. If they have a FastPass+, and it’s their time, they will proceed into the attraction. If they do not, then they will be directed to a kiosk close by or alternatively, if the guest has a smart phone, they will be able to use the MyMagic+ app.
3. At the kiosk (or on the smart phone), the guest will select the attraction, then they will be prompted for a Virtual Queue spot, or FastPass+.
4. If a Virtual Queue spot is chosen, they will be given a return time.
5. If FastPass+ is chosen, and the guest has not used all of their FP+ options, they will then be presented with the choice of several times to pick from for a return.
The guest can then go about their business in the park, until such time as their virtual queue spot/time comes around.
Optionally, the guest can be notified 15 min before their line entry time, and then be given a 15 minute window in which to use it.
Some operating rules might need to be established to avoid abuse, and keep it running smoothly,here’s a few I thought of:
1. Guests can only be in one virtual queue at a time.
2. Virtual queue is only available for use once a day per attraction for guests in the park.
3. Guests can “get in line” at the normal line entry, via kiosk or smartphone app, but only if they’re in the park.
4. Guests cannot hold a FastPass+ for the attraction for a later time, when attempting to get a VQ option.
5. If the guest holds a FastPass+ for the attraction for later, it can be exchanged for a VQ/Standby option. But, they are not allowed to hold both.
Optionally, offer guests the opportunity to trade their FP+ for Virtual Queue.
If all of this sounds complicated and confusing, you’re not alone. I can’t help but think FP+ and the features it has brought to WDW, have also made things a lot more complicated in planning a vacation. I like the ability to pre-plan and schedule the attractions I want to ride, but I have to admit that it does add more work to the process, and I can see how this might take away some of the fun for some. I guess the question has to be asked, “is this really worth it, just to avoid standing in a few long lines?”.