Disneyland recently launched a major upgrade to their FastPass system, and reviews are pretty mixed. Something I haven’t seen much talk about is what the program could mean for the future of the park and it’s visitors. There are some aspects that certainly remind me of yesteryear’s ticketed attractions, could this be less visionary revolution and more E-Ticket attractions?
What is an E-Ticket?
When Disneyland first opened in 1955 entry to the park was just $1 dollar. I know, that’s crazy right? Even when you consider inflation, the equivalent today would be around $9. Today a single day, single park admission can cost up to $124! You might be asking yourself what happened to cause the prices to soar so dramatically, but there is another factor to take into account.
One nice thing about the price tag of a Disney Park ticket is that it’s all inclusive, mostly. You can ride any ride and see just about any show that you can stand waiting in line for. It seems expensive when you’re presented with the bill, before even stepping foot into the park. But once you pass through those magical gates, it all feels worth it. But what if instead you had to pay for every ride and show you wanted to see? If you had to pay anywhere from $1 to $9 for every. Single. Ride. You might re-think your visit.
That’s exactly how Disneyland handled their admission until 1982. It may have been only $1 to walk through those gates, but each ride was anywhere from $0.30 to $0.85, depending upon the attraction. In order to keep pricing reasonable Disney created multiple tiers of rides, labeled A-E. The A ride were things like the Main Street Vehicles and Carousel, while E-ticket rides generally encompassed big rides like the mountains. Rather than actually paying at the loading dock for a ride, visitors would buy ticket books that they were able to use throughout the park. Hence, E-Ticket Attractions.
What is MaxPass?
Disneyland’s MaxPass is a new system built on the foundation of Disney World’s FastPass+. The service allows to you to snag virtual FastPasses through an app on your phone or wi-fi enable tablet. A FastPass is essentially a ticket to the front of the line for an attraction. You used to have to walk to the attraction to visit the dispensing machine, it would spit out a small ticket with your reservation window printed. Once the reservation time comes up, you go back to the attraction and BOOM! Front of the line, baby!
As you can imagine, the existing FastPass system meant a ton of walking back and forth between attractions. At the beginning, you wouldn’t even know if there were any FastPasses left or for what time, without walking to the attraction. Luckily there are several apps you can use to check that information from your phone, for free, now.
And then there’s MaxPass. It is a vast improvement over the original, but as they say “all magic comes with a price, deary.” $10 per person, per day to be precise. Now that may not seem too bad if you are a small group or just visiting for the day, but if you are a family of five and staying for a week the additional cost is $250. That added up quick! Now with the MaxPass you do also get PhotoPass digital downloads free. This makes the price a bit more reasonable, if you are someone who will be taking lots of photos with characters or around the parks. Passholders can also add this option for $75 for the years, which is truly a great deal
So What’s the Issue?
Now, I love the idea of MaxPass. I’ve taken a few trips to Disney World and absolutely adore their FastPass+ system, and MaxPass is similar but not exactly the same. The major difference between the two is that Disney World allows you to pre-book three FastPasses for each day of your trip, 30-60 days in advance of your arrival. You KNOW I am all about planning, and having a well laid out plan and FastPass+ facilitates that really well. With MaxPass you can hold only one FastPass at a time and you can only reserve them while you are physically in the parks.
My concern is that Disney has never disclosed the number of FastPasses dispersed each day, let alone for each ride. That’s not likely to change. Additionally, the cost structure has been called introductory pricing – which would likely mean it will go up. The standby lines on most days are already pretty atrocious, but you could still get on within an hour for most. With Disney now receiving revenue based on the popularity of this new and improved system, they have more motivation to increase the number of FastPasses being distributed. There is a break even number, where it becomes nearly impossible to access an attraction without having a FastPass. I don’t know what that number is, but I’m certain that it exists. If this were to happen MaxPass would essentially be the 2017 version of an E-ticket attraction.
Just imagine that you already pay over $100 per person, and then have to shell out an additional fee to get on some of the most popular rides. Star Wars: Galaxy Edge is just a few years away and most people will be willing to go this route. If only 100-200 standby guests were admitted per day, you would almost certainly need a FastPass to stand any chance at all. Could Disney possibly create a system that would require a FastPass to ride at all?
Surely, Disney Wouldn’t Do That!
I don’t know. I’d like to think that Disney would never manipulate the FastPass system to enforce a standby bottle neck, essentially forcing visitors to pay a surcharge for popular rides. But, I also didn’t think that Disney would implement demand based pricing, after all this is along the same lines. Disney has been making a lot of changes lately, and I don’t know that it’s all for the best personally. Ticket prices continually go up, both single day and special event. New special events are added all the time, for a fee. Discounts diminish. At the end of the day, Disney is running a business and the bottom line is that they want (and need) to make money.
Is Disneyland’s MaxPass a variation of the original ticketing system? I think it could be, yes. But I’m willing to pay for it, if it truly benefits my trip. I think less time playing “runner” and more time with my friends and family is worth the price. Also, consider that the additional revenue will be put back into the parks for maintenance, upgrades, and new experiences for years to come.
So what do you think, am I crazy? Do you think MaxPass is worth the additional cost? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for the latest break news on all things Disney.