The Legacy Of FASTPASS Distribution Rates

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FastPasses

The rate at which an attraction distributes FASTPASSes is a big deal to guests of Disney theme parks. It is also a big deal to the Stats Team here at TouringPlans.com. Not just because we use it ourselves all the time but because it can be a great indicator of crowds at the parks. Fall 2013 has seen systematic changes to some of the FASTPASS Distribution rates. In some cases, drastic changes. With the launch of FastPass+ it was not clear how the distribution of Legacy FASTPASS (the old way) would be affected. Let’s take a look.

Before we look, let’s clear up what we mean by a FASTPASS Distribution Rate. Let’s check our Big Book of Stats Team Definitions for an explanation:

The FASTPASS Distribution Rate is the ratio between the minutes until the FASTPASS window opens and minutes of real time. So, a FASTPASS Distribution Rate equal to 3.0 means that for every minute that ticks by on your watch the FASTPASS return window increases by 3 minutes. The higher the ratio, the sooner the FASTPASSes sell out.

Comparing FASTPASS Rates in Fall 2012 and Fall 2013

 

Peter Pan’s Flight

Peter Pans Flight

We see that FASTPASS distribution rates at Peter Pan’s Flight increased significantly in the Fall of 2013 reaching levels more than double that of Fall 2012. However, Peter Pan’s Flight was closed for maintenance during October and early November so it is not clear whether the increase is due to a change in Fastpass distribution rates or due to an increase in guest demand. Many attractions that come back online after a refurbishment experience a boost in traffic. So let’s look at some other attractions.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

Rock 'n Roller Coaster

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at the Studios has clearly been shelling out FASTPASSes at a higher rate than in years past. Last year, the FASTPASS distribution rate only rose above average a handful of times during the fall but this year it stayed well above average almost every day in October and November. The distribution rate was at least 50% higher in 2013 compared to the same period in 2012.

Soarin’

Soarin

The pattern continues at Epcot’s Soarin’. In the case of this headliner, the increase is even more dramatic. Soarin’ FASTPASS rates reached 10.0 or higher several times this Fall. These are rates that we rarely see except during super busy times like Christmas or Easter. A ratio of 10.0 would mean for every minute that goes by on the clock, the FASTPASS window increases by 10 minutes. So, if it takes you 6 minutes to check out the FASTPASS Return display, get your park admission out of your fanny pack, line up and get a FASTPASS, by the time you actually receive it the return window will be an hour later than when you read the display.

Toy Story Mania

Toy Story Mania

The busiest FASTPASS machines at Walt Disney World have always been at the Studios’ Toy Story Mania. Low hourly capacity and high guest demand make the perfect combination for high FASTPASS distribution rates. Toy Story Mania’s historical average is 3.8, the highest average of all attractions but it has also experienced the most significant increase in rates this fall, even reaching four times the average! This is remarkable. At these rates, the daily allotment of FASTPASSes are completely distributed by 10:00 am, or earlier.

 

These increases in FASTPASS Distribution Rate are significant. They are clearly not within the normal ups and downs. This is not surprising to anyone who has been in the parks in the last ten weeks. Long lines at the FASTPASS queues and quick sell-outs are the stories of FASTPASS booths this fall. The only question is whether this pattern will continue with the ongoing roll-out of FastPass+ and MagicBands. For that we shall have to wait and see.

 

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Posted on December 5, 2013

28 Responses to “The Legacy Of FASTPASS Distribution Rates”

  • Great article!

    1. Is there some way to make the charts bigger, or enlargeable by clicking on them. I can’t read them very closely.

    2. IMHO the $64 question is why the distribution rates are increasing. My guess is it’s due to reducing the number of legacy FPs available and allotting those to FP+. If true, then I would expect this to continue until they end legacy FP altogether. And that’s bad news for those who don’t yet have access to FP+, or don’t want to use FP+ until they have to due to all the many negatives with FP+ (only 3/day, no repeats on 1 attraction, tiering, etc.).

    • Thanks Brian, the image links are now repaired so clicking on them should produce a pop-up image of the charts in full size.

      Disney controls how many fastpasses are available per hour. Setting the machines is arduous so they typical remain the same day-to-day. This fall however, they have lowered the number of fastpasses available per hour on some machines. This is causing the increase that we see. I agree that is it likely related to Fastpass+ distribution.

  • That’s the whole point of FP+ Brian. Only those staying on property or who have an AP have advanced FP+ privileges. In other words, if you’re going at peak times with large crowds, and want to ensure you get on certain attractions, you better book an on site room.

    • This isn’t true. Right NOW, that is the case, but the point of MME and FP+ is that anyone will be able to book FP+ rides in advance. The plan is to give additional FP+ allotments to people with certain status, though, like if they’re staying on property, DVC members, AP holders, etc.

    • If that’s the case, then Disney’s taking a big risk, as Chris’ comment below illustrates.

  • I wish I worked as an analyst for Touring Plans. This stuff is right up my wheelhouse. Superb charts, Fred.

  • This exactly why I may never return to WDW. Our trip in October was miserably tedious and seemed as crowded as the Summer. We stay at SOG and were not able do the FP+. As such, the traditional FP system was effectively useless for us. First time ever we didn’t ride Soarin out of two days at EPCOT because the standby was over 60 minutes by morning and FP return was already sold out. I definitely felt like a second class guest without the bands. Planning on Universal or DL for our next trip.

  • Fred: Is this taking into account that FP+ may be taking fastpasses from the pool of available times, so that it may seem like the paper passes are being distributed “faster”, when they’re really going at the same rate as usual, and FP+ is causing even more to be distributed? During testing, MME users aren’t limited to just FP+; they were able to get paper tickets with their KTTW cards as well.

    • If there are fewer legacy fastpasses available because some are being diverted to the new program then Rob’s observation is consistent with the data. What would be interesting to see is what time all legacy fastpasses are exhausted. Looking at the crowd level data it seems to be consistent with previous years numbers, so roughly the same number of people are going through the legacy system sooner. This could also be a self driving system, in that people are aware that legacy passes are going faster so people are picking up the fast passes earlier, thus more quickly running through the passes. Very interesting article, very good comments.

      • The Fastpass Distribution Rate lends itself to some easy math for converting to the sell out time, which is one of the reasons why we use it.

        Sell Out Time = ( Park Closing Time – First Available FP ) / Rate

        So, if the Studios is open from 9am-10pm and the first Fastpass for Toy Story Mania has a return time of 10am then a distribution rate of 6.0 means the sell out time would be:

        ( 10:00pm – 10:00am ) = 12 hours / 6.0 = 2 hours after opening, or 11am.

        Double that rate to 12.0 and Fastpasses will sell out by 10am.

        I don’t think there is any psychology interacting with the rate of distribution in this case. The fact is that most guests are first-timers, learning about Fastpass as they go. It is the internal settings of the machine that are responsible for the impact we are seeing, in my opinion.

    • This analysis is comparing the rates of distribution for Legacy Fastpass only. The total number of Fastpasses available including Fastpass+ may be similar to the total number before the changes, I don’t know. I suspect that Disney chose this time of year to experiment with the Legacy Fastpass settings, specifically to examine those issue discussed here.

  • question: we will be going in December 2014, and are wondering how the FP+ will effect the stand by lines in making them longer since you only get 1 “major” FP and 2 “smaller” FP’s on your magic band. won’t this cause the stand by lines to increase as people are still wanting to ride these “big ticket” rides? any chance Disney will increase the number of “big” and “small” FP rides able to be loaded on a magic band? thank you in advance for any info!

  • This thread is near and dear to my heart, as I hadn’t been back to WDW for 18 months, made last minute reservations for December prime time, and then learned about the bands and FP+. D’oh! I’m hoping that, at least when I visit, FP+ and “legacy” FP will co-exist. Still, the FP+ has got to eat into total FP availability. I’ll be following this post with interest. Spontaneity may be a dying concept – but I suppose it will be worse to try it without a band.

  • Is this taking into account the FP+ or just the paper FP? Just courious

  • Not sure if the RATE of distibution has changed, as much as the availabilty of legacy FP. My anectdotal evidence suggests the latter. In two separate trips this past year (August & October), I noticed significant differences when pulling legacy FP.

    For both trips, I was 4th or 5th in line at rope drop, so one of the first few hundred in the park. Both days I beelined for Toy Story Mania FP, and arrived to short lines at all the machines. In both cases I was retrieving 12 FP for my group. At that time of morning, all of the machines (8 I think) are operating at full clip. In August, I received al 12 FP with a single return time of 9:55. This was consistent with 2 previous trips this year.

    In October, in virtually the same circumstances, I received FP with return times that varied from 10:55 to 11:30! In the 2 or 3 minutes it took me to get all twelve, the return time changed by 35 minutes.

    If there are 8 machines, and in the time it takes 12 passes, the return climbs by 30 mintes, that means in October they were only allowing at most 192 fastpasses for an hour of return time (8 * 12 * 2).

    The same math for August indicates 1152 per hour (12 tickets * 8 machines * 12 five minute increments), and that assumes that my 12 FP took up the entire 5 minute slot before the return time changed.

    In mid-October, FP+ was in test in most resorts, and in August only a handful. It seems that the number of available legacy FP per return hour has been significantly reduced.

    Staying offsite without FP+ access currently is a significant disadvantage in obtaining any sort of FP, and that was a significant factor in my large family’s decision to delay our next trip to Disney until FP+ is sorted out.

    • Thanks Chuck, you are describing exactly what we experienced this Fall and exactly what the data is showing. In your comment I think the terms “Rate” and “Availability” are interchangeable. In fact, it is equivalent to consider the sell out time as well. The rate, availability, distribution and sell out time are all related.

    • I share the same thoughts as Chuck.
      If Disney are to switch from Fastpass to Fastpass+, the logical solution would be to reduce wind down Fastpass allocations in favor of Fastpass+ slots.

      I defintely feel that MyMagic+ will be a very popular tool, but the word ‘eventually’ springs to mind.
      Right now park guests are becoming increasingly affected by a new program that people know very, very little about.
      For me, that is a huge PR blunder for Disney!

  • Great post Fred. Any thoughts on how much of an impact double dipping on fast passes by magic band users is having on the fast pass distribution rates? I wonder if distribution rates will slow once magic band users no longer have access to legacy fast passes too.

  • Great post! It seems like Disney has the same amount of Fastpasses but they’re splitting them between legacy fastpass and Fastpass+. Any news of when legacy fastpass goes away? When will the magic band test end and everyone (at least on-site guests) have to use magic bands? Im going there in January.

  • With the number of people with “resort privileges” (hotels, DVC, Four Seasons, new subdivisions) increasing, there has to be a point where access to attractions and dining becomes so difficult that the experience is threatened. Absent a radical expansion of WDW experiences, paying to stay on property will be less and less attractive without a system granting much faster access to resort guests. I don’t think that 3 fast passes per day (and not necessarily to the most popular attractions) will be sufficient reward. Magic Hours haven’t provided enough additional access (ability to get one’s fill of rides) in some time. Can a great experience be maintained for those staying off property? Are we headed for an even more tiered system? It will be interesting to see what happens.

  • I didn’t realize that folks with Magic Bands could access the FastPass system (ie. double dip) ~ that seems very unfair. I hope someone has alerted Disney to this so they might take SOME steps to remedy it.

    • With respect, I hope that Disney takes no steps to alter this until after January 1. As long as the two systems co-exist, I’m not sure that there is a “fair” solution. Being stuck with either one seems less than ideal: one kills spontaneity and may not work well from the parks; the other may have far fewer passes. I’d prefer to think of the FP+ as a bonus to some who are paying for the privilege, and hope it doesn’t impact the system more than it has to. I confess, however, to some regret in making last minute reservations, and wonder if a trip which requires more planning than D-Day did, is worth it. Best wishes to all those with whom I will be elbow to elbow.

      • Sorry, this is an add-on.

        I spoke to magic band tech support. I was told that they were changing the way the fastpass/fastpass+ systems interact on a frequent basis. They are, apparently, aware of the issues involved (after all, it is Disney and they have been testing the system for 4 months). There is no way of knowing exactly how the system will be working in two weeks (it may even be different from each hotel, as Mr. Hazelton has noted.