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 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.
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.