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The New XPass: What Does It Mean for You and Me? By Bob Angelo.

Recently, the online Disney community has been aflutter with rumors that XPass may be introduced at the Walt Disney Parks as early as 2012 (see Kevin Yee’s excellent article here). No, it’s not part of the new Fantasyland Expansion, but it may be as big a story. What exactly is it, and why should you care?

XPass is a next generation technology; a sort of enhanced Fastpass system that guests would pay for, and would allow them to plan out their entire Walt Disney World vacation; from what rides and attractions they want to experience, to character greetings, weeks or months before they even set foot in a Disney park. Once they arrive and get to a park, the guest would then just follow the specific plan they created, show up to an attraction, waive the XPass and bypass the other guests waiting on line. Guests utilizing the system would also be given special seating/viewing areas for parades, fireworks, and nighttime entertainment such as “Fantasmic.”

A project that is near and dear to Disney CEO Bob Iger’s heart, the idea gained more attention earlier this year when Chairman of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Tom Staggs, commented that the company was working on a version of Fastpass for a guest’s entire Disney vacation. To further muddy the waters a little, Jim Hill Media has reported that XPass would not be available for purchase by all guests; instead, only those guests who book a deluxe resort would be afforded the opportunity to partake.

Assuming this project is real, and these rumors are true (and I should stress again that all of this is just a rumor at this point, and nothing has been officially announced) I think it raises a number of concerns. First, since XPass guests would presumably be using the Fastpass entrance at attractions, in order to keep the flow of traffic moving, it’s reasonable to assume that Disney will reduce the total number of Fastpasses available to other guests on any given day. I also have concerns about how Disney will handle guests using XPass at attractions or experiences that don’t normally have them, such as at character greetings. Will guests be split into two separate lines? Will “normal” guests have to wait longer each time a guest with the pass decides they want to meet Mickey? And exactly how does Disney intend to respond to the backlash that is certain to occur from guests who don’t have XPass or are not familiar with it, and don’t like the idea of people “cutting” in front of them? After all, more than 10 years after its introduction, there are still people who don’t understand the Fastpass system, and get upset when people walk by them and directly onto attractions.

Second, I don’t like the idea of a caste system at Disney(or any theme park for that matter). It’s bad enough that people who are willing to spend more money would get to seemingly have an easier, more enjoyable vacation, but to limit the purchase of the XPass only to those guests staying in Deluxe resorts isn’t fair at all. Whether intentional or not, it sends the message that by staying in a deluxe resort, you are somehow better than everyone else, which simply isn’t true. I have talked to many clients who could easily afford to stay in a deluxe resort, but for a variety of reasons, do not – they tour all day and aren’t at the resort enough to enjoy it; they have young children who enjoy the theme of the value resorts better, or they like the fact that staying at a value gives them the option to stay for a longer period of time than staying at a deluxe would. And what about guests who choose for one reason or another to stay off-site? What about locals who have no reason to stay on or off property? If people’s money isn’t good just because they choose not to stay in a deluxe resort, maybe they start spending that money elsewhere.

Lastly, this just isn’t the Disney way. To be fair, this whole idea isn’t new; a certain other park just up the road from Walt Disney World where a famous boy wizard hangs out has (and has had for years) a similar system in place for on-site hotel guests and those willing to fork over extra cash on top of the base ticket price for the chance to bypass the lines at many of the popular attractions. And our friend Jim Hill, of the aforementioned Jim Hill Media, would remind me that if I said such a thing to Disney’s board members, I would be quickly told “Well, maybe that wasn’t Walt’s way, but Walt’s not around anymore, and this is how we do things now.” But when Disneyland first opened, it opened with the idea that it was a place where all families could go and have a good time together. Believe it or not, in its early days, there was even the idea in place that a guest should leave with money in their pocket at the end of the day because it would build brand loyalty. Clearly we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.

That doesn’t change the fact that Disney ISN’T that park with the boy wizard, and the Disney parks are STILL a place meant for families of any shape and size to go and have a good time. The minute Disney starts putting in place systems that reward people with specialized attraction access, priority character meet and greets, and VIP viewing spots for parades and fireworks if they spend more money, they lose that. The minute guests are essentially categorized based on where they choose to put down their head at night, they risk isolating a segment of those same guests. Where Disney has always excelled is in the fact that they were different; there is no place you can go that is quite like Walt Disney World -not even Disneyland. What has always made it special for me is that no matter how many times I visit the parks, I can always find the magic somewhere, and all around me, I can see guests finding that same magic. I’d hate to see a system put in place where the level of magic you can find is dictated by your credit limit. Say it ain’t so, Disney. Say it ain’t so.

Thanks to Bob for his thoughts on this issue.  What do you think? 

12 Comments

  1. Yeah I hate this idea for all of those reasons. It should not be a park for the rich, which it is already close to becoming at $80 a day…

  2. oh boy, sounds like even if you could afford the xpass it would just add stress to your vacation by setting you on a strict schedule (not unlike work or school.

  3. I hate this idea. Especially the idea of creating a “Class” System where only those staying at certain hotels qualify. Also I have a hard enough time scheduling Advanced Dining reservations weeks or months in advance without throwing in which park we will be at on a certain day and which rides we will ride. It will really take all the Magic out of our trips to WDW.

  4. Wow. I really hope this is nothing more than a rumor. I can’t think of anything less “Disney” than this. I hate the subliminal message it sends. I think it’s awful to pile onto those who are more likely to have been affected by this horrible economy by effectively penalizing them for trying to save money. Say it isn’t so. It reminds me of a quote from Jerry Macguire “First Class used to mean a better meal. Now it’s a better life.” Seems a bit class warfareish to me. :(

    /rant

  5. I don’t mind the idea of the Xpass system. Being a “planner” I use Touring Plans crowd calendar and book reservations 180 days out. I wouldn’t mind planning my trip down to the level of shows and rides. I think it may actually make the trip more enjoyable just knowing you are going to get to see exactly what you want to see. I don’t like the idea that you have to stay at a Deluxe resort mainly for the reasons Bob stated. We stay at values because all we do at the hotel is sleep and shower. I have no reason to stay at a deluxe. They should allow it for anyone who wants it no matter where they are staying. Just add it as an add on to the tickets like they do the Hopper or Water Parks and more.

  6. Bing. I agree but really, who in the H wants to follow their vacation plan to a T, even if they could. I think that this will fall under it’s own weight.

  7. Last year I went to Seaworld for the first time and noticed they had a system similar where you paid for a standard fast pass then paid more for a deluxe fast pass. I remember laughing and shaking my head thinking how Disney’s system was much more customer loyal and letting everyone I knew why Disney was the superior product. Disney – please don’t make me eat my words!

  8. Wasn’t the original A-E ticket system a “class” system? The more money you had (or were willing to spend), the more rides you could enjoy. And only those with the most expensive tickets got to ride the best rides.

  9. I guess the A-E ticket system was a “class” system, but it was a different park back then. Since then they have expanded and improved the park and the ticket system and I think it would be a mistake to return to a system like that.

  10. I disagree with the author. Some people have a higher tolerance for long lines for various reasons (age, # of children, etc). I would rather visit Disney 1 time a year with short waits, than 3 times a year with long wait times.

    As for nostalgia, if Walt Disney had seen net income rise “x” percent for the foreseeable future by offering this service, I find it hard to believe that he, or his shareholders, would opt against it.

  11. I also hate this idea. Since the dinner reservation thing started we can no longer just find a restaurant on the fly and have to schedule it ahead of time. I can’t imagine having to do that for a ride attraction, show etc… That’s too much like real life and I’m on vacation to get away from that!!

    I love Disney, but this may be the last straw. Sounds like they can’t handle their success and provide enough infrastructure for the number of guests that are in the parks.

    I don’t think this new system is going to change much for the better or solve these problems of queue lines.

  12. I have a feeling that the xpass will not remain exclusive to the deluxe resorts. Disney does, after all, have a storied history of testing their new plans on a target audience before making them available to the general public. As far as the caste system goes, I know plenty of people who will never go to Disney because they can’t afford it. Does that mean I should not spend my money as I like and go to Disney because my neighbor can’t afford it? If that’s the case then maybe I should also refrain from buying a Benz because my neighbor can only afford a Toyota. I think it’s being a little dramatic and illogical to pass such a judgement before any of us has seen the system in action. As far as alienating the Florida residents and APs goes, business is business, and business is about making a profit not only to line pockets but to reward the creativity that has brought forth the WDW we all enjoy and keep the best talent and innovation coming. FRs and APs don’t spend the dollars that infrequent travelers who save up their money for a big trip do. It’s not about any one groups dollars being better. It’s about going where the money is.

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