As many know, Disney’s FastPass+ system has been under testing for several months at Walt Disney World. As a result of this new initiative, which allows guests to book attraction times in advance of their trip, we’ve seen some changes in the current FastPass system, not the least of which is the requirement to return within the allotted one hour timeframe. But there is one more variable to the system Disney is trying so hard to perfect, and that’s the Guest Assistance Card. Continue below to find out how FastPass+ could be forcing some changes to the Guest Assistance Card.
I’ll start off by saying I’m sure this topic ranks right up there with ECV usage, various dining annoyances, and any other highly controversial Disney policy. Having said that, I’ve been told by many who deal with it everyday, that the Guest Assistance Cards and their abuse is increasingly becoming a problem Disney needs to address.
Guest assistance cards (GACs) allow guests with a disability to be given reasonable accommodations based on the nature of their disability. Although this might simply mean waiting in an alternate area away from the sun, it can also mean being given a reduced wait time. While Disney always emphasizes that they are NOT a Fast Pass, many times their use leads you straight into the Fast Pass line or wheelchair entrance (which is what those who abuse the system use it for).
Let me be VERY clear, I am not advocating against GACs. I am not saying everyone who gets one is able to use it as a Fast Pass or that every attraction accepts it as a Fast Pass. I AM saying, that if you say the right thing, anyone can get one and with many attractions, it will lead to either the Fast Pass line or wheelchair entrance.
I had the chance to see a good friend of mine recently who works in Guest Relations. He told me the abuse of the guest assistance cards is growing out of control and one park in particular has been trying to push back about it. Yet, at the end of the day, the cast members are stuck because even if they know someone is abusing it, they cannot legally question the disability. This leads to people exploiting the system and the problem has been growing. There are actually tour companies who bring small groups into the parks and utilize the GAC to express the group to the front of attraction lines(through the FP line or wheelchair entrance) as part of the overall tour experience. Sadly, some of these tour guides working for the tour companies are also cast members, but that’s a discussion for a different time. Regardless, the problem is growing and Disney has taken notice.
So how does this tie into FastPass+? The idea behind FastPass+ is having a very controlled guest flow for the attractions which is why FastPass return times are now being enforced. So the new restriction on return times in coordination with guests reserving attraction times in advance potentially create a well-managed, positive experience for the guests (and Disney’s bottom line because less time in line means more time in gift shops). But there’s one variable in this tight knit system, and that’s the GAC. Just how much of a variable is it?
When Radiator Springs Racers opened in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, the large amount of annual pass holders utilizing GACs created a reduction of fast passes available at the popular attraction by as much as 33%. Additionally, Guest Relations’ cast members were stationed outside the entrance of the attraction, giving people with a GAC a return time based on the current stand-by wait time. So if the wait time was 2 hours, they were given a hand written pass to come back in 2 hours and then enter the FastPass return queue. Eventually this reached the desk of George Kalogridis who commissioned the Guest Relations team to come up with a way to reduce the expectations of those using the GAC and create more restrictions around it.
So what about Walt Disney World? Well, Disneyland is about 18 months behind WDW in the next-gen initiative, but WDW is already in the midst of rolling it out. With George now coming over to WDW and having seen this problem at Disneyland, one must wonder what’s in store for WDW’s GAC program. If GACs really created that much of a problem for Radiator Springs Racers, imagine the problem it could create with rides like Soarin, Test Track, and Toy Story Mania, all of which will be relying on carefully planned statistics to implement FastPass+. Clearly these statistics can’t account for groups of 5 at a time randomly being thrown into the FastPass line.
I want to be clear – I have not heard anything saying things ARE going to change at WDW. However, FP+ relying heavily on statistics, GACs being blatantly abused, and the President of Disneyland becoming the President of WDW as of February 1 all point to the large possibility of a change in the near future.