Testing Out the xPass System

Between May 1 – 15, 2012, select guests visiting Disney World are taking part in a test of the next generation of FastPasses at Magic Kingdom, currently called the xPass.  Clients of ours were selected when they arrived at the Magical Express Welcome Center at the Orlando airport last week.  They told us all about the experience plus offered us to use their second set of passes.

While they were at the Welcome Center, they were pulled aside by a castmember with a tablet to ask them some questions.  They selected dates for the trial and then were offered four fastpasses for each day.  There were two groups of four rides each.  They had to choose two from each group.  Then they needed to say if they wanted to tour in the morning, afternoon, evening or all day.  This allowed the system to select the appropriate times for the ride.  They supplied an email address and were sent a confirmation of the times for their rides.  They were given plastic FastPass cards that they would use for the trial.

Your email will spell out the times that you have xPass times for.  The nice part was how the rides were organized.  Instead of criss-crossing around the park, you started on one side and then moved your way across the park, saving time between rides.  If you forget the times when you get to the park, you can take your xPass card to certain machines at the FastPass attractions to see your times.

When your ride window is open, you go to the FastPass return line as before, but those with the xPass have to do one of two things, depending on the ride.  Some have a ball with a Mickey silhouette that you tap the card upon.  This will light up green if you are within the hour window.  Otherwise, it will light up blue showing that it is not time for you to ride.  The other possibility is that the xPass card will be scanned by a castmember with a tablet computer.  We arrived early for our second ride and the castmember told us we had 17 minutes until we could ride.

In both cases, our cards were checked a second time when we got closer to the start of the ride.  Where the castmember would usually take your FastPass, with the xPass, you either tap another ball with the Mickey silhouette or just show your xPass to the castmember, since you will need the card for the rest of your day.

I can see good and bad with the xPass.  The good is that you are able to select the rides and approximate times of the rides in advance so you know that you are able to get on the rides you want without running around trying to get FastPasses or wait in lines.  The longest time between the end and beginning of ride windows was an hour, but in most cases it was less than 30 minutes.  This gave us the time to go on other attractions along the way and still get to our next ride.  This will take some stress out of the planning.

The problems I see are for those that will change their minds as they actually approach the day they will go to the particular park.  We don’t like to set up dining reservations far in advance because we never know when we want to eat at certain restaurants or when we want to be in certain parks.  Sometimes we don’t even know until the morning of.  If we have to plan months in advance, that will be difficult.

Next is the weather.  What if the weather is bad on your day that you are touring the Magic Kingdom so you decide not to go and take an easy day doing other things.  What if you can’t get new times for the day you want to go instead?  All your months of plans could change and leave you with no options but to stand in lines.

For some, planning a long time in advance and sticking with the plans is not a problem.  For me it is.  I’ll be very interested to hear how this is going to work with DVC and Annual Passholders.  I also wonder if this is something that those staying off property will be able to purchase, like with the front of the line access at Universal Studios.

Time will tell.  Rumor has it this program, whether it is still called xPass or is renamed something else, will be started in early 2013.  I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be a good change.

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