The concept seems like a wonderful idea – get past the long lines at at your local amusement park, just pay a few extra bucks for your admission. But, is it really that great of an idea, or is it creating more problems than it solves?
Today, we’ll look at arguments both for and against the “fastpass” system – as well as historical background on the topic.
First, a quick history…of lines.
Lines have been with us for most of eternity. The Bible speaks of how the animals lined up, two by two to get into Noah’s Ark. Lines also developed during the Great Depression, waiting for food at the local soup kitchen. At the same time, the concept of legally jumping the line was born.
Let’s face it, those unicorns probably should have gotten a fastpass…
So, on one side of the argument, a paid fastpass-type system effectively “punishes” those who can’t wait, by charging them more for their day at the park.
Now, the flipside of the argument, is that much like traffic fines, those with more disposable income will simply pay the extra amount, as it really doesn’t mean much to them. But, does this mean there’s a “class system” developing in our amusement and theme parks?
I don’t think so.
Why? Because we’ve had a class system in our parks for decades – it’s just that so many people now have access to the “upper echelon.”
Hear me out – if you’ve ever been to an amusement or theme park when a celebrity is there, you know (or knew) that they wouldn’t ever stand in line. They would be shuttled up the exit by staff members to get on the ride with as little fanfare (and fan interaction) as possible.
True fans of Disneyland and California’s Great America should also know about the secret clubs that are in the park, designed for those with deep pockets – 33 and The Consulate, respectively.
While The Consulate is no longer used for it’s original purpose, the fact that it was set up for that purpose 40 years ago shows that the “class culture” has been with us for quite some time.
So is it class warfare in our parks? No. Does it suck to wait an extra few minutes – sure. Is it worth the extra cash to skip the line?
Maybe the better question is this: are you willing to give parks more of your money to feel richer?
This week, the amusement fan community and even the national media gravitated to the news that Walt Disney World was increasing their single day, admission prices to $99 at the Magic Kingdom. It was the second price hike in less than 12 months for the Florida resort.
Now, most people who read the story probably thought the same thing: HOLY CRAP – IT’S $100 DAMN DOLLARS TO GO TO DISNEY WORLD FOR A SINGLE DAY?!?
However, there are a few factors that most sources (and most viewers) probably didn’t take into consideration when the story broke. Let us then, consider the following:
A single day admission (purchased at the main entrance to the park):
Disney World: $99.00
Six Flags Over Texas: $64.99
Cedar Point: $54.99
So, “apples to apples,” Disney seems wildly overpriced, right? Well – first we have to ask if it’s really an “apples to apples” comparison. There’s one thing that most folks don’t take into account when price-comparing parks – it’s their line management programs (AKA “fast pass” systems).
Disney offers their “Fastpass” system free of charge, (built into the cost of admission, regardless of length of ticket) to all guests with a valid ticket on all of their operating “e-Ticket” attractions as well as many others. (The only constraint is how many you can hold at one time). Both Six Flags Over Texas and Cedar Point also offer their own version of a line management system (dubbed “The FLASH Pass” and “Fast Lane,” respectively). However, they are generally limited to set number of attractions or rides per ticket.
And unlike Disney, both chains charge additional fees for this service. Six Flags has three different tiers of pricing, ranging from $40 to $90 per guest, while Cedar Point offers two tiers of pricing, ranging from $75 to $90).
With that in mind, let’s now see how much each park is really costing you, “apples to apples”:
Disney World: $99.00
Six Flags Over Texas: $104.99 – $154.99
Cedar Point: $129.99 – $144.99
*It should be noted – that all costs in this comparison are calculated at the single person rate.
With the extra service of a “fast pass” system on some of their major rides, we can see that a trip to the Magic Kingdom is actually still quite competitive with other parks around the country – in fact – you’re getting MORE for your money on a single day admission.
Spread it out over several days, and the Disney price drops even further, whereas at Cedar Point and Six Flags, you’ll need to pay full price for their “fast pass” systems each and every time you go.
Now, this comparison does not take into account a season pass which – depending on the number of times visiting the park – can dramatically reduce these prices. But, considering most people visit Disney only once a year (or less in my case) then we’ve assumed folks will visit these regional parks the same amount of times per year.
What do you think? Was Disney out of order for raising prices twice in a single year? Do you use “fast pass” systems at parks OTHER than Disney? Why or why not? Leave me a comment below and tell me what YOU think!