Walt Disney World’s Fastpass system is undergoing a significant policy change starting today. As John Frost from The Disney Blog reported last month, Disney World cast members will now be enforcing the return window printed on the Fastpass ticket. The hour long return period has been printed on the ticket since the system began back in 1999. From then until yesterday, guests were able to show up at any point in the day after the start period. However, Disney is getting stricter and actually starting to enforce this time-slot for the Fastpass around Walt Disney World. Guests arriving after their allotted “appointment” will be turned away or pointed to the standby line. So if you get that Fastpass for Space Mountain for 10:50 – 11:50 AM, be sure to make it back before 11:50.

For more on what this means for Disney World guests right now and the future of this time-saving system with the rumors of xPass around the corner, continue reading about the changes to Disney World’s Fastpass system.

The new policy does give cast member a tiny bit of leeway. If a ride is down during your return period, your Fastpass will still be honored for the attraction. The same will be true if there is a circumstance outside of your control that prevents you from getting to the ride. Time will tell how lenient cast members will be if you’re 5 or 10 minutes late, but my guess is it will really depend on the cast member and how busy the attraction is at the time.

Fastpass has always been a favorite tool for my family and I to get the most out of our day at Disney World. This new policy will definitely require a bit more planning for guests using the system, especially if they have a dining reservation in the park that day. It will cause park goers just to be a bit more deliberate about how they go about their day, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Also, it might prevent the Fastpass line from getting clogged up at peak times during the day, which could mean shorter waits for both the Fastpass and standby lines for the most popular Disney World attractions. Time will tell how this change will affect the Walt Disney World experience.

The most prevalent reason for the Fastpass policy change is that Disney is trying to pave way for a new “xPASS” system. xPass is one of those poorly kept Disney World secrets/rumors like Star Tours 2 was a few years ago. All signs point to Disney actually implementing a new ride reservation system dubbed xPass, where guests can book ride reservations for specific times prior to their trip. As Jim Hill puts it, resort guests will be able to book a ride time in specific chunks, i.e. ride Splash Mountain at a window between either 9am – 1pm, 12-4:30, or 4-8:30. Presumably, xPass guests would be able to just walk onto the ride at that selected time.

Disney has not announced anything official about xPass, and whether it would be just available to Disney World Resort guests or to any ticket holder (although signs are pointing to it being part of a Resort package). As Jim Hill has reported, Disney may expand the number of rides that have Fastpass in order to make up for the non-resort guests without xPass.

I’ve been reading a lot of negative reactions to the xPass concept, but I think we can only wait until Disney actually announces and executes a new ride pass system until we can determine if it is good or not. If the new Fastpass rules plus an “xPass” system actually end up saving Disney World guests time waiting in line, that’s a very good thing. If it just furthers congestion and line bottlenecks and creates a haves vs have-nots system at Disney World, it could sour the experience for the non-Disney World resort guests. Until we actually see what is announced and how Disney World implements it, I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic that Disney is thinking through these guest experience issues.

What do you think about the new Fastpass policy? Do you have any thoughts about the rumored xPass system? Let me know at [email protected].