Virtual Queue - Disney developed an
algorithm that eliminates long lines at popular rides like Space
Nobody knows how better to manage a queue than engineers at Walt Disney. In fact, after the events of September 11, the Transportation Security Administration consulted Disney engineers on the design of security screening areas in airports.
Disney itself keeps raising the bar. If you've been to a Walt Disney World theme park lately, you've probably noticed that you waited in line for less time. And, in fact, you did. Thanks to Disney's patented FASTPASS technology, first introduced in 1999, wait times for attractions have been reduced by 40%—exceeding even the expectations of the engineers who developed it. "Over the years, we've always done things to make standing in line less of a pain," says Dale Stafford, VP Global FASTPASS Service, "But with this technology we decided to do something completely different by eliminating the line altogether. We just didn't know how successful it would be."
FASTPASS, in essence, creates a virtual queue. Based on classic demand management principles, it uses software algorithms to track guest activity and smooth out demand by scheduling a future time slot for guests to return to an attraction. "The great thing about the system is that it is self-managing. The line itself creates demand for FASTPASS," explains Stafford.
So popular is the no-wait strategy that Disney reports that approximately 80% of all guests are currently taking advantage of it. And improvements continue apace. Recently, engineers expanded FASTPASS to 24 attractions in four Walt Disney Theme parks. And they hope to manage demand even better with a new feature that issues passes for guests to visit an attraction that currently has excess capacity.
Imitation, of course, is the best form of flattery. Universal Studios has introduced its own version of virtual queuing. Spokesman Jim Canfield says it has been popular with guests.