This is quite a read but worth it. It explains what’s going on in DL but could be happening at WDW too (TSM anyone?). Is this being abused? Absolutely, and at the expense of many who truly need it.
With the NexGen coming the current use of GAC will hinder the whole program and throw it off. It explains in the article.
What can be done to help the current system without those qualifying losing out on an experience equal to that of the regular guest? Thoughts?
Another change triggered by the huge popularity of Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers will be coming this winter to the Resort’s Guest Assistance Card program. The Guest Assistance Cards, or GAC’s as the Cast Members call them, are a program about 8 years old that allow those with disabilities that prevent them from being in long lines of people but don’t necessarily confine them to a wheelchair to bypass most lines at most attractions. Many people consider them a “front of line pass”, and a sub-culture of fraud and dishonesty has grown up around the program in recent years, where people with no disability whatsoever or with a vaguely undefined yet blanket condition like “claustrophobia” or a “bad back” now have a GAC. The Guest Relations team manages and distributes the GACs, and they will now post-date them for months in advance for Annual Passholders so that they have them ready to use for every casual visit for months at a time.
The result this summer was that on days with high Annual Passholder visitation rates the line of people wanting to use their GAC at Racers would completely overwhelm the attraction and create a line of 30 to 45 minutes long, clogging the Fastpass lane and demanding that the ride operators at Racers dramatically dial down the number of Fastpasses distributed each day. (And now you know why the Racers Fastpasses are all gone within 60 minutes of park opening; they are only giving out a third of the number of tickets they should be able to as they try and manage the GACs heading into the ride through the same line).
The Guest Relations team was summoned to the Racers ride entrance all summer as they tried to mitigate the problem by forcing GAC holders to return only after the length of the Standby line had lapsed, issuing them a “return time” much like a Fastpass. This process at least prevented those with GACs from just going around and around through the Fastpass line as much as they wanted, as a 45 minute Fastpass/GAC wait time is at least shorter than the two to three hour long Standby wait. The irony of a 45 minute line for people who freely acknowledge they can’t wait in line is not lost on any of the Cast Members from Guest Relations or Radiator Springs Racers.
When word of this GAC phenomenon reached DCA executives and George Kalogridis, after they demanded to know why so few Fastpasses were being given out each morning, the answer took the TDA executives by surprise. Any front-line Attractions or Guest Relations Cast Member has known the GAC program was highly abused and nearly worthless for years, but most executives had no exposure to the problem and had no idea so many GACs were being issued, often for months at a time. Some quick studies were commissioned by the Guest Relations team this summer, and it was determined that upwards of 5,000 people per day, almost all of whom were tracked as Annual Passholders, were going through the Fastpass line at Radiator Springs Racers with a GAC. At an attraction like Racers that was carrying an average of 20,000 riders per day, 5,000 of them boarding the ride with a GAC is a huge impact. After all, a GAC is valid for the disabled person, and up to five of their friends or family, so while there were often 1,500 or more valid GACs in the park at any one time that meant there were thousands more people joining the GAC card holder at an attraction.
The news that thousands and thousands of APs per day this summer had what amounted to an open Fastpass or backdoor access to any attraction at the Resort set off alarm bells in TDA, but not because of the assumption that many of the maladies were fake or overblown by the GAC holder just to get the perk of shorter lines. The TDA executives were most disturbed by the huge numbers of GACs because that would ruin their attempt to install and overlay the upcoming NextGen Fastpass or XPass concepts we’ve been telling you about for a couple of years. The entire NextGen queue project, just about to be rolled out formally later this fall in Walt Disney World, is built on fine tuned statistical models that have no leeway for huge numbers of people also trying to access the Fastpass lines at shows and attractions. With the average GAC-holding Annual Passholder essentially having an open Fastpass for any attraction at any time for their entire family, the NextGen concept would be undermined right from the start in Anaheim. Unless, of course, TDA blew up the existing GAC program and started over with something far more restrictive before NextGen arrives.
The NextGen project in Anaheim is a full 18 months behind the WDW timetable for NextGen installation. Much of the initial construction to add NextGen concepts to queues and waiting areas at Disneyland and DCA will kick off this winter and go through calendar year 2013, with a soft opening of NextGen in Anaheim by the winter of 2014. However, current construction projects at the Resort are taking NextGen into account, with data cables and physical changes already being included in current construction projects like the refurbished Fantasyland Theater and the Princess Fantasy Faire off the Hub.
The goal TDA has given the Guest Relations team is to blow up the current GAC process and come up with something far more restrictive by this winter, and then keep it on a very short leash through 2013 as TDA tries to reset the lofty expectations of those who get Guest Assistance Cards, the vast majority of whom are Annual Passholders. At the same time, Disneyland and DCA will need to take the same steps taken at WDW to limit Fastpass return times only to the actual hour printed on the ticket. NextGen concepts require rigid adherence to the programmed system, and a huge pool of people able to bypass all NextGen requirements with a Guest Assistance Card valid for the entire family simply can’t be allowed if NextGen is to succeed in Anaheim.