Walt Disney World has had a rough ride with Conoronavirus, but it’s their Annual Passholders that seem to be paying the price.
Coronavirus Shut Down the Parks
The coronavirus crisis made it impossible for Walt Disney parks across the world to stay open. Too many people coming in close contact with each other and touching common surfaces, there really was no way to safely keep the parks open for guests. To Disney’s credit, they recognized this early and shut down parks around the world before governments required them to do so.
It was a big decision for management to make, one in which a quarter of the company’s annual revenue is derived and a fair amount of profit too. The whole business has been affected by the virus. Disney decided to shelve the release of some major films until they can get back to Box Office numbers. ESPN/ABC Sports is obviously suffering as well.
Some Florida Annual Passholders pay for their passes monthly over the course of the year. With the parks shut, Disney gave these passholders a pair of options.
- They could stop payments during the closure period, and restart once the parks re-opened.
- Payments could continue without ceasing during the closure period, however, membership would be extended cost-free for the number of months the parks were closed.
The parks re-opened last week and as such, payments resumed. However, for those who had suspended payments through the period, some were debited all of the payments that had been postponed at once. For a family of four, that might have been an unintended payment of $800 that was not agreed to.
An opportunistic attorney has filed a class-action suit against Disney for the costs and inconveniences posed with this error. Disney has reversed the holds (many never posted) and following the filing, Disney has also contacted affected parties offering to cover any costs associated with the error.
It seems like this was a genuine mistake or technical failure and that the company has made it right (even though the effort only came after the lawsuit was filed.)
Annual Passholders Mishandled
Perhaps the most egregious mishandling of Annual Passholders for Walt Disney World has been access to the park once it re-opened. Annual Passholders who could not attend a preview soft opening, have found there’s no availability in the near future. That would be understandable if it were due to restrictions on crowd size, however, single tickets show availability for days when Passholders should have the same access but don’t.
What’s more, in an effort to track and manage crowd sizes, Walt Disney World is not allowing members to park hop (visit more than one park in a day.) That’s a major benefit of being an annual passholder and strictly curtails and adjusts the economics and feasibility of any trip. Florida resident single park/single day passes are significantly discounted from general ticket prices, for non-Floridians. The costs can vary from $60 for the same single day, single park ticket to more than $200 for Park Hopper. To take away the benefit clearly devalues the annual passes and those passholders should be compensated accordingly. Disney has decided the compensation for this a one-month extension of their pass expiry or to cancel membership and receive a pro-rata refund.
It’s also disappointing that Annual Passholders (whether paying $2000 upfront for the year or in monthly installments) aren’t allowed entry, while those who may visit Disney once or twice in their lives can gain access to the park for as little as $108. It should demonstrate to Annual Passholders just where they stand on the Disney customer hierarchy.
This particular challenge is hard for Disney because unlike hoteliers who still welcome guests who may have to travel for work, to care for a family member or a friend – Walt Disney World is the definition of non-essential. Some of the moves they made were the right thing to do for the customer, even when they didn’t necessarily need to do them. However, mishandled payments could have put some people already in a surprisingly difficult position in a far worse one. And restricting Annual Passholders from entering because you already have their money while accepting new business is beneath the Disney standard.
What do you think? Did Disney mistreat Annual Passholders? Are they whining over nothing?