Disneyland ended year-long speculation regarding whether the theme park will continue offering annual passes. They have answered that question with a solid “no.”
Disney’s Annual Passholder Program
Disney offers annual passes to its resorts in some markets. Each market is treated as independent of the others, meaning that the rules, prices, and guidelines may be different from other parks, and also that entry is limited to just that geographic area’s parks. The lone exception to this is the Premier Passport that gives access to both US parks.
The southern California annual passport program provided discounts at Downtown Disney, as well as varying levels of access based on which southern California annual pass was purchased.
Disneyland California Ends Annual Passholder Program
Earlier this year, both California and Florida properties were closed due to COVID-19 protocols. However, Walt Disney World Florida re-opened with reduced capacity, Disneyland in California has never re-opened. As the parks approach nearly one full year closed (306 days as of publication), the collection and retention of funds for Disneyland Resort Annual Passports have become a nuissance for both guests and Disney.
Disney has decided to cancel the annual pass holder program in California.
This affects all California pass holders, not solely southern California resident passes. Disneyland introduced Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge within the last two years, and it also features Pixar Pier.
Speculation has grown for some time that new park management would end the annual pass programs in the US, in favor of higher per-visit yield customers who visit less often.
Disneyland Resort Annual Passport holders can get a full refund for unused portions of their passes. There’s no word on whether the passes will return once California is able to return to business as usual.
At the time of publication, California has the highest COVID-19 infection rate and the highest mortality per million residents of any state in the US. These troubling figures are despite the state’s prolonged and extensive lockdown measures. Disney can’t be sure when they will be able to return to operations, and even when they do, it will be a phased rollout which could take months or years before full recovery.
Why This Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Anything For Disney World
For those concerned about the inability to renew or obtain annual passes at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, they may be unrelated. Disney World has been able to not only reopen but increase from 25-35% capacity. Florida’s Governor DiSantis has cleared theme parks to return to occupancy levels of their choosing and at their discretion.
Disneyland parks in California don’t have a reopening on the horizon. Florida is generally more open than most other US states, and by all accounts Disney can not only see their path, but control it.
One concerning point of similarity is that Disney initially tried to swap annual passholders who spend less per visit but more per annum for visitors that come less frequently by diminishing the value and availability for pass holders. They have since reversed that trend and began reaching out to former pass holders.
Disney might be doing their California pass holders a favor by ending the program temporarily and returning fees as the parks are not open. It may fortell the future for the parks as management has been clear they don’t favor the model. That said, management tried that plan and it backfired so this might be simply because California reopening is not an option in the near future.
What do you think? Was this inevitable? Should Disney have simply extended annual passports as they did in Florida? Is this part of a larger plan by management?