Disneyland Ends AP Program & Cancels ALL Annual Passes
Disney announced it will be ending the current Annual Passholder program for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, cancelling all outstanding APs and issuing refunds. In this post, we’ll share details about the termination, commentary on why it’s happening, and more.
Here’s the statement issued by Ken Potrock, President of Disneyland Resort:
“For nearly four decades, our Annual Passport program has been an important part of connecting with some of our most valued Guests. We are incredibly honored and grateful for that legacy, and the memories and magical moments you have helped us create over the years.
It’s because you’ve played such an important part in the history of the Disneyland Resort that I personally wanted to share this news with you. In the next several days, we will begin the process of issuing appropriate refunds for eligible Disneyland Resort Annual Passports and sunsetting the current Annual Passport program due to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and limitations and expected restrictions around the reopening of our theme parks.
I know that sunsetting the Annual Passport program will be disappointing to many of our Passholders who are just as anxious as we are to reopen our gates and welcome Guests back when the time is right. But we are also very excited about what’s ahead.
We plan to use this time while we remain closed to develop new membership offerings that will utilize consumer insights to deliver choice, flexibility and value for our biggest fans. Once we have more information to share about future membership offerings, our Passholders will be the first to hear from us as we embark on this next chapter.”
Annual Passholders who held active Disneyland Passports as of last March 14 will continue to receive applicable discounts, based on their AP type, on merchandise and food & beverages at select Downtown Disney District and Buena Vista Street locations, until new membership offerings are announced.
As an added benefit, from January 18 through February 25, 2021, existing Annual Passholders will receive a discount of 30% off merchandise in Downtown Disney District and Buena Vista Street, Monday through Thursday. For more details, visit Disneyland.com/APSpecialOffers.
Additionally, Disneyland encourages fans stay connected with their Annual Passholders Facebook page for future communications and digital content about special opportunities to come, until new membership offerings are announced. That’s also an advisable move if you don’t always receive emails from Disneyland. (Our batting average with that is about .500!)
Disneyland has also announced that pro rata refunds will be issued for those with valid Annual Passports, who are entitled to one. Disney indicates that refunds will be processed as diligently and as quickly as possible, but that has not been the case for Walt Disney World APs despite a similar process.
Confirmation emails will be sent to the email address associated with the Annual Passport once any applicable pro rata refund for such AP has been processed. If the applicable pro rata refund is unable to be returned to the purchasing credit card, a check will be mailed to the billing address provided at the time of sale/renewal of the Passport.
Visit Disneyland.com/PassportRefund for more information, including refund calculations for various types of APs and blockout calendars to assist you in doing the math.
This is undoubtedly going to be disappointing and upsetting news for many Disneyland locals. It’s also totally unsurprising and, frankly, necessary. That’s going to be an unpopular opinion amongst a sea of what we predict will be irate reactions, but it’s true.
Before we delve into our analysis as to why this had to happen (something we predicted and touched upon months ago), we’ll offer another, perhaps reassuring prediction: Disneyland Annual Passes are not gone forever–they will return.
Our guess is that Disneyland will bring APs back at some point in 2022. That’s purely speculative and depends upon a ton of unknowns right now. Basically, our expectation is that Annual Passes will be back in some form as soon as Disneyland and DCA can operate at full capacity.
In normal times, Disneyland is dependent upon locals during the off-season–the SoCal resident ticket deal is insufficient on its own. Although Disney has tried to make Disneyland Resort a bona-fide vacation destination (and moved it in that direction since the debut of Cars Land), it is still reliant upon Californians and not tourists for most of the year. While those same locals cause attendance woes, Disneyland cannot subsist on travelers like Walt Disney World.
(For those keeping score at home, I predicted The End of Disneyland as a “Local’s Park” years before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened. Admittedly, that got a lot wrong. While Disney would love for that to be true–and it feels that way during peak travel seasons–it’s still not the case for the vast majority of the calendar, which is why some sort of Annual Passholder program is necessary when back to full capacity. It’ll likely be reformed and more akin to the Disney Flex Pass, but it’ll exist.)
Most of you understandably don’t follow Tokyo Disney Resort Annual Pass news, but what Disneyland is doing now is very similar to what happened in Japan when those parks reopened.
The only difference is that Tokyo Disney Resort did not end its AP program before reopening, instead doing an AP lottery process first that regularly crashed their website and shut out the vast majority of Annual Passholders we know there. That was an unmitigated disaster, so OLC moved to across-the-board cancellations. (We’re still in the process of getting refunds on those APs, but obviously that’s a bit different.)
The AP program had to be temporarily cancelled in Japan because there’s a huge fanbase of Annual Passholders in nearby Tokyo, the most populous city in the world, and only two theme parks to absorb those crowds. In the current era of physical distancing and limited attendance, retaining the AP program was simply not feasible.
That description of Tokyo Disney Resort should sound familiar to Disneyland fans. California’s and Tokyo’s parks have much more in common with one another than Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Like Tokyo, Disneyland has a fervent fanbase of local Annual Passholders in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, and only two parks to absorb those guests.
The main difference here is that Disneyland Resort is skipping the “unmitigated disaster” step, learning from Tokyo’s mistakes, and skipping straight to the program cancellation and refunds. It may not be the popular approach, but it’s the correct one.
Suffice to say, maintaining the current Annual Passholder program at Disneyland would not be feasible with physical distancing and limited attendance. Fans are undoubtedly going to be upset about this, but those same people would likewise be mad when they couldn’t book a reservation more than once every other month. It’s literally either a matter of being furious and/or disappointed now or later. There was never a third option.
We know that because Walt Disney World Annual Passholders were livid when they no longer had unlimited access to the parks. People lost it when they the Disney Park Pass system debuted and they could only (at first) make 3 reservations per month. Things are much better now in Florida, but they’d be worse in California–and would stay that way for as long as physical distancing and attendance caps are in place.
Ultimately, this is obviously not a change we wanted to see happen, but we’re glad Disney has realized it’s necessary and unavoidable now. It’s better to rip the Band-Aid off now, rather than waiting for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to reopen, seeing it doesn’t work, and trying to process refunds and cancellations then, while also dealing with new bookings and actual operations.
This should give Disneyland a few months to deal with cancellations, complaints, refunds, and so forth, and a fresh slate once the parks are ready for operations again. So the silver lining, at least, is that this inevitable bad news at least has good timing. As covered in the last update to our When Will Disneyland Reopen? predictions, we’re still optimistic the parks will reopen before Summer 2021.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with our assessment that Disneyland’s Annual Pass program is not viable in an era of physical distancing and reduced attendance? Or, do you disagree and think Disneyland could’ve found a way to make it work? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments
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