How Long Until Disney Starts Dynamic, 'Peak' Pricing on Tickets at Disneyland and Walt Disney World?

October 5, 2015, 10:20 AM · So why did Disney make so many changes to its annual pass programs at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts? In my Orange County Register column this morning, I offer this answer — capacity.

Disney tickets

Disney raises its ticket prices every year, and sometimes, twice a year. (The last Disney ticket price increase was in February, and many insider expect an increase in "day" ticket prices next month.) But this change in annual passes wasn't simply a price increase. By eliminating some pass options and introducing new ones, Disney is no-so-subtly trying to move its most loyal customers into passes with more blockout dates, spreading the load of those visitors toward less-crowded times of the year.

At Disneyland, the company effectively raised the price of its no-blockout annual pass by 35%, from $779 to $1,049 a year. From conversations with several people who own the soon-to-be-discontinued Premium pass, it appears that many of those passholders will opt to renew with Disneyland's new Signature annual pass, which costs only $70 than the old Premium pass and retains all of its benefits... save for adding a two-week blockout period around the Christmas and New Year's holidays — the busiest and most crowded period of the year. Those are the days when Disneyland would like thin crowds — without losing money.

The formula for that? A price increase.

Which raises this question — why just rely on annual passes changes to thin the crowds during busy periods? Why not raise the price of single- and multi-day park tickets on those days as well?

Disney might be about to do that. The company quietly has been surveying guests about a dynamic pricing structure that would increase the price of Disney World and Disneyland tickets during peak periods. Are last weekend's annual pass changes the first steps toward a dynamic pricing structure for Disney's U.S. theme parks? Read my Register column for more on this question, and please feel welcome to share your thoughts here in our comments.


Replies (21)

October 5, 2015 at 10:27 AM · I think it's getting REALLY close to being official... Disney might finally out price the middle class officially.
October 5, 2015 at 10:59 AM · The middle class won't be going because it is too expensive. No different prediction than no one is going to Disneyland because it is too crowded.

If the APs are designed to thin the herd, it seems unlikely that this will happen. People just keep buying the passes without hesitation. Certainly, Disney stopped selling the SoCal Pass although they can still be renewed. It appears they are delaying the inevitable, which includes building the third theme park and adding more high capacity E-Tickets in Tomorrowland and the empty lot in California Adventure. They need to do a better job of leveling the attendance at the two parks.

Disneyland often feels much more crowded during the parades and fireworks. They should consider a less castle focused fireworks show. The parades also impedes traffic. The tight spaces on Main Street is a big mess.

Dynamic pricing will have an affect, but there are limits.

October 5, 2015 at 11:34 AM · We live an hour and 10 minutes from Disney World, yet we have not been there in several years simply because the prices are simply too high. Admission plus food, etc. just keeps going up. Our question is how do so many foreigners afford their trips? Hotels, flights, food, amusement park tickets, etc.?
October 5, 2015 at 1:08 PM · I still am VERY interested to see numbers. I can't believe that there are so many premium passholders (out of the reported 1 Million total holders) that it creates such a problem at the end of the year. I have a premium and I maybe go twice during those 2 weeks and only for a few hours. Christmas Day, New Year's Eve? sure, I get it, really crowded. I bet that even with this reduction, they will still see high attendance and closures because they won't cap ticket sales to a reasonable amount. Demand is still high from a general public standpoint and to point fingers only at premium holders is short sighted on someone's statistical model.
October 5, 2015 at 1:13 PM · Even though they're closing Frontierland attractions for over a year, Disneyland is probably going to keep raising prices incrementally so they don't have to make such a big jump by the time Star Wars Land opens.

Even if Star Wars Land increases ride capacity, all those people will still overload Main Street and the parade/fireworks viewing. I thought it was smarter to build the third theme park, but that probably would have meant a large increase in AP prices because it's adding a third park.

October 5, 2015 at 4:13 PM · I wouldn't be at all surprised if dynamic pricing is implemented beginning next month, and I'm honestly more annoyed by this than by the pass prices increasing. The only way I would support dynamic pricing would be if the silver tier was equivalent to current prices instead of bronze and prices were set based on both crowds and available attractions. To me, it would feel like a huge rip-off to pay the gold price if attractions were out of service. I'm kind of comparing this pricing structure to a ski area...if less terrain is available, you sell lift tickets at a lower price. If you go with the maximum rate when 40% of the mountain is still closed, you're not likely to get a good response from customers.
October 5, 2015 at 4:54 PM · You know, they have to do something. The lines are just too overbearing, and they seem to refuse to have the fass pass system a paid system like at Universal. The problem is people continue to flood in, and nothing seems to stem the tide. I hate the new FP+ as it seems to just increase wait times on attractions that traditionally had no or low waits, but still the people come. At WDW they cannot give extra FP+'s if you stay on site, since there are just so many hotel rooms as it is. They could do this at DL, but they won't as it would run off the locals. They can't do it with just the Vacation Club members, since that would be a PR nightmare, so this is really all they can do. Except for one thing: add more parks. That might even just bring more guests and then they are stuck in times of extreme economic downturns, so I believe they will just increase prices, and, yes, people will be priced out. It is the same with concert prices and professional sports. I imagine at WDW they could add more non-major theme parks like water parks or shopping areas, but it amazes me how many people still flood the parks. As I type this on October 5th, traditionally a low time of the year, the Haunted Mansion has a 50 minute wait with a 90 minute wait for Space Mountain at WDW. Gringotts is 35 minutes and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is 20 (about how long it takes to walk through the line). They have to do something...
October 5, 2015 at 6:18 PM · Disneyland has already started to make the fireworks less castle focused with the projections on the Main Street buildings, maybe they can put the same projections on the Fantasmic water screens, and maybe put a flying character over the Rivers of America, Peter Pan could fly there when Tinker Bell flies over the castle.
October 5, 2015 at 7:24 PM · Since the new price of the no black out pass is $850 I'm guessing that people with the Premium pass go on average 9 times per year or more. Most passes like this are priced at just less than what it costs for the average number of visits per pass holder. Due to the high demand for DL right now, the price will go up until it is just barely worth it for the average pass holder. They want pass holders to pay full price over the days they are there for Christmas and New Years. I'm guessing most pass holders go 2-3 times in that time. They are overcrowded at that time so they want everyone to pay the full price and this new pass structure is the way they are making that happen. I can see them also raising the one day pass for walk up purchases if they still have overcrowding on the busiest days. I think they'll have to sell tickets with specific dates on them if they are going to make a different price depending on the day, otherwise it would be so much guest interaction time explaining why today is a gold day not a bronze day to people and up-charging them at the entrance gate especially for people who come from a long distance and didn't know what they were buying when they got their tickets ahead of time.
October 6, 2015 at 12:45 AM · Just one question: I always read that the Tokyo parks are the most crowded... is that wrong? From reading all these comments and articles it sounds like you can barely make a step without stepping on another Person at Disneyland...?
October 6, 2015 at 1:57 AM · I'm not sure quite when the change happened, but I discovered yesterday that Disney's already rolled a similar system out in Paris, although only for 1-day tickets.
October 6, 2015 at 2:50 AM · Star Wars Land, located in Disneyland, is a fatal, blatant mistake ... not just for the reason of un-repairable destruction to the Rivers of America theming (ridiculing it, after already 2 earlier thrill-scream attacks to the zoning..),
but also by skewing even more then already is now, the problematic unbalance between Disneyland and DCA.
Star Wars Land should be in DCA (loose from the RoA theming atack) for 2 main reasons: pushing towards attendance balance, and having the 'Holywood IP' where it belongs : 'studios theming', which is meant to be in DCA.
The actual plans will augment the crowdcontrol mess.
Ticketing whatever will NOT counter that.
They make WRONG structural descisions. (Back to the wild Eisner days ???....)
October 6, 2015 at 7:32 AM · Captain's log. Star date 2026

I walked up to guest relations today and asked how much for an annual pass. The lady asked if I wanted the 1% pass. It's the one that gives you access 365 days per year to both coasts, complimentary up-charge events, VIP seating for all fireworks and end-of-night shows, Christmas and Christmas Eve nights at Grand Californian or Grand Floridian, and 50% off merchandise, all for only $7499.

Oh no. That's quite outside my affordability range. I asked what else they had. She offered me the 99% pass, of course. That's the one that gives you access most Tuesdays and Wednesdays (June, July, August, and December excluded) after 2pm, one Saturday and one Sunday during the year which must be chosen at the time of AP purchase, a 5% discount on food and merchandise between the hours of 9am and 12pm on Mondays only, and one complimentary bottle of water per family or group. That one is $1200.

Ummm. Yeah. I'll take my business elsewhere.

October 6, 2015 at 8:23 AM · I think the time is now to start enjoying my other hobbies more often. National Parks are a heck of a lot more cheaper and there's a bunch I need to get to on my list.

Everyone is happy this way. I'm out of the 1% way in line, and I don't have to keep getting myself in debt to enjoy time outside of work. It's ridiculous that it has to be this way, but hey that's capitalism, and the private sector can do whatever the hell they want. I think I'm going to take at least a five year break from theme parks, and I highly advice that the 99% do the same thing. I'll go find peace within a national park.

October 6, 2015 at 12:57 PM · I'm gonna play Devil's Advocate here and say that maybe another Disney park here in the states may not be as much of a good idea for the foreseeable future. While it might be good for crowd control, there's the matter of cost. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Disney has enough money to do it, but that'll pull money and time away from the other parks, namely the ones in Paris and Hong Kong. I know they have Shanghai Disneyland opening, but I don't even know if I'm 100% behind that especially since it's in the same country with a Disney park that really needs help. Of course, now would be a horrible time to just scrap the plans for that park since the full plans have been revealed and they're in the middle of construction.
October 6, 2015 at 6:28 PM · I'm glad I've been to both parks various times so not going anymore suits me fine. Well I guess that there strategy is working. Good call Disney executives one down and only a bunch more to go.
October 6, 2015 at 8:17 PM · @ "We live an hour and 10 minutes from Disney World, yet we have not been there in several years simply because the prices are simply too high."

Huh? Disney World currently offers 3 or 4 day tickets for Florida residents that cost $189 or $209. That's a 30% discount just for being a FL resident.

There's plenty of evidence to support the claim that Disney is greedy. Yet, they still offer some significant discounts, as well.

October 6, 2015 at 11:07 PM · My husband and I will pay off our DVC property in 4 months. We are also annual pass holders. Just when I thought we would have some breathing room financially the type of annual pass that we've had for years is going up significantly. As we are in our retirement years and have looked forward to being able to visit Disney World more often, I find that we can only afford to renew our annual pass for the option that has several blackout dates. I feel that Disney is pricing us out of the market and quite frankly, I am quite irritated about this. As I mentioned our DVC property is almost paid for but I am finding that we may not be able to afford to go to WDW much due to all of the rising costs! So we will have a DVC property that we have paid for for years but can't afford to go to. We have been loyal Disney folks since our childhoods. When is Disney going to start feeling some loyalty for folks like us?
October 7, 2015 at 1:31 AM · Never been to a Disney park, and it is looking less likely that I ever will. I could go if I really wanted; just save up for the trip. Problem is I have no desire to make the trip alone; getting a group of friends together that can all afford such a trip is a challenge in of itself. I cannot really blame Disney though; its a fact of life with capitalism. The truth is they are one of the best run companies in America, and their bottom line shows it.
October 7, 2015 at 6:55 AM · We live in the United Kingdom and try to come over to Florida most years bringing our foster children for there once in a lifetime holiday. We came this year going to Disney with three foster children. It was just so expensive with the extra parking at $17.00 now $20 so i am afraid Disney have priced us out the market. Universal and Sea world in our view are far better priced apart from parking there at now $20.00. Disney Paris is an even bigger rip off. The cost for 5 of us will now cost $4500.00 for 4 days stay.
Just where does Disney think loyalty to them and constant price increases go together. Sorry Walt we will not be comming anymore
October 7, 2015 at 3:57 PM · Ok, I don't mean to sound like an inconsiderate ass, but Good Lord, can't you people say anything other than how Disney is out of your financial reach, or getting there? Putting aside the fact that I think everyone's making this out to be a much bigger problem then it actually is, these comments are just very repeatative and it's becoming more of a nuisance than anything else. If you can't bring anything new to the table, than don't bring anything at all.

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