Disneyland suspends Southern California AP sales once again

November 20, 2017, 8:00 AM · The Disneyland Resort once again has suspended the sale of its Southern California annual pass. In 2014, Disney also dropped the SoCalAP, only to bring back the pass last year. Even though Disneyland is no longer selling the pass to new customers, the SoCal AP remains available via renewal to current passholders.

“Our Annual Passes are very popular with guests. We continuously seek the appropriate balance that helps manage demand for our product and allows us to deliver a world-class experience for all guests," a Disneyland spokesperson emailed us.

The reason for dropping the pass this time is the same as it was last time — the park is just too crowded on those non-summer Sundays when SoCal AP-holders cram the park. By not adding new passholders to this tier, Disneyland is hoping to limit the crowd growth on one of its busiest days of the week.

Disney has been employing a variety of techniques to balance its crowd levels, enticing people to visit on previously less-popular days and thus lightening the burden on more-crowded days. In 2015, Disneyland removed the no-blockout Premium AP tier while introducing two new passes: the Signature Plus, which offered no blockouts at a much higher price than the Premium AP, and a Signature pass that was priced about the same as the Premium but that was blocked out for two weeks around Christmas and New Year's.

That switch dramatically reduced crowd sizes during what had been the busiest week of the year at Disneyland. The daily main gate closures between Christmas and New Year's have become a thing of the past... although last year the gates ended up closing on days after New Year's, when the annual pass blockouts lifted.

Disney also has introduced three tiers of seasonal pricing on one-day tickets to the parks — again, in an effort to move crowds away from the more-crowded days. As a result of all these changes truly empty days at the Disneyland Resort have pretty much disappeared (unless it's raining — we Californians refuse to deal with rain).

Expect continued changes to the annual pass and ticket structure at the Disneyland Resort, as Disney prepares for the opening of the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land sometime in 2019. Balancing crowds so that the park does not become human gridlock when Star Wars land debuts is a top priority for Disney's ticketing and operations teams, and you'd better believe that price increases and more blockout dates will be attractive tools as Disney looks for a way to keep people moving through the park.

Rival Universal Studios Hollywood faced a similar issue when it opened its Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year. That led Universal to suspend all annual pass sales for a period before Potter's debut, then following that with a dizzying and seemingly ever-changing line-up of annual pass products. Eventually, Universal settled on a collection of APs and even ended up introducing the same monthly payment plan option that Disneyland and other are park have been making available in order to boost sales of annual passes.

Will Disney end up throwing as many darts against the wall as Universal did in trying to find the market? Probably not, but no one knows yet what Disneyland's annual pass options will look like one year from now — perhaps not even Disney.

Here are the annual pass options at the Disneyland Resort, as of last night:

Replies (8)

November 20, 2017 at 1:05 PM · Southern Cal AP’s return lasted only one year. I know because I bought it last year. I haven’t renewed cause I’m waiting for Star Wars Land. Let’s see what happens.
November 20, 2017 at 3:12 PM · When did Disneyland add parking back to the Signature pass? That's the pass I used to have and I dropped it when they removed the parking.
November 20, 2017 at 3:30 PM · It's easy to say that Disney should eliminate the lower tier APs in order to reduce crowding. It's also popular wisdom to say that the lower tier APs don't spend as much money as day guests. But somehow Disney seems to want to keep the crowds, for whatever reason.

Look at Knott's and Universal, they both have very cheap annual/season passes. Could it be that it's better to get bodies in the gate, even at a lower price? Those people must be spending something to make it worth while. I doubt that all those people buying food from DCA's Festival of Holidays are only Signature and Deluxe passholders. Also, probably not all APers make full use of their pass.

It's probably a better idea for Disney to not try to drastically reduce crowds through raising prices, but figure out more ways to manage the crowds. Moving the night parades to DCA is probably a good first step, along with adding more attractions there.

November 20, 2017 at 5:22 PM · Disfan could be onto something: "Disney seems to want to keep the crowds, for whatever reason."

Do these crowds provide Disney a convenient excuse for raising prices in years when Disney opens no new attractions? Disney executives' argument: "The parks are overcrowded, therefore we have no choice but to raise prices in order to reduce overcrowding blah blah blah."

Typical MBA B.S. What would Walt have done? Built more attractions and expanded the market, instead of price gouging his customers, cutting corners and cheapening the guest experience.

November 20, 2017 at 5:26 PM · I would think it would be easy to get poll of per cap spending from AP's on this blog. On average with my big family we generally as a group have spend less than a box of popcorn per visit (not anymore we are out of the Disney AP game). Gate admission is just the tip of the Matterhorn, Disney used to rely on per cap spending with AP's to supplement in non peak, but there is barely no non peak days anymore so it makes sense to clear out the AP's and get the gate admissions who will buy the souvenir's, eat-eat-eat, snack-snack-snack, $$$.
November 21, 2017 at 2:10 AM · Theme parks have figured out human nature. If something is already paid for, on the day they use it, it's free in their mind, and more willing to open up their wallet to other things.

It started with admission, then it was sodas, and now meals. If they can break even on those, then folks will buy more overpriced merchandise.

Heck, Knott's has a deal on the 2017 Holiday t-Shirts, and they do it with others. But a basic good quality silk screened on one side shirt for $9.99, adults and kids (I think the Big Boy multi X-L's are a bit more). But at the amount they buy, the costs are a lot lower than that. And of course, they sell other similar shirts at around $20, whose costs are similar to the seasonal shirt.

So yes, the bean counters want those folks clicking those turnstiles as much as possible....

So what can I get for $469 instead of a DLR SoCal AP?

Knott's Platinum Pass for all Cedar Fair Parks (4 in California) including parking $198 (or $180 for Jr./Sr.)
All you can drink. (Either a refillable mug or a paper cup each time). $29.99
All you can eat $115
Unlimited ride photos $44.99
Knott's Scary Farm Pass $85

So that is $474, but you don't need all the add-ons.

Or looking just for park admission in SoCal

Knott's Gold Pass (Berry Farm and Soak City) $110 - FlexPay
Universal Studios Hollywood California Pass - $129
Six Flags Gold Pass (All SF parks, 4 in California) with parking - $84.99 - FlexPay
Sea World San Diego with Parking - $99.99 - FlexPay

So 6 different SoCal parks with either no blockout days, or fairly limited for $424

Upgrade the USH to a Gold Pass with parking for $70 more (Costco), total of $494.

November 21, 2017 at 12:31 PM · Disney does know how much APs spend, they get that information every time they ask for the AP card so the holder can get that little 10% discount. With the elimination of the parking upgrade Disney gets their $20 for every non-Signature Plus AP that goes to the park. There are better Values available in the local So Cal market as David Michael has outlined, but for some folks the operating schedules for those parks may not accommodate them to be able to visit.
November 21, 2017 at 3:04 PM · All 4 theme parks I mentioned are open every day of the year in 2018, including SFMM. The two water parks are open seasonally.

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