Disneyland Cancels Its Annual Pass Program

January 14, 2021, 3:30 PM · The Disneyland Resort is "sunsetting" its annual pass program, canceling all annual passes effective immediately.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have been closed since March due to the pandemic, so no one has been using their AP for the past 10 months anyway. While many passholders have seen their passes expire during the closure, those people who chose to have their passes extended or did not reach their expiration dates now will be getting pro-rated refunds, resort officials said today. Passholders will be able to check their refund amount at Disneyland.com/PassportRefund.

"We want to thank our Annual Passholders for their understanding during this closure period," Disneyland President Ken Potrock said in a statement released the the press. "Due to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and limitations around the reopening of our California theme parks, we will be issuing appropriate refunds for eligible Disneyland Resort Annual Passports and sunsetting the current program. We are currently developing new membership offerings that will utilize consumer insights to deliver choice, flexibility and value for our biggest fans."

Disneyland is emailing its annual passholders now with an explanation letter from Potrock, who discussed the change with invited reporters before the announcement. While Disneyland is discontinuing its current annual pass program, the resort is using this time to create a replacement, as Potrock referenced. Resort officials said that they will be surveying present and past annual passholders as well as other local consumers in deciding what features to include in a replacement program.

"What I want it to be is not something where somebody who was accessing the Disneyland Resort previously as an AP is not going to be able to access it going forward," Potrock said. "We're just trying to have the time to create a new program that allows us to create something that we think is more customized and more appropriate going forward again in this new normal."

The goal is to have a new program in place by the time the parks are allowed to reopen, though that obviously depends upon when the state gives Disneyland that approval. But Potrock said that Disneyland will announce the replacement program first to its most recent annual passholders.

"Change is not easy - we get that," Potrock said. "It's frightening, and by the way it's frightening for everybody involved here. But this has changed. We don't have any other options. The rationalization is not necessarily, 'gosh, this is something we wanted to do.' The rationalization is something we have to do, given the constraints of what's going to happen here."

"This is not eliminating our [annual passholder] family. This is all about creating offerings and products that we think our fan base is going to love going forward."

Disneyland was facing a logistical nightmare whenever the parks were allowed to reopen if capacities were limited as proposed in the state of California's guidelines. Running the numbers, it became clear to many observers that there was no way to operate Disneyland at 25 percent of its capacity without disappointing hundreds of thousands of annual passholders who would not be able to access the parks in the way that they had in the past.

Eliminating the current AP program allows the parks to reopen without that burden. Any new "membership" or other program for repeat visitors can be designed with capacity constraints in mind.

"We want to make sure that we're creating a program that's understandable," Potrock said. "But at the same time delivers on great value - not just clicks at the turnstile but other benefits that bring value, whether those benefits are parking or discounts or many other things."

To that end, Disneyland is extending discount benefits at Downtown Disney to all guests who held active annual passports as of March 14, 2020 - when the parks closed. Starting January 18 through February 25, these passholders will receive a 30 percent discount on select merchandise at select locations in Downtown Disney District, including Buena Vista Street, on Mondays through Thursdays. More details on that and other offers will be published on the Disneyland website at Disneyland.com/APSpecialOffers. Resort officials said that Disneyland will continue to communicate with its annual passholders through email and social media, as it moves forward toward reopening.

Today's cancelation applies only to the Disneyland Resort. People who held Disney Premier Passports will continue to be able to use it to access the Walt Disney World Resort and will be contacted about refund options.

What do you think about this decision? And what would you like to see Disneyland include in a new membership, frequent visitor, or pass program?

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Replies (12)

January 14, 2021 at 5:19 PM

I absolutely understand the business sense behind this and I can't begrudge them that, but it stings.

January 14, 2021 at 6:11 PM

This is sad, but it doesn't come as a surprise to me as Disneyland's been looking at overhauling their pass system for years. This is a good opportunity to do so, both because it's looking unlikely they'll be able to reopen for several more months and because regulations will likely severely restrict how much passholders could actually visit once they do reopen. What does the future hold? I predict all visits will need to be scheduled like the Flex Pass, and pricing will be tied more to how many visits a guest wants. I could easily see a program where guests purchase a set number of visits per month or per year rather than unlimited access, or they pay based on visit frequency. Whatever happens, Disney needs a system that will make crowd levels reasonable again on a majority of operating days, as waiting 40-60 minutes for second tier attractions just isn't that enjoyable.

January 14, 2021 at 9:02 PM

Disneyland Reopening Scheduled for July 17, 2021.

If you're in the SoCal area and want a corn dog, lemme know! I just started making my own last week.

January 14, 2021 at 11:00 PM

The second Tokyo Disneyland discontinued their APs, I had a feeling Disneyland would’ve done the same.

January 14, 2021 at 11:52 PM

I know I’ll be in the minority and get some hate for this but GOOD! I’ll gladly pay $300 a day every 2-3 years If I knew capacity would be limited. I know I can only dream and I’m old school but I’ll welcome going back to the first come first service system and not worry about all this running around feeling trap in a sardine can.

January 15, 2021 at 2:20 AM

It will be interesting to see how Disney handles this. I expect Disney to crunch the numbers, and give former passholders a discount once the park reopens that is roughly $20 or $30 more than what passholders paid per visit with a pass. Disney wants the revenue, but no more passholders paying significantly less, and making Disneyland and DCA far less enjoyable for those of us who can’t drive to Disneyland whenever we want. They will still want former passholders to show up, but not at the expense of people paying full price, since capacity will be limited for at least a year. And that’s when they finally get to reopen.

January 15, 2021 at 8:21 AM

As AJ noted, we could probably all see this coming at some point, and the current closure and unknown timeline for reopening presents Disney the perfect time to perform this "reset". Let's face it, the AP program was just too good for locals, especially on weekday evenings and weekends when APs could flood and overcrowd the park with little impunity, making once-in-a-lifetime guests suffer crushing crowds and unbearable lines. We visited Disneyland most recently in August of 2019, and while we didn't feel crowds were significantly worse than our previous visit 7 years earlier, the opening of Galaxy's Edge probably had a bit to do with that as well as the advent of the Flex Pass and our choice to purchase MaxPass.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Disney try to incentivize the AP program with perks to replace unlimited visits and blackout calendars. I could definitely see Disney limiting guests to a specific number of visits in a year in lower tiers (prices) that necessitate advanced reservations, but those guests would get subscriptions to Disney+, Hulu, and/or ESPN+ in exchange for those limits. I could also see Disney exchanging in-park discounts (on food, merchandise, and parking) for the ability to further limit how many times and how frequently guests visit the parks.

However, I think Disney needs to be really careful with how they set up a new program that places limits in the number of days (or times) APs can visit. While I'm sure there are plenty of APs that visit Disneyland/DCA as many times as they can over the course of their term, there are probably just as many guests that don't come close to breaking even on the cost of their APs and rarely visit. There are likely thousands of APs that have their passes just to have them, like a status symbol, and the ability to visit the parks whenever they want (including top-tier Signature level APs) even if they don't really have plans to use them. For those people, the cost of an AP is a drop in the bucket, and they probably renew their passes every year without even thinking about it. Now that all of the APs have been cancelled, Disney will need to create programs for those guests at a price that will still get them to re-enroll. For Disney, that was easy money that never impacted their ability to control crowds or worry about nominal price increases that could cause APs to cancel. Disney will have to re-sell passes those guests and pay a significantly higher price for the ultimate flexibility that they may never take advantage of.

The most interesting part of this is that Disney is almost always the leader and innovator in the theme park industry, yet when it comes to APs, Disney will likely be following the lead of other companies that have already revamped their AP/season pass programs over the past 3-5 years.

January 15, 2021 at 11:27 AM

Hopefully they'll replace it with something that won't flood the parks with mobs most of the year...

January 15, 2021 at 12:11 PM

Totally understandable. I just need to know how much I'm paying for the top tier pass!

January 15, 2021 at 3:43 PM

@Russell Meyer, that has to be one if not the best suggestions if not the best suggestion I have ever seen. Bravo! I like the possibility of selecting from a menu of options and even upcharge for food discounts or subscriptions services as substitutes.

January 15, 2021 at 5:05 PM

Did anyone read this line on the Annual Pass link on WDW site?
"Premier Passholders will be eligible to enjoy Walt Disney World Resort Theme Park access and V.I.PASSHOLDER Perks through March 31, 2021, and their passes will be canceled thereafter."

January 15, 2021 at 5:44 PM

Knott's just sent an update to Instagram and I am sure other platforms. We who hold Knott's Passes know that Knott's extended our passes through the end of 2021. Now they are extending them day for day they cannot be used in 2021 into 2022. They also extended any add-ons we may have had like like the meal and drink plans.

Though I am not unhappy to see Disneyland revamping the AP system, I could also see them extending those who have already paid for theirs in whole with no renewals. I witnessed the AP system and the Fast Pass system be implemented while I was a cast member many years ago. Me and many other cast members predicted how both systems would eventually cause longer lines and more problems than actually help. Yet the ever increasing price of tickets and AP have not kept people away. Its crazy to think what a family of four pays for a day at DL. I remember when people complained about the price increase to $40/ticket. you can't go to movie and dinner for that. And that $40 bought you a full day of entertainment, but just a couple of hours. Compare that to now (pre stay at home/shutter buisnesses orders), there is a lot of things can be done for less.

Disney missed capitalizing on food events like the ones at Knott's which were wonderful. It could have help a little with the bottom line. Very little, but it would have also been great PR I think.

First the Magic Express at WDW, not APs at DL. Movies not being released. I think this shows that big companies are suffering just like small businesses. How long Disney can continue hemorrhaging without other big cuts is my question.

How many non skilled, skilled labor, and professionals which were laid off, can or will return when the parks open? This is much bigger than the cancellation of a perk.

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