Passholder Sues Disneyland Over Magic Key Reservations

December 16, 2021, 7:12 PM · A Disneyland Magic Key passholder is suing Disney over the limited availability for theme park reservations. Attorneys for the Santa Clara County woman who filed the $5 million suit are trying to get the complaint certified as a class action, which could make all of Disneyland's Dream Key passholders parties to the claim.

The case moved from Orange County Superior Court to United States District Court yesterday, since Disney Parks Experiences and Products recently moved its headquarters from California to Florida. The suit asserts that Disneyland promised that the top-tier, $1,399 Dream Key would have no blockout dates, but Disney ended up not allowing Dream Key holders to make park reservations on dates when tickets otherwise remained available for sale to single-day and multi-day ticket buyers.

"The problem was that Disney had decided to block out reservations so that they were only available to new purchases and were not available to Dream Key passholders," the suit claims.

My colleague Brady MacDonald details the suit and its claims over at the Orange County Register.

Disneyland's marketing and news releases announcing the Magic Key program made clear that all levels of Magic Key holders would need to make a Disney Park Pass reservation to use their Magic Key passes to visit the parks. Indeed, one of the features listed for each level of Magic Key pass was the number of concurrent reservations a key holder could have at that level, from two to six reservations. All visitors to the Disneyland theme parks must make reservations to use their ticket or Magic Key pass to visit on any given date.

I and other reporters covering the introduction of the Magic Key program noted that Magic Key holders and regular ticket holders would be pulling from different reservation availability pools when trying to book dates to visit the parks. The fact that Disneyland required potential visitors to check different calendars for Magic Key holders and for regular ticket holders to see reservation availability also should have implied that there were different pools for each ticket type.

Nevertheless, the suit alleges that the plaintiff "did not know — and had no way of knowing — that the Dream Key was, essentially, a 'second class' ticket with limited availability because Disney had reserved an unknown majority of the available reservations for single day or other full price ticket purchases."

Is that enough to be considered a "block out" date that would put Disney in legal jeopardy over its marketing of the Magic Key program? That's a question for the court to decide. A Disneyland spokesperson told the Register, "we intend to respond as the case proceeds in court."

Now, on to the analysis.

The one thing that I believe the suit does get right lies within the quote, "Disney appears to be limiting the number of reservations available to Dream Key passholders on any given day in order to maximize the number of single day and other passes that Disney can sell."

Yeah, that's pretty much the whole point of the Magic Key program - to limit the number of annual passholders who come to the park on any given date, so that Disneyland does not become so crowded that other guests won't want to buy a single or multi-day ticket to get in, as it was frequently under the old Annual Pass program.

That's nothing deceptive, to me. That's just obvious.

Some vocal Disney fans have been accusing the company of making a cash grab with changes such as Magic Key and the new Disney Genie+ program. Well, I wonder how many fans will look at this suit and consider it a cash grab of a cash grab. In the parks or out of them, Disney never fails to give its fans plenty to argue about.

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Replies (11)

December 16, 2021 at 10:25 PM

She might have had a case if she was just suing for the amount of a refund.

But $5 million? Gimme a break...

December 16, 2021 at 11:13 PM

The intent here seems to be to form a class action and to go after punitive damages for the alleged deceptive advertising. The endgame for the attorneys in these sort of things typically is to get a settlement, of which they take their cut.

December 16, 2021 at 11:30 PM

I think the main way Disney could get in trouble with this is if it was found that they were advertising 6 reservations per passholder yet restricting reservations to the point where that was not possible while maintaining excess inventory for day tickets. Say you've got 200,000 Dream keyholders, you'd need 1.2 million reservations in a 90 day period or roughly 13,000 per day to ensure sufficient availability (plus more for other tiers...not sure if they're all one bucket or not). In this example, if they were only giving out 10,000 per day, there might be a case, but if they had 15,000 per day and weekends were vanishing yet weekdays remained open I don't see how there would be. No rule that says your first choice date must be available or that they can't split the slots however they want as long as the total number available is satisfactory, and judging from a look at the calendar it seems things are pretty wide open.

December 17, 2021 at 3:06 AM

@james trexen
there are several reasons for the suit being 5 mill... as Robert said to push a class action and punitive damages.
Another reason (and what I was told at law school) was ask for the highest amount possible and let the court decide. If you ask for 5k that is all you are likely to get... if you ask for 5 mill, you might 5k you might get 500k

December 17, 2021 at 4:26 AM

I feel like if this lawsuit was successful Disney would get the ultimate payback on this person because they would likely just get rid of the pass and then they could no longer go frequently haha.

December 17, 2021 at 1:49 PM

I agree with The Man. Disney will just get rid of the pass and up the charge on everything. So this person can make things even worst and price out more people!

December 17, 2021 at 2:08 PM

Those who had APs prior to the pandemic aren’t going to continue to attend if Disney eliminates APs.

Seems to me that Disney would be better off allowing current AP holders to go to the parks on days the allotment of day guest reservations are not filled. Bodies in the parks are spending money in the parks.

December 17, 2021 at 9:51 PM

I'm not sure what her "loss" is that justifies any monetary compensation awarded by the court if they side with her. Maybe they will order Disney to refund her the purchase price of the pass as compensation if they are found to have limited date selection and it violated the terms of the Annual Passholder agreement. But I am sure the very fine print written by some very expensive corporate lawyers representing Disney have thought this scenario through, and, a settlement that no one will be able to comment on will happen as Disney certainly does not want this to be bigger headlines.

December 18, 2021 at 12:45 AM

Just for fun, I decided to go over to the Magic Key webpage on the Disneyland website. As Robert correctly assumed, both the basic information on Magic Key and the terms and conditions specifically say that admission requires reservations to enter, and that neither reservations nor admission to the parks are guaranteed for a specific day and may not be available, regardless of the level of Magic Key. Sounds to me like this lawsuit’s gonna be tossed out of court pretty quickly; sorry disgruntled Disney theme park fans, but being willfully ignorant about how something works isn’t grounds for getting a payout or forcing Disney’s modification of the program,.

One poster on Facebook recommended that Disney offer anyone dissatisfied with the Magic Key program and the way it works with the option of a refund - on the condition that the person be refused the option to purchase a Magic Key or Annual Passport or whatever the name of the pass gets changed to in the future ever again. I can’t help but wonder if Disney would add such a clause to the terms and conditions of their pass programs if this lawsuit goes on long enough…

December 19, 2021 at 6:13 AM

I'm assuming that the website isn't the only way that Disney marketed the passes, so you may find there are misleading adverts or posters that invite you to visit whenever you want.
The law makes allowances for people not reading through terms and conditions, and focusing on the headline promise/claim. Not allowing people who have paid for an all year round pass to make a reservation whilst allowing people to purchase day tickets doesn't seem right. This lawsuit will reveal the number of tickets per day that are allowed to be reserved by magic key holders, if that number isn't deemed to be sufficient then Disney will lose.

December 20, 2021 at 11:58 AM

Highly respect Robert's and others' opinion, but it being obvious to us what Disney is doing isn't the same as it being legal. Yeah, we know they're using separate buckets. But they don't say so, even in the fine print. It seems the fine print gives Disney leeway to "move the goalposts" on reservations whenever they want, and if you don't even know what exactly you're paying for, I think the lawsuit has legs. More and more often over the years have I seen cases where based on the letter of the law I would assume X corporation to win, and they lose. The judge very may well focus on the bait and switch that Disney is doing, saying simply reservations are required, and then barely offering any reservations at all, and rule based on that.

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