There is excitement for many as Disneyland Resort will soon reopen its theme parks (Disneyland and Disney California Adventure) on April 30th, but not everyone is over the moon.
As we all know, the Disneyland Annual Passport Program was “sunsetted” in January. Naturally, if you’re a Southern California resident or just a California resident in general, you’re probably a little bummed that you don’t currently have a Disneyland Resort Annual Pass to allow you to enter the parks whenever you want by the time they reopen this spring.
But when will Annual Passes be sold again, and how is the program changing? Here’s what we know.
Disneyland Annual Pass Cancellation
The original Disney theme park is expected to have a very high demand which is part of the reason for sunsetting the existing Disneyland Annual Pass. Another reason for the recent ending of the Disneyland AP program is to enhance the experience of each Disneyland Annual Passholder when the parks reopen during the pandemic era, as a lot has to change operationally. Disney is taking this time to reimagine how to better serve Guests at this Disney Resort while still operating the parks in these tumultuous times — advanced reservations, for example, will be required for all Guests in order to enter.
A former Disneyland Annual Passholder is now called a Legacy Passholder. Treated with a few perks and discounts since the AP program cancellation announcement, Legacy Passholders can use their discount at Downtown Disney or A Touch of Disney. They will even be able to use their discount at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure once the theme parks reopen, and the discount will be valid until “new membership offerings” are announced. If Disneyland isn’t ready to roll out a new Annual Pass Program by April 30th, then Legacy Passholder discounts will automatically be extended until one is ready.
Here is what Disney had to say in an email to Legacy Passholders:
Your new Legacy Passholder discount ticket will show an expiration date of April 30, 2021. Please note, this expiration date will be automatically extended until new membership offerings are announced, and you may continue to receive applicable discounts until that time. To check for the updated expiration date of your digital discount ticket, view the ticket in the Disneyland app or visit Disneyland.com/LegacyPassholderDiscounts.
What Disney wants the new Annual Pass program to be
Disney wants the new Annual Pass Program to include more flexibility and choice. With the world changing as much as it has in the last year, Disney felt as though their fan base needed alternative options to the Southern California Select, Disney Flex Passport, Disney Deluxe Passport, Disney Signature Passport, and Disney Signature Plus Passport. It appears they felt that with all of the Annual Pass options and all of the Annual Passholders they had, they wanted to reset and start fresh.
In a survey to Legacy Passholders, the new options hinted at were very similar to the Disney Flex Passport with the new Disney Park Pass reservation that Guests would Disneyland tickets would need to have. Each would have blockout dates, but it seems to still give a lot of flexibility and a way to maintain crowd control for a more enjoyable experience.
Here’s Disneyland President, Ken Potrock’s statement on the new membership offerings.
“This is not designed to limit choice and flexibility. It’s designed to enhance choice and flexibility. People may say, ‘Here’s how I’ve always used it.’ People may say, ‘Here’s what I bought, but I didn’t quite use it and optimize it.’ People may say, ‘I have a different family structure or my financial situation is different. I would love to do it a little bit differently than I’ve done in the past.’ What we’re hoping to be able to provide is the choice and flexibility for all of those different evolving states.”
Disney CEO Bob Chapek reiterated this sentiment by stating in an interview that their goal is to maximize the Guest experience.
“Everything we do, the first lens we look at is to exceed guest expectations. And it’s very tough when your park has more demand than supply, we have to put limits on it. Well, as you know, we have a wide variety of (profit) margins depending on the nature of the guest and how they visit and when they visit.”
“So with a lens toward maximizing the guest experience, we are now able to essentially reset many pieces of our business. Both on the cost and revenue side of the business in order to say, if we had a blank piece of paper, how would we set up our parks business and be a little bit more aggressive than we typically might be able to be without the impetus of, unfortunately, a year-long closure. So we’ve had a lot of time to think, particularly at Disneyland, about what could be.”
Potential Timeline For Disneyland Annual Pass Program to Roll Out
Potrock did say that they are working very hard to start a new Annual Pass Program as quickly as they possibly can, but when will that be exactly? Back in January, in a statement prior to the reopening date announcement, Potrock said that Disney hoped to be ready with a new Annual Pass Program at the reopening date.
“Our hope is to be ready for this whenever we’re allowed to open. That is our hope. It’s hard to pinpoint that because I don’t know what the direction from the state will be. But we are working all hands on deck to develop this as rapidly as we possibly can.”
Now that we know what direction the state wants Disneyland and all California theme parks to go in order to reopen, it’s tough to say that Disneyland will offer an Annual Pass Program at reopening. With the demand being so high, but Disneyland only allowed to hold 15% capacity to only California residents if Orange County is in tier 2 by the reopening — and 25% of the county is in tier 3 — it doesn’t make sense for Disneyland to offer an Annual Pass then.
Plus, since Disney shared that Legacy Passholders can take advantage of their discounts from their previously held Annual Passports for the time being, and those discounts will be extended indefinitely until new Annual Passes are for sale, it does not seem likely that there will be a new Annual Pass program in place anytime soon, and only time will tell when these “new membership offerings” are introduced.
It may be more likely that the next time anyone can be an official Disneyland Resort Annual Passholder will be once the initial Disneyland demand from an over one-year closure dies down. Possibly when the state enters the lowest tiers of California Governor, Gavin Newsom’s “Blueprint Refresh” where capacity increases and out-of-state Guests are allowed again, this may be a more realistic timeline.
Since the Southern California Disney Parks have been closed for so long, Disneyland Resort may decide to wait until the initial rush of Guests visit the theme parks, and perhaps later on, once they can more easily predict Disneyland demand in the pandemic (or, later, in a post-pandemic era), they could decide to reintroduce Annual Passes in a very new way.
Keep in mind, though, that these are our predictions, and aside from a few statements Disney has made, we do not know much else about when Disneyland Annual Pass options will be for sale again.
When do you think Disneyland will roll out their new Annual Passport Program, and what would you like to see out of the new membership offerings? Let us know in the comments below!