OpEd: Is Disney Giving Annual Passholders What They Paid For?

in Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World

Disney Annual Passes

All Images Credit Disney

In March 2020, both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Disney did not know how long the Parks would remain closed, they decided to take whatever time they had to rethink some of their most popular programs — which included the theme parks’ FastPass Programs and Annual Pass Programs.

disney world annual pass logo
Credit: Disney

When Walt Disney World Resort in Florida reopened in summer 2020, Disney announced that all Annual Pass sales were suspended until further notice. Then in January 2020, they announced that they were sunsetting the Disneyland Annual Passport Program and a new, reimagined program would be coming at a later time.

Annual Passport
Credit: Disney

After nearly eight months, in August 2021, former Disneyland Annual Passholders were told that they would be able to purchase new passes, that would now be called Magic Keys. Each Magic Key would come with a certain number of theme park reservations that the Key Holder could make at one time — the higher your Magic Key Pass, the more Park reservations you could hold at one time. Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World now require reservations in order to maintain capacity limits.

magic kingdom ferry boat
Credit: D23

Following Disneyland, one month later in September, Disney World once again resumed its Annual Pass sales, but the passes had different names and higher price points. Like Disneyland Magic Keys, the higher the pass a Guest purchased, the more theme park reservations they would be able to hold at one time. The top Magic Key is the Dream Key and Dream Key Holders can have six reservations at one time, with top Disney World Incredi-Pass members being able to have five at one time.

disney world annual pass
Credit: Inside the Magic

The biggest perk of both the top-tier, most expensive Disneyland Magic Keys and Disney World Annual Passes is that there are no blackout dates. That means that, in theory, Guests who hold those passes can go 365 days a year if they want to. However, theory is not exactly reality. And the reality is that Annual Passholders find themselves struggling to make reservations on certain days (such as the weekends, or days immediately coming up) because those days are often completely booked.

disneyland crowd levels september
Credit: Inside the Magic

Now, it does make sense that, as more people start to vacation after staying at home for over a year, the theme parks would see more Guests coming, and some days will be busier than others. However, while Annual Passholder reservation calendars may be booked up, there are still plenty of reservations available — for a Guest buying a full-priced ticket, even at the last minute.

For example, below are examples of Disneyland’s reservation calendar. The top image is reservation availability for the top Magic Kay Pass, the Dream Key. The lower image is reservation availability for those who purchase a full-price, three-day theme park ticket.

Magic Key reservations
Credit: Screenshot Disneyland Website
Disneyland Reservations
Credit: Screenshot Disneyland Website

As you can see, at the time of this article’s publication, Magic Key Holders are not able to visit either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure for most weekends in October. However, every day is available for Guests purchasing a regular ticket.

While Disney never guarantees entry into its Parks, even with an Annual Pass, it just seems odd that Guests dropping $1,400 on a Disneyland Dream Key or $1,300 on an Incredi-Pass at Disney World would be unable to book for weeks because reservations are gone. Reservations can be booked up to 60 days in advance, so right now there is more of a need for top-tier Passholders to plan much more ahead of time than they needed to before the pandemic. At the same time, a Guest who decides to go just a few weeks or so in advance will be able to book reservations with their full-price tickets.

adventures by disney disneyland
Credit: Adventures by Disney

It should be noted that this happens because Disney has two different reservation systems, one for Passholders and one for all other ticket purchases, so availability truly varies based on whether you have a Pass or a ticket. It just seems that, based on the number of Annual Passholders and Magic Key Holders, Disney might want to reconsider just how many reservation spots are available for Passholders so they can take advantage of using their Annual Passes on the days they want to.

Do you think that Disney is giving Annual Passholders what they paid for? Let us know in the comments!

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