The Walt Disney Company is at a place in its existence where it rarely answers to anyone or anything; when it comes to the guest experience, the company calls the shots, rarely with a meaningful explanation and definitely without apology. We’ve seen it happen time and time again.
The only time they seem to backtrack on decisions is when a small division of the company is suddenly losing money because of the change, or when it garners so much ill will that it makes Disney look bad.
Such is the case with the departure of former CEO Bob Chapek and the reinstatement of his predecessor, Bob Iger.
Chapek made a lot – and I mean a LOT – of mistakes at Disney. But for fans of the Disney parks in the U.S., the changes under Chapek were unforgivable. Price increases for park tickets and food outpaced inflation, and annual passes were discontinued for all but a few. The company began charging for multiple perks that used to be free, like Fast Passes, Photopass, and hotel parking for overnight guests. Early entry for hotel guests was butchered. And some beloved aspects of the parks, such as Streetmosphere and certain shows, were never returned after the pandemic. The Disney Dining program has yet to see the light of day. Disney even discontinued their 20-year-old Magical Express, a free shuttle that brought guests back and forth between MCO and their respective hotels at the Florida parks.
Iger, in his “new” position as CEO, realizes Disney has to “make up” with a lot of fans they’ve angered. Back in January, the company announced several positive changes. Some went into effect immediately. Others were going to occur at some vague time in the future.
Apparently they’ve gotten things in order, and here’s what Disney fans can expect with visits to Disneyland and Walt Disney World:
- Effective February 4th, guests who have Magic Key passes or park hopper tickets can now go between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure once the clock strikes 11 a.m. – that’s two hours earlier than previously allowed.
- Magic Key Passes, which are limited in inventory, will occasionally go back on sale when inventory allows.
- The parks are also offering nearly two months’ worth of its lowest-priced tickets. They go for $104 for one day of admission throughout the year (heads up that one-day tickets may be cheaper if there’s a special discount available).
- All ticketed guests now can receive free Disney PhotoPass digital downloads of attraction photos via the Disneyland app (this is part of DL’s Disney100 celebration, which commemorates 100 years of The Walt Disney Company.
Walt Disney World
- As mentioned previously, overnight parking for on-site guests is already once again free. That is huge, since parking could add an extra $15 to $25 per night to your vacation, depending on which resort you choose to stay at.
- Effective March 20th, WDW guests will be able to download Disney PhotoPass digital downloads of attraction photos when they purchase Disney Genie+ service (under Chapek, those photos were an extra cost).
- Effective April 18th, annual passholders (Florida Residents are still able to renew APs they’ve kept all along. They are also able to purchase one type of AP) will be able to visit parks after 2 p.m. without a reservation (the only exception is weekends at WDW’s most popular park, Magic Kingdom. Pass blackout dates will still apply) (Disney started requiring park reservations during the pandemic. They’re not really necessary anymore, but word on the street was Disney kept the system in place to help them determine how many cast members they would need to work at any given time. Frankly, I wouldn’t put it past them.).
Disney rarely makes changes that positively affect guests when there’s nothing in it for themselves. When they do, it’s usually indicative of their hurting in some way. Perhaps not as many people are staying at their hotels so they’re making them more lucrative by removing the overnight parking fees. Maybe they’re not selling as many photo packages as they anticipated. Or perhaps there are lots of Florida residents who let their APs expire and didn’t renew because it having to make a reservation doesn’t work with trying to go to the parks on a whim, “Just because we can.”
Whatever the case, although some of the changes are compromises vs. going back to exactly the way it was, they’re at least reasonable. When you’re talking about Disney, that in itself is a cause for celebration.
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