Disney stops selling new annual passes in Florida

From Tampa Bay Times

Disney is ending its annual pass program at its California theme parks 10 months after they shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced. And in Florida, Walt Disney World is no longer selling new annual passes, though they are renewing passes for those who already hold them.

The two theme parks in Anaheim, Calif., — Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure — said they would begin issuing pro-rated refunds to eligible passholders. The Walt Disney World passholder program in Florida remains in place except for the Disney Premier Passport, which is one that includes access to both the California and Florida parks.

If you have an annual pass at Walt Disney World, don’t let it lapse if you want to go back. The Florida parks are still accepting renewals, but sales of new passes are not currently available, a spokeswoman said. Passholders who try to renew after the deadline — a common practice — won’t have the option available.

Disney officials would not say how many people hold these passes in California or how much the move will cost the company.

“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,” Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, said in a statement. He said the park will develop new membership offerings for when it can reopen.

One option for Florida residents who have let their passes lapse is the current Florida Resident Discover Disney Ticket, a $199 ticket to visit four theme parks, at one park per day. You can add a park-hopper option that brings the price up to $241.50. There are some cheaper options this year — $149 for a two-day ticket and $179 for a three-day ticket. But the two-day ticket is only good through March 11.

In a commentary called “Disneyland Does the Unthinkable,” Rick Minarris at the investment site Motley Fool said the move makes sense for the bottom line of a company hit extra hard by the coronavirus lockdown. “When Disneyland reopens, it will be with people paying top dollar,” he wrote.

In Florida, where the theme parks are operating at limited capacity, the recent return of park-hopping might have helped fuel the decision to at least keep renewing current annual passes, Minarris said.

The still-closed Disneyland theme park in California has announced it is canceling its annual pass program.
The still-closed Disneyland theme park in California has announced it is canceling its annual pass program.[ CHRIS CARLSON | AP ]

“The price of a Disney annual pass breaks down to between $2 and $4 a day. Disney World collects at least $109 for a guest on a single-day ticket,” Minarris said. “Now that it allows guests to visit more than a single park on the same day, park-hopper single-day tickets start at $169. Families staying at one of Disney’s resorts will also naturally spend a lot more money beyond the park admissions. Disney’s not dissing its most loyal fans. It’s simply making the better financial decision.”

California health officials have said large amusement parks like Disneyland can only reopen once transmission reaches minimal levels, and then park capacity will be limited to 25 percent and reservations required.

California has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent months that has prompted a shutdown of many businesses and nighttime curfews in much of the state.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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