Per the OC Register, a Disneyland reservation system modeled after the one rolled at Walt Disney World could leave annual passholders blocked out of the Anaheim theme parks for days and weeks after the extended coronavirus closures eventually come to an end.
Disneyland has been closely watching and learning from the phased reopening of Walt Disney World although the Anaheim theme park has not yet released details about its planned advance reservation system.
“Our Annual Passholders are some of our most loyal and valued guests, and as we navigate this unprecedented time together, our goal is to provide them with choices and flexibility,” according to Disneyland officials.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure still remain closed until further notice while the parks await not yet released reopening guidelines regarding reduced capacity limits and health and safety measures from the state amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Disney World’s new Park Pass reservation system gives the company virtually unlimited control over how many annual passholders can enter all four of its Florida parks and on what days.
Disney has never exercised this level of control before over passholders in Florida. In the past, passholders largely regulated themselves by choosing a pass based on blockout dates and price. Passholders who chose the top-tier passes were essentially granted unlimited access to the parks, except during the busy week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Now Disney World has turned every annual pass into the equivalent of Disneyland’s Flex Pass — which requires passholders to make advance reservations to get into Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on busy days.
Disneyland Flex passholders had rarely encountered any block out dates during the initial rollout of the pass in summer of 2019. However, if Disneyland follows the Disney World model, passholders could find themselves blocked out of one or both of the Anaheim theme parks for weeks at a time.
Disney World caters to guests who book extended stays at resort hotels and offered them advance reservation booking priority over annual passholders when Disney’s Florida parks reopened in mid-July.
Bob Chapek, Disney CEO, said long-distance travelers that book multiple-night stays and spend more in Disney parks are “more valuable” than annual passholders.
“Typically someone who travels and stays for five days to seven days is marginally more valuable to the business than someone who comes in on an annual pass and stays a day or two and consumes less merchandise and food and beverage,” Chapek said on a call with analysts.
According to Chapek, Disney World filled reservations for Disney’s Florida parks with locals and passholders when long-distance travelers canceled reservations due to coronavirus concerns.
“We just replaced local and annual passholders with some of the fall-off that we’ve necessarily seen from the long distance travelers,” Chapek said on the call.
Disney World has three separate reservation calendars — for annual passholders, hotel guests and daily visitors. They all offer starkly different levels of availability even as Disney World experiences lower than expected attendance.
Daily ticketed visitors have their pick of all four of Disney’s Florida parks on any day they want for the next year or so. Guests staying overnight at a Disney World hotel can go to any of the four parks on any day they want, with the exception of Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Labor Day weekend.
Disney World annual passholders reservations are unavailable for about two weeks and only available for Epcot for the rest of August. All AP reservations for the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are booked through the end of the month.
Things don’t get much better for Disney World passholders in September. AP reservations are booked through mid-September for Hollywood Studios, blocking passholders without a reservation from visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for more than a month.
Disney World passholders who have not yet made an online reservation for the Magic Kingdom are blocked out on Saturdays and Sundays until late September. Hollywood Studios is unavailable on the weekends through mid-October to passholders who don’t yet have a reservation.
On occasion, Disney World adds more passholder availability to the calendar, but availability disappears as passholders snap up remaining spots on the calendar.
The OC Register also says that Hollywood Studios is by far the hardest AP reservation to get. Magic Kingdom is next followed closely by Animal Kingdom. Epcot has the most AP availability by a long shot.
Hollywood Studios was Disney World’s least attended but fastest growing park in 2019, thanks to the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Epcot has an abundance of open space despite the number of ongoing construction projects. The food and festival-centric park is also extremely popular with passholders. This Epcot the perfect overflow space for APs when Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and the Studios reach state-mandated capacity limits.