Ken Potrock, Disneyland Resort President, released a statement today announcing the cancellation of all Disneyland Annual Passes and an end to the current AP Program. While the news is certainly disappointing, it is a necessary step in getting Disneyland Resort open. In this post, we’ll cover the details of the Annual Pass cancelations as well as offer some commentary on why this happened and where Disney will go from here.
For those that had an active Annual Pass (meaning any time left on the pass as of March 14th, 2020), Disney will be issuing a pro rata refund in the next few weeks. For full information on that refund, here’s a link to the Disneyland website.
Passholders can use their discounts at Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street locations until the new Annual Pass Program is announced. In addition, some of those locations will be offering AP holders 30% off select merchandise from January 18th through February 25th.
On first blush, this news is disappointing and a little sad. Disneyland Resort has such a loyal and local fan base that this news affects far more people than it likely would at Walt Disney World. Not to mention, Disneyland doesn’t have 4 parks to spread people around like WDW does. That ultimately is what this move comes down to.
Upon reopening, Disneyland Resort will likely not be at full capacity. Considering the vast amount of passholders who want to enjoy the parks as well as other travelers, the supply simply won’t meet the demand. Tokyo Disney Resort, which has a similar broad passholder base, opened their parks after the pandemic with a lottery system for AP holders. The system was very frustrating and the site crashed many times. Eventually, TDR abolished their Annual Pass system as well. In this way, it’s good to see Disneyland get ahead of the curve before the resort does open. There just wasn’t a good way to go about this while keeping everyone happy.
Instead of just suspending the Annual Pass Program, Disney has taken this opportunity to reconstruct their system. Frankly, the Resort started this about two years ago with the creation of the Flex Pass. This passport had AP holders make a reservation on most weekends while other days, mostly weekdays, didn’t require any reservation. We had the Flex Pass and found it to be a good value and didn’t have any trouble getting in on the days we wanted. Granted, we weren’t locals and always reserved well ahead of time.
In the future, I expect Disney to go this route with most of their AP’s. The reason being that this will let Disney control the crowds easier and not have oversaturated parks with out-of-town travelers as well as locals. In a post-pandemic world, that makes a lot of sense and honestly the resort was in need of a revitalized system pre-pandemic, as well.
The question remains about when we will see Disneyland Resort reintroduce an Annual Pass Program. I’ll address the elephant in the room by saying that I think there’s next to no chance Disney just does away with Annual Passes altogether on the West Coast. Just from a financial standpoint, the program is far too lucrative to do away with completely. Not to mention, that base is among the most fanatical – quick to buy merchandise and jump on specialty items.
Disneyland Resort has never fully made the jump to vacation destination like Disney had hoped. Yes, many people travel there but it’s not anywhere near the extent of Walt Disney World. During off-season, Disneyland relies on passholders to fill the park. Letting go of that in the long run doesn’t make sense. Once the parks get back to full capacity, I expect an Annual Pass Program to be added quickly.
When will that be? That’s the big question and I don’t think there’s a clear answer. I think an AP Program will be introduced by early 2022 at the latest. It remains to be seen how vaccine distribution will affect reopening in California. Once a program is introduced, I do expect AP’s to have a reservation system of some sort to them. I’d also expect passes to go up in price because that’s usually the norm.
Overall, today’s news seemed to be inevitable. I applaud Disneyland Resort for ripping the band-aid off of instead of stringing Passholder’s along up until a clunky opening. This should make opening the parks much smoother before eventually getting back to a new normal. While none of this is obviously good news, it was an important step in getting Disneyland Resort ready for a smoother opening.
We’ll be sure to update when there is more news on Annual Passes at Disneyland in the future. What do you think of this news? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below! Planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out our planning guide. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages.You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!