Late in 2021, Disney got hit with a lawsuit from Magic Key Pass holders (Disneyland’s updated version of Annual Passes) over the Park Pass reservation system and its interaction with Magic Key.
That lawsuit alleged that Disney deceived its fanbase by “artificially limiting theme park capacity and blocking passholders with ‘no blockout’ annual passes from making reservations.” Earlier in 2022, we shared an update on the case and the claims that had been allowed to go forward, along with a look at how the lawsuit likely impacted the Magic Key passes made available for renewal. And now it looks like Disney might be feeling a little bit of deja vu.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, 2 Disney World passholders have sued Walt Disney Parks and Resorts claiming that by keeping the Park Pass reservation system in place, Disney has breached its contract with Annual Passholders.
The plaintiffs (referred to simply as E.K. and M.P.) argue that the Park Pass system effectively blocked out the highest tier of annual passholders from visiting the parks on certain days, even though Disney had advertised these passes as having “unlimited access.”
The lawsuit was filed as a class action suit and it refers to Disney World’s highest annual pass tiers by their older names — Platinum and Platinum Plus. The Disney World Annual Pass system was reworked a bit and passes now have updated names.
According to the Plaintiffs, however, Disney allegedly introduced this updated system to “cover up its own wrongdoing.”
If you do go to the Disney World website where Annual Passes can be purchased (when available — sales of most Annual Passes are currently paused) it does currently say “To enter a theme park, each passholder must have a theme park reservation in addition to a valid pass. Park reservations are limited and are subject to availability and applicable pass blockout dates.”
In their complaint, the Plaintiffs also allege that Disney has been “unfairly favoring” guests who have single-day or multi-day tickets over Annual Passholders so that they can “make a larger profit.”
The lawsuit claims, “Disney appears to be limiting the number of reservations available to Platinum Pass holders and Platinum Plus Pass holders on any given day in order to maximize the number of single day and other passes that Disney can sell.”
This is similar to what was alleged in the Disneyland version of the lawsuit.
We have seen instances where Annual Pass Park Passes for a certain park have sold out on a specific day, while passes for the same park on the same day remain available for single or multi-day tickets. Most recently, we saw this take place for the upcoming reopening date of Fantasmic!
Disney has, in the past, indicated that guests who are NOT annual passholders are more “valuable” when it comes to making a profit. During one earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said, “typically, someone who travels and stays for five 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, you know, merchandise and food and beverage.”
In response to the suit, Disney spokesman Avery Maehrer noted that Disney recognizes that Annual Passholders are some of the resort’s “biggest fans and most loyal guests.” Maehrer insisted that Disney has been forthcoming with Annual Passholders about updates to the system.
According to Maehrer, “We offered them the flexibility to opt in or opt out of the program early in the pandemic, including refunds if they desired…This lawsuit mischaracterizes the program and its history, and we will respond further in court.”
With two lawsuits now pending for very similar issues related to annual passes and how they interact with the Park Pass system, it’ll be interesting to see what Disney does next. Over at Disneyland, the lawsuit seems to have likely had an effect on Magic Key passes, in that there are no longer any Magic Key passes with 365-day access to the parks. Instead, ALL passes now have blockout dates.
What changes could the lawsuit bring to Disney World? Only time will tell.
One thing that does seem to be clear is the appreciation Disney executives have for the Park Pass system. Despite some guests saying that Park Passes have made their planning HARDER, time and time again, executives have noted how the Park Pass system has benefited the company.
Chapek once shared, “We have a [park] reservation system which now enables us on the fly, to change whatever factors we need in terms of ticket packaging that we want…If we see any spikiness, we can smooth that in a way we couldn’t before, and we’re real pleased we did that.” Some have also commented on how the system can benefit the guest experience by limiting the crowds.
Chapek has also commented on how the Park Pass system has helped them “balance” who they’re letting into the parks. Chapek noted that Disney didn’t have a Park Pass reservation system before and “frankly, the annual pass as a value was so great that people were literally coming all the time and the accessibility of the park was unlimited to them” potentially preventing other guests who come less frequently from getting in.
Chapek said that this didn’t really “seem like a real balanced proposition.”
We’ll continue to watch for more details about this lawsuit and future changes made (if any) to the Park Pass system and/or the Annual Pass system. Stay tuned for more updates.
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The post Annual Passholder Lawsuit Filed Against Disney Over Park Pass Reservations first appeared on the disney food blog.