One of the most controversial parts of the current Disney World experience could be CHANGING in a big way.
The Park Pass reservation system was introduced after the COVID-19 park closures and has stuck around ever since, gaining lots of praise from various Disney executives but a heavy amount of criticism from Disney fans. Essentially, because of the Park Pass system, a valid ticket is no longer enough to get you into the parks. Instead, if you want to visit a Disney World park on any given day, you’ll need (1) a valid ticket, and (2) a Park Pass reservation for the first park you want to visit. But could the system soon be altered in a way that’ll make guests happier? One Disney executive thinks so.
The Park Pass Controversy
The Harmonious barges (they’re going away!), the ending of the “Happily Ever After” fireworks show (it’s coming back!), and the introduction of PhotoPass automated photo boxes — all of these are controversial changes that have been made in Disney World. But one thing has been an even MORE contentious addition — Park Passes.
Complaints about Park Passes run the gamut. Some are not pleased with the way in which they impact spontaneity and the ability to book a last-minute trip to Disney World. Others feel that they are overly restrictive or are too restrictive on certain types of ticket holders (like Annual Passholders and locals).
But perhaps the greatest evidence of the Park Pass “problem” are the 2 (not 1, 2!) lawsuits that have been filed related to Park Passes. One version addresses Park Passes and Magic Key holders at Disneyland, while another focuses on Park Passes and Annual Passholders in Disney World.
Both lawsuits make similar allegations — essentially that by keeping the Park Pass system in place, Disney has violated certain agreements with those passholders who got tickets that Disney advertised as having “unlimited access” to the parks. They also claim that Disney has used the Park Pass system to give preferential treatment to single and multi-day ticket holders as opposed to Annual Passholders to make more money.
Still, Disney executives have long sung the praises of Park Passes, insisting that they help balance things out between super fans and families that just travel to Disney once every 5 years, allow guests to have a better experience, and help manage demand. But that doesn’t mean the Park Pass system isn’t subject to changes.
Changes Have Already Been Made
We’ve already seen a number of changes made when it comes to the Park Pass system in Disney World (and Park Hopping at Disneyland too). Back in October of 2022, the system changed in Disney World so that you could book more than 1 ticket type at a time, and so that you could modify the date and park of a Park Pass without having to cancel it first.
Then, in November of 2022, more changes were announced. Disney World’s 1-day, 1-park tickets (which are currently priced differently depending on what park you want to go to) now automatically come with a Park Pass for the park you want to visit.
And in January of 2023, a MASSIVE Park Pass change was announced for Disney World. Within the coming months, Annual Passholders will be allowed to enter the parks after 2PM without a reservation. The exception, however, will be Passholders seeking to go to Magic Kingdom on Saturdays and Sundays. An official start date for this change has not yet been announced.
And at Disneyland, Park Hopping will begin at 11AM PT (instead of 1PM PT) starting February 4th, 2023. That could give folks several more hours in their second park of choice.
But these changes might only be the beginning!
More Changes Could Be On the Way
In a recent question-and-answer session with Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, D’Amaro referenced Park Hopping and Park Passes in a way that seemed to indicate that the restrictions aren’t going away any time soon, but Disney is taking steps to change them.
D’Amaro noted that while Park Passes were initially introduced due to caps on attendance after those caps were lifted Disney knew there would still be “some days where there are just too many people.” As D’Amaro put it, he would never run something like Disney’s BoardWalk Inn as an “open invite — first come first served.” There’d be so many guests people would end up sleeping on the floors, making for a less-than-great experience. D’Amaro explained that Park Passes, like hotel reservations, are there to make sure guests have a “better experience.”
But D’Amaro fully admitted one big problem guests have with the system “You lose some of the serendipity.” So, he said, Disney is “trying to create ease” while also making sure the guest experience is good.
According to D’Amaro, the changes recently announced to the Disney World Passholder requirements are “just the start of changes to Park Passes.”
D’Amaro shared that there are individuals planning right now on how to improve the process. He shared that they are working to “make that reservation process as easy and flexible” as possible. D’Amaro shared, “Are you going to see more initiatives like you saw last week? I think you will.”
So what could the future hold in terms of Park Pass changes? Perhaps there will be adjustments made to how the system works with Park Hopping, how it further impacts Annual Passholders, or certain other modifications. What modifications would you want to see made? Tell us in the comments!
In the meantime, we’ll keep an eye out for more updates and let you know what we see.
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What changes do you think should be made to the Park Pass system? Tell us in the comments!
The post “That’s Just The Start of Changes to Park Passes,” Says Disney Executive first appeared on the disney food blog.