Disney is in the middle of some big lawsuits right now.
Back in February, we shared details about consumer antitrust lawsuits filed against Disney. Plus, they’ve been hit with lawsuits in the past related to the way they handled the Parental Rights in Education Bill in Florida, the Park Pass system in Orlando (and how it works with Annual Passholders), and the park reservation system (and its impact on Magic Key holders) in Disneyland too. But things with lawsuits change, so today we’re taking a closer look at the Park Pass lawsuit related to Disney World’s Annual Passholders to see just what’s going on.
In 2022, a few Disney World Annual Passholders filed a lawsuit against Disney (specifically Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S., Inc.) related to Park Passes and how they impacted Annual Passholders.
We’ve shared a number of updates about the lawsuit, most recently in January of 2023. At that time, the Plaintiffs had already filed a second amended complaint revealing their names (as required by the Court), and Disney had filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The case also got set for a trial period starting August 5th, 2024, and other key dates by which certain documents must be filed or other requirements must be met were set.
So what’s happening now?
Well, 2023 has already proven to be a busy year for this lawsuit. On February 1st, 2023, a THIRD Amended Complaint was filed by the Plaintiffs. Because a third amended complaint has now been filed, the Court entered an order denying Disney’s Motion to Dismiss the previous complaint as MOOT.
Essentially, it’s as if a reset button has been hit. The Third Amended Complaint is now the one controlling the case and Disney will need to file a new motion to dismiss that third amended complaint (should they want to).
So what does the third amended complaint allege? Much of it is similar to what we’ve seen before, but let’s go over it all here to get a fresh update. First, they go through some Annual Pass basics by explaining that the Disney Platinum Pass and Platinum Plus Pass had NO blockout dates.
They then allege that “Blockout Dates are pre-designated days Disney closes off the parks to certain annual pass holders due to high park attendance or for other reasons that only Disney controls.” And they point out that “No Blockout Dates is a very important material term of the Platinum Pass contract.”
They then talk about Park Hopping and how Annual Passes have that perk too. According to their allegations, Park Hopping is “one of the most sought-after and important features for those who hold Disney annual passes because of the flexibility it provides.”
Then they note that the Park Pass system was introduced in Disney World during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to their claims, “It was reasonably believed by Plaintiffs that this reservation system would only be temporary and would end once the threat of the pandemic lessened because they had not been subject to this system pre-pandemic. However, this was not the case. Disney used the Park Pass Reservation System during the pandemic and post-pandemic to maximize its profits.”
They also allege that by restricting Passholders’ access to the parks by keeping the Park Pass system in place, “Disney effectively unilaterally modified all Platinum Pass holders’ contracts.”
They claim that Passholders felt like they were “forced to reluctantly agree to the terms of this new agreement, having no meaningful alternative if they still wanted to have an annual pass.” They go on to discuss how a major Park Hopping restriction has also been introduced (which stops people from hopping before 2PM) and how that restriction has not been lifted.
According to the Plaintiffs, Disney is also skewing Park Pass availability toward regular ticket holders as opposed to Passholders. They claim, “In order to make more money, Disney is unilaterally and unfairly favoring single-ticket purchasers and multi-day ticket purchasers, while restricting Platinum Pass holders, in order to make a larger profit.”
Interestingly, Disney does seem to be admitting to making certain decisions to “shift” the “mix” away from Passholders and toward guests with regular tickets (at least according to Bob Iger’s latest comments).
The Plaintiffs also raised issues with the limits Disney has placed on just how many Park Pass reservations a Passholder can make/hold at a particular time. They claim that because there is a limit (for example, those with an Incredi-Pass can only make and hold 5 Park reservations at a time), a Passholder looking to lock in reservations for a future trip may need to lose months of entry (or potentially book a Disney hotel reservation to work around that restriction).
The Plaintiffs allege that Disney’s actions amount to a “predatory business practice, aimed at exploiting the customers who support it the most, its annual pass holders.” They hammer this point home by alleging, “Disney abused a global pandemic to take advantage of its own loyal customers and increase its revenue.”
The lawsuit also goes on to detail specific instances that relate to the Plaintiffs and how they were impacted by the systems in place.
They claim that the Plaintiffs were (in June) trying to plan a trip for November. But, “Platinum Pass holders were only allotted three days of park reservations at one time. This meant that for Platinum Pass holders to make a reservation for the month of November in June, they would be unable to use their Platinum Pass for months.”
They claim that Disney proposed “a bad batch of bad options,” one of which was to make reservations just for 3 days of their trip and “‘hope’ they could get reservations for the other days after they expended their three days of reservations.”
They then claim that, upon booking a trip, they also found that “Disney had park reservations available for single-day ticket purchasers and/or multi-day ticket purchasers that it blocked out for Platinum Pass holders.” They claim that one Plaintiff was unable to get Park Passes using their Annual Pass for days that their significant other (using a multi-day pass) could get reservations.
They allege that if this was all “an issue of capacity, there would not be availability for any new reservations. Instead, Disney is doing nothing more than taking advantage of customers who pre-paid a premium for unlimited access, by limiting these same customers’ access to the parks, so Disney can charge new guests at the expense of the annual pass holders that had already pre-paid.”
One Plaintiff claimed that they felt like they were “[u]nable to rely on [their] Platinum Pass being allowed to make park reservations,” so they were “forced to make resort reservations to gain admission to Disney’s Florida parks.” That allowed them to access the group of reservations set aside for hotel guests (versus the one set aside for Passholders).
The third amended complaint also details how there are 2 classes at issue in this potential class action case — (1) everyone in the U.S. who bought a Platinum Pass and was denied entry as a result of Disney’s actions, and (2) all of the people within Florida who bought a Platinum Pass and were denied entry to Disney’s Florida parks for the reasons outlined in the lawsuit.
And there’s more to know. The Plaintiff and Disney also filed documents to reveal what existing cases might be related to this one. According to Disney’s filing, there were actually a number of other cases that were related to this action, but most have been closed already. The one that remains open is the million-dollar lawsuit filed against Disney in California as it relates to Park Passes and Magic Key holders.
But it is interesting to see that other cases on potentially similar matters have been brought against Disney.
And that’s it…for now! So what happens next? Well, the case continues. We’ll have to see if Disney files another motion to dismiss the case or if they jump ahead to answering the Complaint (though a motion to dismiss is potentially more likely). Then things will move on from there.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more updates. Stay tuned for the latest Disney news.
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The post “Disney Abused a Global Pandemic to Take Advantage of Its Own Loyal Customers” — Updates on the Park Pass Lawsuit first appeared on the disney food blog.