Walt Disney World has released new updates for Annual Passholders regarding the reopening of the theme parks, and info about upcoming policies, including the advance online reservation system and AP previews. In this post, we’ll share details of the announcement and offer additional commentary. (Updated June 16, 2020.)
Here’s the message from Walt Disney World, via the Annual Passes: Know Before You Go page:
Our Annual Passholders are some of our most loyal and valued Guests. We truly can’t wait to welcome you back—and we will do it with great thought. With that in mind, when the parks reopen, park capacity will be significantly limited—and may continue to be for a period of time, based on guidance from health experts to promote physical distancing.
We understand how much excitement, thought and time goes into planning your Disney visits and realize some new changes may be disappointing. For example, during this unprecedented time, an annual pass will not guarantee park entry and Annual Passholders will be required to make an advance reservation to enter a park.
Here are the noteworthy policies:
- During the limited capacity period, it may be difficult for Annual Passholders to get park reservations to visit on certain dates. To help manage capacity, total reservation days held at one time will be limited. More details will be shared in the coming weeks.
- Some pass benefits and features will not be available during periods of limited capacity. Also, park experiences and offerings will be modified and subject to limited availability or even closure.
- Annual passes are subject to blockout dates. Guests should ensure their pass type is valid for park entry prior to making a park reservation.
As Walt Disney World prepares for the reopening of Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios, they’re planning a special preview opportunity for Annual Passholders. Details about this will be shared soon.
If you have any questions, please contact V.I.PASSHOLDER Support at (407) 939-7277. Options to manage your Walt Disney World Annual Pass continue to be available during the closure period.
Not a ton of new information here, but there are takeaways we can glean from this. First, Annual Passholders will be limited in the number of reservations simultaneously held. Meaning that, like FastPass+ reservations in the past, you can’t hold an infinite number of simultaneous bookings.
This makes sense, and seems fair on its face. The question will be how this will work in tandem with on-site resort reservations. Our assumption is that, like in the past with FastPass+, Annual Passholders with on-site reservations won’t face these same limitations.
This is just a guess, but we anticipate guests staying on-site will always be given strong preferential treatment in making reservations to visit the parks.
Just as Walt Disney World prioritizes on-site guests during current phased closings (which occur from time to time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve), we’d expect the same going forward with WDW hotel guests and the park reservations. It seems unlikely that Disney will leave its on-site guests who have spent thousands of dollars on a vacation package without an option to enter the parks.
With that said, we also do not anticipate demand for park entry reservations exceeding supply after the first few days, or perhaps weeks. Even with a fraction of the normal park capacity, we’d be shocked if Walt Disney World is running out of registration availability on a regular basis.
Look no further than the chorus of cancellation comments, and then consider the current state of the economy, unemployment, travel restrictions, and more–all of which will further depress organic demand. Again, this is just speculation on our part, though. We’ve been wrong plenty of times in the past.
Walt Disney World also confirms that there will be Annual Passholder previews of the parks, but doesn’t set specific dates or a means of attending. This is not new, as a soft opening period for affinity groups (APs, Disney Vacation Club, Florida Residents, Club 33, Golden Oak, etc.) was previously mentioned.
We assume these dates will likewise require advance online registration, but we’re very curious as to when these will begin. Our “wishful thinking” date would be June 22, as that would give DVC members with resort reservations a chance to use the parks during their stay. However, that’s a very long soft opening period, and might be a bit far-fetched. We shall see.
June 16, 2020 Update: Annual Pass expiration dates are starting to be extended by 117 days in the My Disney Experience app, which means that the new dates are being based upon the reopening date of July 11, 2020. While Disney has not expressly addressed when the clock starts ticking again on Annual Passes, it would sure seem like that’s the date based upon the reopening date of Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.
It’s worth noting that Shanghai Disneyland is not restarting the clock during its Advanced Reservation Period, which means any dates an AP visits during that period are essentially a bonus. Hong Kong Disneyland is starting the clock during the registration period, but they are adding a bonus 30 days and it’ll likely be very easy for HKDL Annual Passholders to book every day they want to visit as that park is not particularly popular.
Both the Shanghai and Hong Kong approaches make sense and seem fair given that registration is required and access is not guaranteed, nor is it unlimited or available per the original terms of the purchase.
The new policies are arguably a unilateral contract modification that goes beyond what’s contemplated by any reasonable change of terms provision or disclaimer. Accordingly, our expectation was that Walt Disney World would not restart the clock until after the reservation period has ended.
That’d be the legally prudent and guest-friendly course of action, but that does not appear to be what Walt Disney World is going to do. Of course, when this all started Disney also didn’t plan on offering refunds or pausing monthly payments. That changed pretty quickly thanks to significant guest backlash, the threat of lawsuits, and unfavorable media coverage. Perhaps Disney will change course here if there’s uproar or the possibility of litigation.
Ultimately, not a ton of new information today for Walt Disney World Annual Passholders, but with a lot of people anxiously awaiting each tidbit of news from Disney, we thought this was worth sharing. Again, we’ll stress patience with all of this. I know we sound like a broken record at this point, but it’s worth reiterating and is for your own sanity.
Walt Disney World is figuring this out on the fly (several details have already changed multiple times in under 24 hours since last night’s big cancellation announcement) and is doing so with a limited staff while many people are still on furlough. The info is going to be released in a slow trickle, and specific details are going to change and evolve with circumstances. If you don’t urgently need an answer, just relax, sit back, and wait for the info to come to you–potentially with changes as subsequent updates are made. This can be a frustrating process, but this is an unprecedented time and Walt Disney World is in uncharted waters.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Are you an Annual Passholder? Think these policies seem fair? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World during the AP preview reopening period? Do you expect reservations to visit the parks being competitive or easy to score? A variety of viewpoints are welcomed here, but we will not tolerate insults, arguing, or politically-charged comments. Additionally, please do not debate the efficacy of health safety policies–all such comments (for, against, otherwise) will be deleted. Those arguments are played out and isn’t the appropriate forum for that. (Saying you will or will not visit in light of certain measures is fine.)