Walt Disney World has stopped selling most Annual Passes to its theme parks, which are no longer available for new purchases as of November 22, 2021. This post details the temporary change, what’s impacted, when sales will likely resume, the cause, and more.
Sales of Walt Disney World’s three most expensive Annual Passes are all currently paused. Meaning that the Disney Pirate Pass, Sorcerer Pass, and Incredi-Pass are all unavailable for purchase right now. Only the lowest-level Disney Pixie Dust Pass, which is available exclusively to Florida residents and valid only on weekdays, remains available for new sales at this time.
Per Walt Disney World’s Know Before You Go page: “We are pausing new sales of select Annual Passes. All current Passholders can renew into any of our four pass types – at their renewal rate – and continue to visit using their pass. We will continue to evaluate the return of new sales for these passes. Please check back for the latest updates.”
A Walt Disney World spokesperson told the Orlando Sentinel that the change was made while the company monitors attendance at the theme parks, and is expected to be lifted “sometime in 2022.”
As you likely recall, Walt Disney World suspended sales of all Annual Passes during its closure last year. However, the Annual Pass program at Walt Disney World did not end when the parks reopened nor were outstanding APs terminated. Many APs proactively cancelled their passes and requested refunds. That happened after significant backlash from APs over Walt Disney World continuing to charge Passholders monthly payments despite the parks being closed.
Upon reopening, sales of new Annual Passes were “paused” while renewals were allowed. (Basically, the same thing that’s happening here.) New purchases for ex-Annual Passholders who cancelled during the closure and children who “aged into” Annual Passes were also allowed. Much of this was done on a case-by-case basis, with the Guest Services ‘Welcome Center’ in Disney Springs having a ton of discretion over sales. Expect some or most of that to once again be relevant here for the next couple months.
Walt Disney World resumed Annual sales in September 2021 with new names, higher prices, restrictions, and other details. In so doing, the company dropped the straightforward precious-metal tier names in favor of a nonsensical hierarchy of fictional characters and concepts. Unfortunately, we should not expect the new names to be “undone” when APs return.
Back when the new Annual Passes were announced, Walt Disney World stated: “Please note as we continue to manage attendance to provide a great experience for everyone, at any time, Annual Passes may be unavailable for purchase.”
Walt Disney World also stated, “An Annual Pass isn’t just a way for you to get into the magic, it’s the key to getting the magic into you. So you can say… ‘That’s my magic.’” This quote isn’t really relevant to today’s news, it’s just weird and feels like it’s written by a bot. (Someone is really fond of the “that’s my magic” line, as it’s also on mailers and other stuff.)
In terms of commentary and analysis, not a ton is necessary here. This is very obviously occurring due to anticipated crowds at Walt Disney World around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the Walt Disney World Marathon.
However, there is still some availability for Annual Passes. Our guess is that will quickly disappear and be reallocated towards the on-site resort guest and theme park ticket holder buckets. If you’re an existing Annual Passholder planning on visiting in the next couple months, we’d thus strongly recommend booking Park Pass reservations ASAP.
We were in Walt Disney World this weekend, and it’s abundantly clear that attendance is high right now.
Entirely anecdotal, but I haven’t seen crowds this heavy since early last year. Disney’s Hollywood Studios, in particular, felt like one of the days shortly after the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, with overflow queues everywhere and triple digit waits for many rides.
The difference now is that Walt Disney World still isn’t operating at 100%. As you’re also undoubtedly aware, a number of stage shows are still dark, atmospheric entertainment still isn’t back, and not every venue in the park (dining, in particular) is fully efficient due to staffing shortages.
On the recent earnings call, the company acknowledged that the parks are still operating with (undisclosed) capacity caps in place. It’s hard to say what those would be, as the operational inefficiencies skew perceptions of crowds. Plus, it probably differs among the parks–a lot more is missing from DHS than Magic Kingdom. In any case, the “feels like” crowds and congestion at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are 10/10 right now.
Some Walt Disney World fans will undoubtedly be upset about the company pausing Annual Pass sales, which is totally understandable, especially if you were about to make a purchase as gifts this holiday season.
On that note, we’d point to Disneyland, which suspended sales of its highest tier Annual Pass only after reservations into early 2022 became nearly impossible to obtain. That led to irate fans and Magic Keyholders (what the AP is called there, because there’s a new rule that the names be counterintuitive, apparently) who said the pause should’ve occurred earlier.
The outrage in Florida is not going to be among those who already have bought their Annual Passes, but only because the company learned their lesson from California and isn’t letting the situation devolve to that point. Judging by how park reservations have been filling up, Walt Disney World wasn’t too far from a similar situation.
We’d expect Annual Pass sales to resume at some point in Winter 2022 once the holiday crowds subside, and also after the Walt Disney World Marathon, Osceola and Orange County schools go back into session, and snowbirds start arriving in Florida.
We hesitate to offer any predictions beyond that, as our recent track record with forecasting when things will return has erred on the side of being overly optimistic. In this case, we’re expecting surprisingly high crowds in January and February 2022, so the return may not happen immediately after the holidays. Hopefully we’re wrong, and APs are back by mid-January 2022.
One thing that is worth noting is that Walt Disney World and Disneyland have often increased Annual Pass prices in February.
Given how well passes have sold on both coasts, it wouldn’t be surprising for APs return to Walt Disney World just in time for that in February 2022, with higher price points. (Interestingly, the page with AP options still lists prices for the temporarily unavailable ones–if those prices mysteriously disappear, it’s probably because they’re going to be quietly adjusted upwards.)
One unfortunate reality reinforced by this is that demand for Walt Disney World is fairly insatiable right now. Attendance, hotel occupancy, and guest spending have not been impeded in the slightest by the range of unpopular decisions, cutbacks, or price increases.
Many fans–us included–keep waiting for some of Disney’s decisions to come around and “bite them” with consumers. At least in the short term, there are absolutely no signs of that happening. Long term is a potentially different story, but with all of this success and strong sales in spite of everything, we may be waiting a while.
What do you think of Walt Disney World’s pausing new Annual Passes? Disappointed by the news, or at least somewhat relieved this happened before it became impossible to make reservations? Predictions on when AP sales willr resume? Agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!