Disneyland is using the pandemic to rethink its annual passport program. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
COVID Economy

In Covid sign of the times, Disneyland scraps annual pass program, will return in ‘reservation-only’ fashion

The Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks, closed for nearly a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are ending their annual pass program as we know it.

The popular multi-tiered ticketing system, which shifted the culture of the two Anaheim theme parks in a way that it became a daily, weekly or monthly hangout for many Southern Californians, is being axed — or “sunsetted,” to use the terminology of Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock. The annual pass program will eventually be replaced with new membership offerings, he said.

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Potrock offered no timeline on the latter, citing the unpredictability of the current environment, in which a surge in coronavirus cases grips Southern California.

In ending the current annual pass program — refunds will be given automatically to those who paid for days beyond the parks’ closure last March — Disney is looking ahead to operating at a reduced, reservation-only capacity when California health officials let the parks reopen.

But the move hits the parks’ most dedicated and loyal fans with an avalanche of uncertainty. Although Disney does not release attendance figures, the annual pass program has long been believed to hover around seven figures.

Those fans who have been wanting and expecting a “Disneyland fix” now face the prospect of no longer being given priority access when the park reopens, and holding their breath to see how the re-imagined membership program will look.

A replacement for the annual pass program is not expected to be implemented until the pandemic recedes enough for Disneyland Resort to welcome guests at or near its pre-coronavirus levels of attendance

Potrock emphasized that, long-term, he believed this move would be a “silver lining” of the pandemic for Disney, allowing it to shape a program better suited to the still-unknown financial realities of many of Disneyland’s fans while also potentially having more flexible tiers for those who don’t necessarily consider themselves park regulars.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.