Disney fans having an Internet tantrum over pass price increases

Posted Thursday, October 8, 2015 10:24 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The Internet is having a Donald Duck-like tantrum after hearing news that Disney’s popular theme park annual passes jumped by up to 35%, crossing the psychologically important $1,000-a-year-mark.

Read more from Fortune.

Thursday, October 8, 2015 10:34 AM
sirloindude's avatar

Less folks in line in front of me. ;)

Good for Disney.

It's kind of funny to think about how prices for Disney World, which has substantially more on property, aren't nearly as expensive as DLR. That passholder crowd must be enormous.

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones


Thursday, October 8, 2015 11:37 AM

The Disneyland Resort, and in particular Disneyland has been experiencing some severe capacity issues the last few years. It has not been unusual during the summer and winter holidays for the gates to be closed shortly after 12PM. With the advent of the SoCal pass that you make payments on there is no slow seasons anymore. IMHO what they should have done was made only a limited number of these available from the beginning. However TDA liked the steady influx of cash and let it get out of hand. Now reality has set in and there are a lot of people that have gotten spoiled over the last decade with bargain basement access to the parks have gotten a rude awakening.

Thursday, October 8, 2015 2:24 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Heavens, an outbreak of EES (Entitled Enthusiast Syndrome). Should someone call the CDC?

I'm hard pressed to understand how Disney is "truly pricing regular folk out," since the same outcry is cried out each time Disney moves its prices and presumably regular folk keep showing up in droves.

(Also, little sympathy in my heart that Chris and his partner will have to descend from signature plus passes to mere, plebian premium passes.)

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Thursday, October 8, 2015 2:44 PM

If they think they can afford it at $849, but not at $1049, then they probably can't really afford it at $849.

Thursday, October 8, 2015 3:09 PM

Summer has not been an issue at the Disneyland Resort since a large portion of the passholders are blocked from attending. The biggest sell out period is the week between Christmas and New Years, but not necessarily really attributed to passholders. Most passes are blocked during this period. The problem during the Holidays is the limited number of days and high demand from tourists and locals who are out of school and out of work.

The problem period related to passholders is at the beginning and end of summer, just before and after several pass types are blocked.

However, I really don't understand all the complaining around the "Premium" pass. Disney offers essentially the same pass for $849 (previously $779) and the only difference is 15 blockout days around Christmas. No passholder with any common sense should visit during those 15 days.

I think what this change really signals is possibly Disneyland Resort moving to "hard tickets" during the 15-day holiday period. Disney could better control the traffic and crowding around the resort area if they forced people to buy tickets for specific dates. It would really improve the guest experience. No one likes to be turned away and yet every year they're turning away thousands because the gates are closed and parking lots are full. With hard tickets they would eliminate the chaos and improve the situation for all. However, you can't easily make this change if a sizable number of people hold passes that are valid during this period.

Last edited by egieszl, Thursday, October 8, 2015 3:11 PM
Thursday, October 8, 2015 4:25 PM
janfrederick's avatar

I wonder how much price increases actually drives attendance, as passholders realize they need to go more often to get the same value? It has affected my thinking for sure.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
Friday, October 9, 2015 1:12 PM
HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

Perhaps that's the idea. Price out those who feel the need to visit the park more often because they shelled out the money for the annual pass in the first place. When you price them out, they won't renew and instead buy tickets for the days they want to go to the park. I'm not familiar with how crowded DLP is, but my visits way back in '03 showed me that if the park was busy, I could see how horrendous navigating the park would be.

It's a pretty bold move if that's the kind of thinking that is going on behind closed doors.

Friday, October 9, 2015 2:43 PM

Well, as Disney offers different options for tickets based on length-of-stay, the pass really needs to reflect that cost as well. So maybe for a place like WDW the price should be closer to "Pays for itself in 2 weeks" instead of the regional approach of "Pay for itself in 2 visits".

Friday, October 9, 2015 2:44 PM

Last Saturday was a nightmare. With the annual Gay Days events Sat/Sun, and HalloweenTime AP crowds on Friday night causing traffic gridlock it's obvious that something has to change. This may really be the price hike that thins the herd. Although, as has been mentioned if Disney really wanted to reduce the A/P crowds they could have done it well before now, without charging sky high prices:

1) eliminate zero percent financing monthly payments;


2) Eliminate the no-block out pass entirely (but this tier hasn't always been the problem for Fri and Sun crowding)


3) conversely, eliminate the remaining middle tier (they whacked one, sort of, already). That would leave top tier with no blackout, and m-thur only (no summer).

The biggest total number of APs were two middle tiers that give Friday and Sunday for most of the year (some with some without summer). Instead they jacked the prices sky high (can't blame them) and hope to wean people that way (again, with 12 month payments, so it's a half hearted approach)

Friday, October 9, 2015 8:09 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

I'm reading the "2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World"* and they've got some numbers that I thought might be of interest here.

What they're talking about a two night, three day trip to Walt Disney World, staying at the Caribbean, but I'd guess the numbers are similar in a broader view. The cost of that trip**, in 2013, was more than an entire year's travel budget for 80% of US households.

But, the top 20% of US households (about 80 million people) spend more on travel each year than the bottom 80% combined. Disney, they say, cares about revenue, not attendance, and 80 million high-spending tourists is a big enough market to fill its parks.

They note a few pages later that it appears the cost of a Disney vacation has increased roughly three times faster than US worker's median wages since 2005.

(This is me abridging the authors summing up their analysis. If you drop them a line they'll send you the data.)

Whether talking about one trip or an annual pass, Disney is talking a lot to a fairly affluent audience to begin with.

*I love the Unofficial Guides. They're like America's Test Kitchen for guide books: they don't just tell you what rides are where and whether they're good or what restaurants in which park are the best. They give you the driving time to each theme and water park from all on-property hotels and many off-property hotels. They conduct tests and tell you things like which hotels have the fluffiest pillows (Swan and Dolphin) or the quietest rooms (Value resorts, as it turns out: since doors open to the outdoors, not a hallway, the doors and walls are sturdier.)

**It is, of course, possible to do WDW in a more economical way.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Friday, October 9, 2015 9:08 PM
Jeff's avatar

Those "guides" don't over-think anything. :)

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Saturday, October 10, 2015 9:28 PM

slithernoggin said:

They note a few pages later that it appears the cost of a Disney vacation has increased roughly three times faster than US worker's median wages since 2005.

This isn't limited to Disney, or even theme parks in general. Entertainment seems to rise faster than inflation across the board. I haven't ever seen a good description for how this can be possible, but it certainly seems to be.

Sunday, October 11, 2015 12:04 AM

At least in the US, the entertainment industry is one of the few that can survive or even thrive during a recession.

"That's the problem with American cinema, can't handle any complexity in it, you know? Don't make me think, I just want to be entertained." - Dodgeball A True Underdog Story

Sunday, October 11, 2015 1:07 PM

The less you need the masses to reach a desired level of sales (in terms of tickets sold, reservations make, rooms booked, goods sold, etc.) the more likely you will see price increases in excess of general inflation levels. Its true for more than just pure entertainment.

And a lot of people find value in being able to do things that other people can't. Let more people do it and the appeal to others is decreased.

Sunday, October 11, 2015 1:30 PM

That's a good sociology concept. You can actually see the demographic shift at Richmond mall over the last ten years, as urban crowds displace suburban crowds, and the related businesses follow suit.

This is also the reason Country Clubs still exist, as an exclusive perk for those who can afford it.

Sunday, October 11, 2015 2:12 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

I'm pretty sure the entire business of collectibles is founded on this concept.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Monday, October 12, 2015 10:14 PM

What? Are you trying to say the urban crowds don't shop at Talbots?


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