When Walt Disney World reopened last year after being closed for almost four months, there were a lot of changes. Since then, the changes just keep on coming. With each new announcement, Disney will use words like “for the health and safety of all our guests” and “based on guest feedback”. I’m sorry, but COVID-19 is a convenient excuse. Some of these changes had been a possibility for a long time. Disney is just implementing new policies that they already had planned. Everything below is speculation on my part, but it all makes sense.
I’ll start with Disney Genie. This was announced at the D23 Expo in 2019! We were told how the new service would make your day at Walt Disney World or Disneyland so much easier. While paying extra for Lightning Lane access wasn’t mentioned (we were only told the things that people would want to hear) I have a feeling that it was in the works, even back then. MaxPass was already in play at Disneyland, and Genie+ is similar to that, without the option of free FastPass. Shutting down FastPass+ when the parks reopened made it easy to roll out the new system. Take away FastPass and make people miss it, and then they’ll be more willing to pay.
Annual Passes are another example of how Disney could conveniently change things. Instead of keeping the passes the way they were, they have totally changed the structure. The passes have been given new names; and new prices. A couple of cheaper options for Florida Residents are gone, meaning that those people will have to either upgrade and pay significantly more, or downgrade and have lots of blockout days. Getting rid of free PhotoPass for the highest levels is also something that I have a feeling that Disney wanted to do for a while. They just didn’t know how to do it with the old system. Conveniently, it can now be a way to “customize your pass”. In order for my family to be able to use our Annual Passes the way that we want to, it’s going to cost me well over $500 more next year. But since Annual Pass sales were on hold for so long, people are thrilled to pay the new charge.
The Disney Park Pass reservation system is another thing that is rumored to have been in the works for quite a while before the closure. I will admit that it was necessary when the parks first opened, although it wasn’t handled well in some instances. With capacity increased, why are reservations still needed? SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa both had reservations required when they reopened, but they did away with them weeks ago. Walt Disney World, on the other hand, has an Availability Calendar that goes all the way to January, 2023! It makes sense to have reservations for days that will be packed such as October 1 and Christmas Day, but why a random Thursday in September? I know it’s been easier to get reservations lately, but I miss being able to just drop by a park last minute when I wasn’t planning on it. That’s part of the fun of living close to Walt Disney World.
I realize that the Walt Disney Company is a business, and that they are going to make money. I just think that they are sometimes using the pandemic as an excuse. It makes it easier to explain changes that they knew would be controversial. During those four months that the theme parks were closed we all missed going. I’m glad that they’re open again, even with the changes. Still, the current situation has given Disney an opportunity to roll out ideas that they knew would upset people before. They are literally banking on people having missed it so much that they can get less value; while paying more money.