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Mickey Mouse in Fantasia

When Disneyland first announced it was closing for only the third time in its history, the initial concern was understandably for those who had booked trips from out of town. Would they get refunded? Where would they stay? Well, now that those details have started to get ironed out, the conversation has switched to annual passholders and what might happen with Disneyland closed for multiple weeks. Well, now we have our answer: push back expiration dates.

According to KTLA, Disneyland will automatically extend expiration dates for those with current annual passes. Passholders can reportedly log into their Disney accounts and see a new expiration date that will offer credit to compensate for Disneyland and California Adventure both being closed for an extended period of time. Now, exactly what that extended period of time will ultimately be is still an open question.

Right now, Disney seems committed to opening its doors back up on April 1st, but right now, much of that may be beyond Disney’s control. As more and more people are starting to work from home and more government ordinances are put in place to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, estimates as to how long events will be cancelled and places of math gatherings like theme parks will be closed very a lot. There are some who think this will pass within the next few weeks, and there are others who speculate these measures may be in place for months.

Regardless, it’s nice to see Disney making a common sense decision for fans. Unlike Disney World, which offers cheaper annual passes but has more visitors from all around the world, much of the money that flows into Disneyland is directly related to Southern California customers with annual passes. When I lived in Los Angeles, I was an annual passholder myself, and while Disney hasn’t confirmed the actual number, many speculate there may be around a million people who pay a fixed press to regularly attend. This growing number has led Disney to introduce more and more measures designed to ease overcrowding.

It’s a delicate balance. Everyone wants shorter lines and more space to roam around inside the parks, but it’s also important for Disney to see demand and continue investing in new rides, new innovations and even new theme parks. The annual passholders are a big part of being able to do that in Disneyland. The extended expiration dates is a great way to keep those people happy, and it also prevents Disney from having to do a make good (for example return a month of payment), which could be a mess from a cashflow perspective.

Disney also announced this week that all Disney Flex reservations from passholders will be cancelled without penalties or fees. Once again, this is common sense stuff from a company in a crisis trying to do the right thing and keep fans happy. For the time being, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen and the rest of Downtown Disney will stay open, but the Coronavirus response is a rapidly evolving situation, and it’s unclear whether that status will change.

Fans will return to Disney in record numbers whenever the parks open back up. If we need to wait a bit so we can all do that safely, it’s a sacrifice most of us are willing to make.