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Walt Disney World is now on a path to reopen, but it's certainly clear at this point that when it does, things are going to be very different. The biggest single change will be the implementation of a reservation system. Walt Disney World has never had anything like that for park tickets before, and that means that the park has a lot of work ahead of it to get everybody who had already purchased tickets organized into the new structure.
When Walt Disney World revealed its plan to reopen earlier this week it was mentioned that a reservation system would be put in place, but the presentation was light on details. Now, Disney has announced a few more specifics about how the park will decide who gets a reservation and how.
The first step is that if you try to book a Walt Disney World hotel or get park tickets right now, you'll notice that you can't. Reservations and ticket sales have been paused while the resort reaches out to those that already have plans on the schedule and works out their reservations.
It's going to be a delicate dance to be sure. While people who have hotel reservations for dates from July 11 onward can likely keep their rooms, the park capacity situation is going to be the big hurdle.
Currently, park tickets can be purchased in a couple of different ways. Most people have actually already bought park tickets specifying which days they plan to be in the parks. However, even those tickets have some wiggle room, so if you bought, for example, a three day ticket starting July 20, you actually have a couple extra days in which you can use all three days of that ticket. Now, it appears that guests will be restricted to specific dates. Alternatively, by paying a premium you could make your tickets usable essentially whenever you want.
Of course, more than likely, Walt Disney World has already sold more tickets for a given day in late July than the park will now be able to accommodate since only a limited number of people will be allowed in. This could mean guests with existing plans needing to shift the days they were planning on being in the park, which will then shift their entire trip. Unrelated things like airfare will also need to be moved.
And then, you have the Annual Passholders. They will also be given a chance to make reservations for when the park reopens. This is a whole other can of worms, as some will have an annual pass that has no blackout dates, and the reservation system will essentially create blackout dates. Will passholders be limited to how many reservations they can make?
Update: A more recent post from Disney confirms Annual Passholders will be limited as to how many reservations they can hold at one time, though what that number is was not revealed.
Once all the guests with existing tickets/reservations and Annual Passholders have been given their chance, and Walt Disney World knows how much space is available on which dates, then reservations and ticket sales will be reopened to the general public. At that point, one assumes, it becomes a first come, first served, free-for-all. No specific date has been given yet as to when that will happen.
These are some extraordinary measures but then again this is an extraordinary situation I'm not sure what else can be done.