Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland

Disneyland made a huge move last week when it announced that it was ending its Annual Passport program. While many had already canceled their annual passes due to the parks being closed, others had simply put them on hold, hoping to use them again whenever Disneyland reopened. But that option is now gone and everybody who had a pass (a number estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands) is now getting a refund. And it turns out that's not all they'll be getting.

Disneyland has announced that anybody who would have had a valid Annual Passport as of March 14, 2021, the one year anniversary of Disneyland's closing, will become what the park is calling Disneyland Resort Legacy Passholders. Those that qualify will still be able to use the old annual pass to get access to some of the perks that the pass provided such as access to special merchandise as well as discounts on purchases.

And in some cases, the benefits are actually increasing. Legacy Passholders can get 30% off select merchandise at Downtown Disney and on Buena Vista Street through February 25. That's a decent chunk of discount more than most of the Annual Passport options offered previously. Disneyland is also promising more added benefits in the future.

It appears the plan is for the Legacy Passholder system to remain in place at least until whatever replaces the Annual Passport program is introduced. It's certainly nice that Disney is offering something to the old pass holders. Anybody who hadn't canceled their pass yet was clearly a committed fan who was far from happy that their pass was now gone, so at least they get something in the interim.

Of course, what they will get in its place is anybody's guess. Expectations are that it will most closely resemble the Flex Pass, an Annual Passport option that required guests to make reservations in advance. Walt Disney World now requires that of all guests and the expectation is that Disneyland will do the same when it reopens. Beyond that, Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro has said he doesn't expect the reservation system to go away even once capacity returns to normal, which means reservations would need to be integrated into any future annual pass program at Disneyland.

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While the pandemic certainly forced Disneyland's hand on the AP program, in the grand scheme of things it's probably a good thing. It's hard to argue that the existing system wasn't sort of a mess, and now Disneyland has the ability to devise a system from scratch that can integrate better with the different types of guests the park sees.

When we'll get that system, however, is another question. Surveys have reportedly been sent out to some guests to get feedback on some different potential options, but the park says no new program will be announced until the parks are open and back to full or near-full capacity. Some estimates indicate that could be as soon as next year, but that means we'll be going at least the next 12 months with no replacement.

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