Today is a big day for Disneyland as the theme park is open again to the general public for the first time in 417 days. However, one group of people who are not visiting the park today are Annual Passport holders, because technically there's no such thing as an Annual Passport program anymore. Back in January, Disney announced that it was ending the program entirely and refunding everybody any money they were owed. But now we know when it'll finally return.
We were told that a new program would be introduced at some point down the road, but Disneyland was pretty vague on when that might happen. Now we have something of a timeline on the new program as Disneyland President Ken Potrock says we can expect the new membership program to be introduced before the end of 2021.
Ken Potrock made the announcement on the eve of Disneyland's reopening as part of the D23 podcast. He did not reveal any details about the program as it still very much a work in progress. But he did explain that the reduced capacity that Disneyland is opening with, about 25% of what the parks can actually hold, necessitated the change. While "before the end of the year" still gives us a pretty wide window, it's the closest thing to a timeline we've been given.
When the Annual Pass program was originally shut down, Disneyland fans were told the new program would be released when the park was able to be at or near 100% capacity. That's probably very much still the case and based on comments from Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek, there is an expectation that most pandemic restrictions in the parks will be gone by early 2022. If that timeline holds, then we can expect Disneyland to be at full capacity or close to it by the end of this year.
The exact number of DIsneyland Annual Passport holders is unknown, but the belief is that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, held one of the various types of APs available. That means there will be a lot of people potentially interested in whatever the new program is going to be. Since it appears that the reservation system that has been implemented to deal with limited capacity isn't going anywhere, that will need to be worked into the program, which means people used to just being able to go whenever they wanted, and locals who might drop by on the spur of the moment, will likely find the new program a bit more constricting.
The annual pass program as it existed was broken, it's hard to argue that. Annual passes gave many a sense of entitlement that made the park a lot less fun, especially for those that weren't part of the crowd and were only visiting for vacation. Whatever the new system looks like it will likely not appeal to everybody equally, but for some, any replacement will be better than not going as often.