Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our…annual passes. After nearly 40 years, Disneyland is gutting the Annual Passholder program and saying “See ya real soon!” to brand-new memberships post-pandemic. In an email to AP members on January 14, the original Mouse House announced that the program is “sunsetting” and that any active annual tickets will receive a partial refund. The announcement was met with a flurry online of outrage, sorrow, and additional questions as several passes are still tied to perks outside the parks or (in my case) admission to Walt Disney World Resort. I’ve spent hours chatting with Disney customer service, emailing with Disney Parks representatives, and brushing up on remedial algebra to compile a list of answers to my own questions and other top questions about the end of APs. Here’s everything you need to know about the changes for future trips, how much you’ll be refunded, and what’s to come for Disneyland park regulars.
What Does This Mean for Current Pass Holders?
No matter how much time you have left on your pass, consider it void. That goes for all tiers: Southern California Select, Disney Flex Passport, Disney Signature Passport, and Disney Signature Plus Passport. Not that you could go anywhere anyway, as the Disneyland parks are still shuttered amid the pandemic. The only Disneyland AP with current access to parks is the Premier Passport. This premium tier is good for both Disneyland and Disney World, but even this pass will end on March 31.
As a silver lining, Disney is offering Premier Passport holders a chance to renew with the Disney World AP system, which is still going strong and has no plans of expiring. It’s tempting, and, as a current Premier Passport holder, I know that the renewal rates will be cheaper than starting from scratch on any plan. But I also know the pandemic is still very much happening, COVID cases in Florida are surging, and I have no intentions of traveling to Orlando anytime soon. If you’re feeling the same, know that the offer is good through April 30. And if we have learned anything in 2020, it’s that a lot can change in a couple of months.
How Much Money Will Be Refunded?
Your refund is unique to your pass type and payment history. That’s why Disney can’t release a color-coded infographic with tier types and refund amounts. Unlike tuition enrollment, guests don’t start on the same day. It’s a rolling year from whenever you activate. And payment plans are different, too. Some people pay upfront and others have a monthly payment plan. To combat confusion, Disneyland created a new page for pro-rata refunds with an even more confusing math equation to solve.
Let’s do some mouse math.
You don’t need a TI-83, but you do need to know the following:
- How much did you pay or how much have you paid monthly toward your pass?
- When did you pay for your pass?
- How many days out of your rolling year was your pass valid? (Some passes have blackout days.)
- How many days did you have available before the closures on March 14?
- How much, if at all, were you refunded in 2020? (Some passes were refunded a small amount in October as a make-good for the Orlando waterpark closures.)
For an active pass, Disney says the refund = the amount paid toward a passport (minus any refunds) minus the usable value of a passport. And the usable value of a passport = (total sales price the total number of access days at activation) x number of access days available prior to March 31, 2020. So, start by finding the “usable value” and remember your order of operations (remember “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”?). Once you have your usable value, you can plug it in and solve for the pro-rata refund amount. For passes that were renewed during closures or APs on the monthly plan, the formula is slightly different. However, you’ll still need all the pieces of information listed above for your calculations.
Unfortunately, Disney customer service and the Disney AP direct line (714-781-4567) cannot check your math. But they can log into your account and see if your refund payment has been issued.
What About the Other Park Perks?
Being an AP wasn’t just about admission. It’s like AAA with additional perks and discounts throughout the parks, from cheaper dining and merch to free parking. APs even got a discount at ticketed events such as the Oogie Boogie Bash or occasional promotional room rates at Disneyland hotels and Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa. There were savings outside the parks, too, such as discounted rental car rates through Alamo.
Disney is at least trying to acknowledge this loss of value by offering APs a special 30% off discount on select merchandise at select Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street shops. The promotion, which is higher than the former 20% AP discount, is good through February 25. And any Premier Passport holder can still enjoy Disney World V.I.PASSHOLDER Perks through March 31. If you are even remotely considering a Disney World or Aulani trip in 2021, book now before your 30, 35, and whopping 40% off discounts expire on room rates. You can always cancel closer to your trip for a refund. And through April 30, Disney World is waiving all cancellation fees so you can even cancel on the day of check-in without penalty.
Beyond dining and merch, one of the most popular perks for Disneyland APs was adding MaxPass for free downloads of photos taken throughout the parks. These portraits, magic shots, and ride videos automatically loaded on the Disneyland app; and, for anything taken from a visit last January, February, or March, it won’t matter if your AP is gone. Each photo is stamped with metadata to indicate that you had a plan at the time of snapping the photo. So, you can still download those photos for free. But, “a word of caution to this tale.” Remember that MaxPass photos expire on a rolling yearly basis. And the Disney PhotoPass Support Team (407-560-4300) can’t retrieve them. I know this horror all too well.
What Will Replace the AP?
Being AP was more than value. It was a status of fandom. It felt like being a platinum frequent flyer boarding the plane first. And no cast member (Disney lingo for employee) ever let you forget how appreciated you were. Note your AP at check out, call customer service, or drop that card over a restaurant bill and it was instantly “Thank you for being a passholder.” Disney doesn’t want to turn away that kind of loyalty or business. In the last decade, the price of an AP—at any level—skyrocketed. It’s pricing SoCal fans out. And many APs fear that Disney might not offer monthly payment plans in the future thereby pricing out lower classes. But despite elite offerings such as Club 33 or private tours for celebrities, Disneyland depends on the middle class. And Mickey knows it.
New membership magic is on the way. In the January 14 email, Disneyland President Ken Potrock stated that the resort is using this time while closed to “develop new membership offerings” that will deliver “choice, flexibility and value for our biggest fans.” Many APs have speculated that new offerings might feature an a la carte approach to benefits with the ability to build your own pass depending on your interests. Others fear the days of owning a pass without any blackout days are gone. Whatever the new memberships, we do know one thing: APs will be the first to see the sales pitch. As Potrock wrote, “Our Passholders will be the first to hear from us as we embark on this next chapter.”