What Is Going On With Disney World Annual Passes and When Will They Return?

It’s been a long road to recovery for Disney World since they first closed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. And, while much of the guest experience has returned to “normal” (or at least a “new normal”), there are still some lingering impacts.

Cinderella Castle

For example, we’re still waiting for all of Disney World’s entertainment offerings to return, parking trams are only back at Magic Kingdom, and even some restaurants are still closed (among other things). But, perhaps the biggest changes we’ve seen over the past two years have to do with Disney World Annual Passes.

What has been going on with annual passes since 2020?

So, what exactly are these changes, and why are they such a big deal? Well, the first big update to the program came in March 2020 when Disney Wold announced that they would be halting the sale of new Annual Passes with the temporary closure of the parks.

Disney World Annual Pass

Then, for almost a full 18 months, there were only a few ways to secure a new annual passthose who had an annual pass that had expired or been canceled previously could get a new pass on a case-by-case basis, and kids in a family of Passholders who turned 3 since the park closures could get a pass since they now required paid admission to enter the park.

Annual Passholder magnet

Disney remained pretty silent on when (or if) annual pass sales would resume until August 2021 when they announced that they would go on sale before the start of the 50th-anniversary celebrations. And, at the end of the month, Disney revealed that sales would resume on September 8th, 2021 but the program would be completely new.

Annual Passholder Entrance

Previously, there were seven different annual pass options available in Disney World (the Platinum Plus, Platinum, Gold, Silver, Theme Park Select, Weekday Select, and EPCOT After 4), but Disney completely overhauled the tier system, narrowing the options down to four new levels — the Disney Incredi-Pass, the Disney Sorcerer Pass, the Disney Pirate Pass, and the Disney Pixie Dust Pass.

The new tier system mostly caters to Florida Residents, as the Disney Incredi-Pass is the only one available to out-of-state guests though it also includes the most perks and no blockout dates.

©Disney

The reaction to the new annual pass program was a bit mixed (as it eliminated a few perks that were previously included in select tiers), but on September 8th guests could FINALLY secure a new pass once again.

Passholder chocolates

Now, Disney had shared that they could choose to limit the sale of annual passes and they did just that only 2 months later. On November 21st, 2021, Disney paused all new sales of Disney Incredi-Pass, Disney Sorcerer Pass, and Disney Pirate Pass leaving only the Disney Pixie Dust Pass available for Florida Residents.

And, this hasn’t changed since.

What’s going on now?

As of this writing, most new annual pass sales are still paused and the Pixie Dust Pass (which has blockout dates on weekends and around holiday periods) remains the only tier available. Keep in mind that this only applies to new sales, so those who are renewing their annual pass can still renew into the new tier system.

©Disney

Because the sales were paused prior to the 2021 holiday period (which tends to be the time of year that Disney sees the highest crowds), many were assuming that sales would resume at the beginning of 2022. However, this has not been the case and there has been no word from Disney on when they could come back.

Why hasn’t Disney World resumed annual pass sales?

So, what could be keeping Disney from selling new annual passes after only having them available for roughly two months?

Capacity Limits

It could boil down to supply and demand. Recently, Disney’s CFO Christine McCarthy revealed that, though they are getting close, the Disney parks are not currently operating at full capacity. So, there may just simply not be enough space in the parks for both day guests and annual passholders.

Main Street, U.S.A. crowds

Even as park capacity limits have increased, we’ve been seeing Park Pass Reservations fill up for spring break and other busy seasons, so Disney could be holding off on resuming annual pass sales until crowd levels are a bit lower. 

March 2022 availability ©Disney

Disney does have a separate park pass availability calendar for annual passholders, so you might be thinking that Disney could sell the passes and just limit park passes a bit more to manage capacity limits. But, there has been some controversy around whether it could be considered “false advertising” to sell an annual pass with no blockout dates but have limited park pass availability (since park passes are required to enter on any given day).

This is something that a guest recently filed a lawsuit against Disneyland over.

Annual Passholder cards for the 50th Anniversary

So, at a time where demand for the Disney parks is “strong” (according to Disney CEO Bob Chapek) and there seemingly is no longer a “slow season,” it’s hard to predict when new annual pass may resume.

Annual Passholders Are “Less Valuable”

Something that could tie directly into the park capacity limits and annual pass sales is the “value” that annual passholders bring to the Walt Disney Company.

While Disney shared that their Parks, Experiences, and Products revenues for the quarter had doubled compared to this time last year (increasing from $3.6 billion to $7.2 billion) in their Q1 Earnings Call, their earnings still aren’t flat or above with pre-pandemic levels. So, Disney is still working to fully recover from the financial loss that they experienced due to COVID-19.

Annual Passholder entrance at Animal Kingdom

Because of that, Disney has looked to prioritize guests who are likely to spend more in the parks — and, that’s not annual passholders. In fact, Chapek said in an earnings call in 2020 that “different guests depending on where they’re coming from have different relative values in terms of their contribution as a guest to the park and typically someone who travels and stays for five days to seven days is marginally more valuable to the business than someone who comes in on an annual pass and stays a day or two and consumes less merchandise and food and beverage.”

Annual Passholders don’t tend to be the five to seven-day vacationers, meaning that, from a financial standpoint, they are generally less valuable to Disney than those who are staying longer and buying park tickets.

Annual Passholder Magnet

Disney may be putting off resuming annual pass sales until they feel that they have maximized their potential revenue from traditional guests or until they are ready to handle those potentially less favorable income results from an increase in annual passholders visiting the parks. Or, they may be waiting for the parks to return to full capacity so that they have more space for those “more valuable” guests along with annual passholders.

Annual Passholder MagicBand

All in all, it’s hard to say exactly why Disney put all the effort into launching a new annual pass program only to pause sales a few months later. But, there are clearly a lot of potential factors at play here. For now, it’s unclear when sales of the top three tier levels could resume, but we’ll be on the lookout for more information and be sure to fill you in on all the latest updates so stay tuned!

Learn more about Disney World’s new annual passholder program HERE!

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When do you think Disney World will resume all new Annual Pass sales again? Let us know in the comments!

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16 Replies to “What Is Going On With Disney World Annual Passes and When Will They Return?”

  1. I believe Disney is being short sighted by eliminating the EPCOT After 4 pass. Most pass holders go in for drinks, dinner, and fireworks. We are a family of four that fits that profile. We do not spend at the same rate as same size family that visits for a week long vacation. However, when I pulled my Amex bill, we spent over $30k in 2019. 2020 was low for obvious reason. We reinstated out passes in May of 2021 and our spend is about $27k to date. I would argue that Disney does not get that level of spend from traveling visitors. Especially when you take into account how little capacity that we take from the rides. We know many families that fit the same profile.

    If this what Disney does for many years loyalty and spend…I really think there will be many people turned off. There will be a day when they want families like ours back. For us that will be too late. When I spoke with Guest Services, they tried very hard to sell the $399 Pixie Dust Pass. You can only go some Monday to Fridays. I’ll take my $30k elsewhere.

    1. Hi Dawn! Yes, you will be able to upgrade to a higher tier pass once you are able to renew.

  2. “Not up to full capacity”, yet ride wait times are at all time highs. How will one get on a ride once they do hit full capacity?

  3. We are also DVC owners and would purchase an annual pass about every other year. Then we would take 3-4 week long visits. I guess I’ll be spending more time at Vero Beach and Hilton Head than at Disney World because always purchasing single day tickets prevent otherwise.

  4. We were annual passholders from Canada. The most trips we took in a year was 4 and they were each 2 week stays. An average year was 3 also all 2 weeks. We stayed on property at Deluxe Resorts and ate at sit down restaurants. We definitely spent a great deal of money there over the years. We had been coming yearly since 1983 other than cancelling right after 911 for that trip. Our first annual pass was in 1996. I think it was a couple of years after that before we bought another annual pass but once we did we bought them every year. It is not nice to feel that our loyalty is not appreciated. Also, we had many visits that we were joined by family and friends. One trip there were 13 of us from different families. I honestly don’t know if we will ever come back to our happy place because of all of the changes but without annual passes it is very very doubtful.

    1. I disagree with this statement. As DVC members, we loved the annual pass and how Disney rewarded us for our bought-in loyalty by offering a DVC pass discount. Now those perks are gone. After years of membership in DVC, I am now forced to recalculate the benefit of owning a piece of this once-great dream.

      If I had to guess, the future of Disney is foreign guests who save for extravagant vacations during their holiday and day-trippers who stay off property and bring their own food into the park to cut costs. In time, the cost to loyalty will be too high and Disney will be forced to offer deep discounts for DVC point packages to rebuild what was lost.

  5. Well, they said it right out in the open, annual passholders are not that valuable to us. Are you kidding? I’m an out of stater with a DVC annual pass and visit WDW several times a year for 4 to 7 days each time. I enjoy their restaurants and pay their prices, take their tours and used to pay for their dinner shows. We easily spend $1,000 in extras (not including airfare, hotel, etc.) for a 4 day trip and more for longer ones. I’ve seriously been debating whether to finally give it all up and start looking elsewhere. Breaks my heart.

  6. Most “5 day guests” come very rarely or only once in lifetime. So the money they spend while high at the moment dont equal what we passholders spend over our lifetime. I have been a Florida resident passholder for 17 years and we often stay at the resorts just for the experience and we have spent way more than a 5-7 day guest will ever spend. Its a slap in the face to be told i am less valuable. I estimate well over $50K, I’m embarrased to say on a place that is not grateful for my money!

    1. 50K over 17 years is $2,900 a year. Disney will get 2-3 times that for family of 4 on a 4-5 days trip. And I’m not discounting what you’ve spent, but their target family demographic has changed. My guess is Season and Florida passes will be gone entirely by next year. WDW is still putting 100K plus a day through the turnstiles and the parks are way too crowded. Disney “magic” did not jump to the current generation of kids, most families will be one and done. Out last trip was 2018, my then 6 and 7 year old grand kids were done as soon as they rode all the coasters and were not interested in any of the attractions. Probably at least 5 years before they see an appreciable drop in attendance.

      1. Don’t forget to account for inflation over 17 years. It’s not as linear as it looks. Those earlier years would hold more value.

        Also, the estimate of expenses could be rounded either way. And we often spend more money than we fully account for while on vacation. Even children-bought souvenirs count and aren’t often tracked by parents. That cost also seems low when you include tickets and we have no idea how many people are in the party.

        Still, you do have a point, but there is also value in loyalty. And there is a negative value associated with betraying loyalty. Angry advertising can be more impactful than paid advertising. Angry people advertise against a company for free.

        I’m not outright disagreeing, only pointing out that the only thing we can tell for absolute certain is loyalty over time and that at least somewhere around 50k was spent over the course of 17 years.

        As a small business owner, I would not discount the value of a loyal customer. A healthy company would find a healthy balance between sporadic, high value customers and the ones that might be average, but show up rain or shine.

    2. This is so sad. We have been DVC members and passholders for 22 years and I’m almost embarrassed to rave about THE Disney experience to my friends at this point. Any business/marketing class would tell you that return rate is most important and ultimately makes a business successful. DVC and passholders are that returning revenue that can be guaranteed. Really their logic is a gamble in my opinion. At some point everyone will have been to Disney at least once or don’t have the desire to go anyway. What would be their angle at that point I wonder?

  7. And they will see zero money for me till they come back online for sale. . . they want me to use my DVC points and buy trip tickets but say they won’t sell passes cause of capacity? then why even offer to sell me tickets for multiple trips I want to book. Season pass holders and DVC members do not matter. They want those once in a lifetime visitors to come and spend away. I will continue to not go and give my points to friends and family they want them. My DVC was a cash purchase so in my eyes I’m loosing nothing along with the fact that we have deff gotten our moneys worth out of it. So until they start to sell passes again Disney is on the furthest back burner of my life. . . and even when they start to sell passes again I will have to think about it. Ever since Covid Disney has left a pretty bad taste in my mouth.

    1. Might as well rent the points out to cover maintenance fees. You’ll more than break even in most cases.

      Or just highly encourage your guests to spend the least amount possible in the parks.

      This article doesn’t mention the full costs passed to DVC members and other guests. Don’t forget that the Magic Express is now a memory and it will cost extra per person to ride the bus from the airport to the parks.

  8. Fortunately , we never let our annual passes expire. As DVC members, renewal is about $300 more than it used to be. Plus, there are new blackout dates around Thanksgiving. Annual passes are still a value for us, traveling three times a year and staying for ten days. Recent experiences have been only fair; almost impossible to ride anything without a very long wait. Epcot remains our shining star. There’s a lot to see and do there. Wonder if Tron and Guardians of Galaxy will be pay per ride or virtual queue. I’d rather pay than have that 7 am pressure