After widespread complaints about increased prices and seemingly diminished perks at Disney parks and resorts, the company is making some concessions under its new leadership.
On Tuesday, Disney's Chairman of Parks, Experiences and Products, Josh D'Amaro, wrote a memo to staff saying that he's "in the parks fairly often, and I listen to you and to our guests about the things that are working, as well as the things that might need some change," the Wall Street Journal reported.
At Disney World in Orlando, these changes include free parking (once again) for people staying at Disney hotels, extended hours for those with annual passes to visit parks without a reservation, and added photo perks for people who purchase Genie+, a skip-the-line service.
The company also announced a relaxed rule about park-hopping and more opportunities and some cheaper options for visits to Disneyland in California.
CEO Robert Iger returned as Disney's CEO after the embattled Bob Chapek stepped down in November. As the outlet writes, this is in essence, Iger's "peace offering," to fans who became personally disgruntled with Chapek over changes to the park, particularly price increases.
Over the past year, Disney increased prices on everything from merch to hotels to food at the park, per a WSJ investigation, outpacing inflation and massively boosting customer spend. On top of that, previously free benefits began to cost money.
Related: Bob Iger Returns as Disney CEO and Bob Chapek Steps Down, Effective Immediately
Bob Chapek: pic.twitter.com/DhsmEBNxAk
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Related: 'I Can Go to Europe for Cheaper': A Trip to Disney Costs More Than Ever Before
These changes began to anger hardcore fans of the parks, including people who buy annual passes, which allowed them to enter the parks whenever they wanted throughout the years, without blackout dates in two of the tiers. (They are no longer for sale.)
The company added blackout dates and a reservation system after the pandemic, which spurred a class action lawsuit from two annual pass holders.
Disney die-hards were so upset about some of the new rules, they began wearing shirts around Disney resorts that said "Chapek Killed The Magic," the outlet noted.
Iger was CEO of the company for 15 years and worked there for around 40. He returned to his post, barely a year after retiring, which was a surprise for many. It came amid tough reputational and financial times for the company, including an employee walkout over the company's response to Florida's "don't say gay" bill, losses on streamer Disney+, and possible layoffs.
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The company isn't bending completely on annual passes. At some point in the "next few months," the company wrote in their blog, annual pass holders will be able to go to theme parks without a reservation after 2 p.m., excluding Saturdays and Sundays at the Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando.
However, the blackout dates and reservations are here to stay, the latter of which "remains important to manage attendance in our parks," the company wrote. "We realize our Passholders enjoy more spontaneous visits – and this change will make that possible."
Disney is also giving people who already have annual passes a new perk, free Disney PhotoPass Lenses, which allows users to take augmented reality (AR) photos with special lenses around the park, and a free visit to an AR mural at Cinderella's Castle.
Free parking is also back for those who stay at Disney hotels in the Orlando parks.
Another major price-boosting change, as the WSJ noted, was removing Disney's FastPass system for skipping lines. The new program is called Genie+. It provides entrance to the Lighting Lane on certain rides, which start at $25 a day per person.
You have to pay extra, to the tune of $10 to $17 a ride, to enter the lane for select rides. Some are included in the $25 and some have to be purchased separately at rides such as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Flight of Passage, which you can do even without buying Genie+. The implementation has reportedly been a disaster at times, with people completely skipping the regular line, called Standby.
Starting in the next "few months," people who buy Genie+ for a visit will also get free photos from Disney PhotoPass, which are taken at places like Space Mountain and Expedition Everest.
The company's olive branches in California include an earlier time for people who "park hop" from Disneyland to Disney California Adventure if they have a Magic Key pass (which provides entrance to both parks) or a Park Hopper ticket from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Disneyland offers select dates where tickets are $104, a relatively lower price compared to the usual day prices, which vary widely but can cost $164-$239 for a one-day ticket that allows park hopping for someone over the age of 10, for example.
In the blog post, the company said it added "nearly" two more months' worth of dates throughout 2023 where people can take advantage of the $104 price.
The company said it also plans to sell more Magic Key passes in 2023.