Disneyland introduces park-specific annual pass blockout calendars

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

When the Disneyland Resort last raised ticket prices in February 2018, the company said the pricing strategy was in part to help "better spread attendance throughout the year," and also stated that more changes were on the way for the annual passport program.

Along with the latest price increase, Disney also began listing admission to Disneyland, admission to Disney California Adventure, and the ability to visit both parks on the same day as three separate passholder benefits. As we noted at the time, this change implied that there may be a time when a certain pass type does not include admission to one park or the other, or does not include park hopper benefits.

That time is now.

Today, Disney has introduced park-specific blockout calendars for the annual passport program. Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park now have separate schedules of blockout dates, and there are now days where some passholders can visit Disney California Adventure, but are blocked out from visiting Disneyland. Universal Studios Orlando introduced a similar system to manage passholder access to its three parks following the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

A Disneyland Resort spokesperson tells MousePlanet,

"As our business evolves, this is the first step in reshaping our Annual Pass program, which will better manage the guest experience and allow all Disneyland Resort visitors to have a great visit, particularly as we look forward to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in summer 2019.&quot

This new blockout schedule applies to all Disneyland Resort annual passports purchased, renewed or activated on or after June 2, 2018. Annual passport prices remain unchanged, and there are no changes to the very popular monthly payment plan.

While the new schedule is effective today, the blockout calendars don't actually diverge for another year. Through next May, Disneyland and DCA have the same blockout dates, regardless of when the annual pass was purchased or activated. But come June 2019, just ahead of the anticipated opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland, everything changes.

Disney usually publishes the blockout calendar on a rolling 12-month basis, and the calendar was posted through the end of May 2019. With this announcement, Disney released the full calendar for June 2019, but not beyond, so we can only look at one month's worth of dates to see how this change impacts the different passport levels.

For June 2018, Deluxe annual passports offer 25 days of admission to both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. In June 2019, that number drops to just 13 days of park-hopper access to both parks. However, the new schedule has no June blockout dates for Disney California Adventure in 2019, meaning those passholders can visit on previously-blocked-out Saturdays.

The situation is worse for Southern California and Southern California Select passports. This June, a SoCal Select passholder is valid at both parks on four days, before the summer blockout season begins. In 2019, the pass is valid at DCA on three days, and is not valid at Disneyland at all. The legacy Southern California passport, which is no longer available for purchase, is valid at both parks on 19 days in June 2018. In June 2019, the pass is valid 20 days at DCA, but not valid at Disneyland at all.

There are currently no changes to the blockout dates for Signature or Signature Plus annual passports, which retain park hopper access on all days those passes are otherwise valid.

For Deluxe passholders, the good news is that they get more Disney days with their pass in June 2019. The bad news is that they get fewer Disneyland days. Some passholders may consider that an acceptable trade-off, especially as this opens up summer Saturdays, dates that are typically blocked out to all but the highest tier of passholder.

For SoCal and SoCal Select passholders, at least for June 2019, their Disneyland Resort annual passport is really a Disney California Adventure pass. Again, we have just one month of data to look at, and it's from the summer season when the lowest-tier passes are usually blocked entirely. But it is reasonable to expect this pattern to continue for the first months that Galaxy's Edge is open, and passholders who just can't wait to visit Batuu will have to buy a one-day ticket to Disneyland.

In previous articles, we noted that the strategy for managing the crowds around the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would have to include a way to manage the crush of Disneyland annual passholders eager to get a first look at the land. Of course, any such plan has to meet the expectations of day guests while keeping the loyalty of the annual passholders. It's a delicate balancing act between day guests who can spend nearly $200 just to get into the gates, and passholders who spend hundreds on their annual pass, and then hundreds more on limited-edition popcorn buckets, Instagram-worth churros and the latest must-have millennial-rose-champagne-gold accessories.

Giving passholders even greater access to Disney California Adventure, with all of its seasonal promotions, food festivals and popular rides (Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout is still the top-rated attraction at the Disneyland Resort), is a smart way to keep passholders on-property and spending money. How the decision to restrict access to Disneyland ultimately impacts AP renewal rates and attendance will likely play a major role on what additional changes the park makes to the program in the months ahead.