Like many of you we are current Magic Key Holders. Unfortunately, Disney has given us no information on when and even if we will be able to renew those passes. So what’s going on? The passes are only a year old, why aren’t there Magic Key renewals yet? Is Disney going to announce anything? Let’s take a look at what is going on behind the scenes of Magic Key Renewals.
When Disneyland Resort closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, current Annual Passholders wondered what was going to happen. No one could use their passes, so Disney gave extensions, and then eventually started issuing refunds. They declared everyone who had an active pass when the park closed a “Legacy Passholder”. Disney said they would use the time to revamp and create a brand new program. Surveys from Disney were sent out, and people thought the new passes would end up similar to the old Flex Pass. In August of 2021, after months and months of waiting, Disney finally announced an annual pass replacement program.
At first, people were excited about the new passes. Most fans were excited to be able to get to go the the parks more frequently for less money than buying regular tickets. There were a few changes from the old passes, but it mostly felt like a name change with less benefits.
Each visit to the parks now required a reservation. Your pass type limited the number of reservations you could hold at any given time. On top of needing a reservation, each pass also had black out dates, just as the old passes. Since FastPass was retired, MaxPass was no longer included. Only certain passes included parking, and it could not be purchased as an add on. Photopass was also removed as a benefit. Buyers assumed that Magic Key renewals would be available, just as Annual Pass renewals had been in the past.
Once the keys were released, they encountered a host of problems. The first big problem was purchasing a Magic Key. Guests were told to purchase their pass using the Disneyland App instead of visiting the ticket booth. Cast members at the ticket booth often turned away guests who were trying to purchase a pass. We tried using the app, but it wouldn’t let us upgrade the ticket for our daughter. The option just wasn’t there. Normally, this would be the time to get cast member help, so we went to a ticket booth. The cast member was short with us and wouldn’t even let us get in line for the ticket counter because we were supposed to do it on the app. This turned into several hours of trying to find the right cast member who was willing to spend the time it took to figure out what the problem was.
Additional problems arose for people trying to upgrade a regular park ticket. You had to have a reservation to enter the park with your regular ticket, but once you upgraded to a Magic Key, that reservation was lost. Most cast members recommended waiting until you were done park hopping for the day before upgrading on the app so it wouldn’t be a problem. For people like us who couldn’t upgrade in the app and had to talk to someone at the ticket booth, it made it very difficult. Lots of people upgraded mid-day and then found out they wouldn’t be able to get back in the park.
Though not a huge deal, Disney didn’t even give out nice cards anymore as your Magic Key. They printed a paper ticket and told guests that it would be an additional $20 to print out another paper ticket if your ticket was lost or damaged. These tickets are printed with thermal printers. So just like most receipts, the printed text becomes illegible if it gets too much sun light. Wet tickets from rides like Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run became illegible. Some people tried laminating the ticket, but that could destroy it, too. The $20 price point for such a fragile piece of paper was insane. Walt Disney World gives out plastic cards for even just one day tickets, and Disneyland can’t even give their most loyal customers and fans a plastic card.
The biggest and worst complaint came with the reservation system. Disney only allotted a certain number of reservations for Key holders and saved the rest for regular tickets. While this may not seem like a huge deal, it became a very big problem when Magic Key holders could no longer make any reservations. For people who paid $1500 and were promised no block out days, it was VERY frustrating. Social media quickly filled with stories of people who couldn’t get in when they expected, and tips about how to get a reservation. Friends and family who didn’t share Disney accounts were often unable to get reservations for everyone to go at the same time. Out of state visitors struggled to get consecutive reservations for their trip into California. And even if reservations were available, the website itself was a terrible design. Reservations couldn’t be made in the app and the online version was difficult to navigate. The plus side was that Disney could control it’s attendance. That meant more efficient and stable staffing plans. But there was almost no silver lining for the guests who had to deal with the system.
Jenale Nielsen of Santa Clara County, California, decided to do something about her frustration. In November 2021, she filed a lawsuit against Disney stating they were false advertising by saying the Dream Key had no block out dates, but still blocked holders from making reservations. United States District Court Judge David Carter denied Disney’s request to have the case dismissed in May 2022. Judge Carter said “The court finds that plaintiff has adequately pled facts supporting how a reasonable consumer may be deceived by the advertisement, which states ‘no blockout dates.’” Nielsen’s attorneys are hoping to have the case certified as a class action by the U.S. District Court so that other Magic Keyholders can join, but that step hasn’t happened yet. The case is still working its way through the court system, so it may be some time before it is resolved.
The Lawsuit’s Effect on Renewals
The court case is likely a big part of why renewals are put on hold. If Disney continued to allow guests to purchase Magic Keys, they are increasing the number of people who could join a class action lawsuit. Since a judge refused Disney’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, it is likely going to go to trial at some point. The more people who have purchased a Dream Key, means more people who can join the class action suit, and the larger Disney could be fined. Disney wants to limit a payout as much as possible, and they are going to fight this lawsuit in the courts. But they also want to limit the number of people who could be part of the suit. The only way to limit that number, at this point, is to not allow any more sales of the current passes.
If they can’t sell the current pass, could they just change the terms and conditions to be more specific so that they can’t be in trouble for false advertising? At first thought, it seems like a good idea, but it is not in Disney’s best interest. If Disney changes the terms of the Magic Keys, they are basically admitting that there is a problem and it needs to be fixed. If they add language about having no block outs, but being limited by the reservation system, they are admitting that the terms were not clear the way they were originally written. Nielsen’s team of lawyers would use this to show that Disney knew it had made a mistake. This could help them win the case, so Disney is going to avoid it.
At this point, no matter what Disney does, selling more Magic Keys is not a good idea until this lawsuit is resolved, which means magic key renewals are off the table, too. And on top of the lawsuit, most people don’t like the current system anyway. There have been so many complaints and problems over the last year, Disney may be looking at another “refresh”.
So what is Disney going to do for it’s fans? No one knows at this point; Disney has been very quiet. I chatted with a Disney Cast Member through the app to ask, and the response I got was “Magic Key passes are unavailable for new sales at this time. Renewals are not currently available for any pass type.” I have to wonder if they are going to let all the passes expire and get rid of the Magic Key Pass all together.
I would have thought they would have made a statement one way or another by now, especially since the passes will be a year old in just a few weeks. But it seems Disney is waiting on something. They may be waiting till D23 to make an announcement, but I think that will be a little late. At this point, most Magic Key holders who purchased their passes in the first few months are getting pretty frustrated. Unfortunately we are just going to have to wait and see.
The lawsuit puts Disney in a pretty difficult situation. They may keep sales and renewals paused until further notice. They may be waiting to start the magic key renewals until the lawsuit has made its way through the court, which could still take months. That will probably hurt Disney’s bottom line. With how expensive one day tickets are becoming, they may see a hit on attendance. I have heard many current Key holders say they will not be going to the park as often if they can’t renew their pass.
What do you think Disney is going to do? Do you think they’ll create a brand new pass again, or are magic key renewals just around the corner? What perks would you like to see returned and what would you like to see changed? Send us a message, or let us know in the comments.