Walt Disney World is eliminating these in style perks for resort visitors

Walt Disney World eliminates two long-standing benefits for guests staying at the resort’s hotels – a move that travel experts say could save the company big bucks.

As of 2022, Disney DIS + 0.22% will no longer offer the “Magical Express” – a free shuttle bus that takes guests staying at Walt Disney World hotels to and from Orlando International Airport.

As part of the service, guests could even skip waiting for their bags at baggage claim by adding special tags to their suitcases. Disney collected the things and then took them straight to people’s hotels. The luggage-related part of the service was discontinued in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“As consumer needs and preferences change, we will no longer offer Disney’s Magical Express service upon arrival in 2022,” said a spokeswoman for Walt Disney World. “At the same time, we’re offering our guests new ways to enjoy their visits, including early entry to a theme park for hotel guests at the Disney Resort.”

In a blog post, Disney noted that the change was made by companies such as Uber UBER (+ 2.46%) and Lyft LYFT (+ 1.83%) amid the growing popularity of ridesharing.
The published blog found that these services “save time and offer more flexibility” to resort guests. Disney will continue to provide transportation within its Walt Disney World complex, including the monorail, buses, and the Skyliner gondola.

Disney bore all of the cost of getting people between the airport and their hotel without getting as much benefit as it used to be.

– Len Testa, co-author of The Inofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and President of Touring Plans travel website

In addition, Brightline, an inter-city rail system in Florida, has announced plans to expand service to Orlando, including stops at the airport and Disney Springs, a mall at Walt Disney World Resort. Once completed, the Brightline train could be another option for guests to get to the Disney property.

Still, the decision to remove the Magical Express service came as a surprise to travel professionals. After Disney introduced the free shuttle and baggage collection service in 2005, travel experts found that this was done to keep guests on the Disney property rather than letting them rent cars and head to other nearby theme parks like Universal Studios CMCSA travel (-0.04%). and SeaWorld SEAS -1.19%.

In fact, in recent years, the company appears to have amplified that advantage by starting charging hotel guests with parking fees.

“It was a pretty effective moat that, when launched, should keep people in the Disney bubble,” said Len Testa, co-author of The Inofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and president of Touring Plans travel website. “The rise of ridesharing made it easier and cheaper for people to get off-site when they wanted (instead of renting a car or hailing a cab), and so Disney was paying all of the cost of getting people between the airport and theirs Bringing a hotel without having as much use as before. “

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Disney did not operate the “Magical Express” service. It was awarded to Mears Transportation, an Orlando-based company. As a result, Testa said the move was “absolutely a cost-cutting measure”.

“Walt Disney made us aware of their decision this morning,” said Roger Chapin, spokesman for Mears Transportation. “While we are disappointed that Disney will no longer offer this service, we intend to continue providing transportation between the airport and all theme parks and hotels in the area to meet visitor demand now and in the future.”

Separately, Disney confirmed that another popular perk suspended during the pandemic is not going to return. This feature, known as “Extra Magic Hours,” allowed guests staying at Disney hotels to enter theme parks earlier than other visitors or to stay in them later in the evening, sometimes adding an hour or more to their park stay .

As of the end of this year, Disney will allow hotel guests to enter theme parks in front of the public, but the extra evening hours for hotel guests will not return. With this new perk, visitors with a valid hotel reservation can enter one of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World 30 minutes before the start of their stay.

“The new advantage for entry to an early theme park helps us to better distribute the number of visitors to all four theme parks and at the same time offers additional flexibility by offering guests additional parking time on every day of their vacation and in the park of their choice”, said Disney on its blog post.

In addition, early entry to the theme park should help reduce the morning crowd at the theme park in the face of pandemic-related entry logs, including temperature checks. During the early entry period, people without proof of hotel reservation will not be allowed into the parks until normal operating hours.

It remains to be seen whether the elimination of the shuttle service and additional parking times will result in travelers staying in hotels other than Disney-operated hotels.

“Fans are understandably surprised by the news, but it’s hard to tell if two ridesharing and the inconvenience of carrying your own luggage will cost or break an entire vacation budget,” said Carlye Wisel, a freelance theme park journalist.

With the other changes Disney has made in the face of the pandemic – including removing the ability to book a FastPass to cross the line on popular rides – the Walt Disney World experience will be very different.

“Only time will tell if changes to Extra Magic Hours and Disney’s Magical Express will permanently affect Disney’s hotel business, but along with a few other changes in the pandemic era, such as the current system of park hopping and a break in FastPass + – Disney’s Program, This Remains It’s pretty clear that staying at a Disney World hotel in the future will be different from what it was in the past, ”said Wisel. (Park hopping is the ability to visit multiple theme parks in one day without paying separate admission. Park hopping was initially restricted after the parks reopened due to coronavirus capacity restrictions, but was returned in a modified form at the beginning of the new year.)

It’s hard to tell whether two lifts and the inconvenience of carrying your own luggage will cost or break an entire vacation budget

– Carlye Wisel, a theme park journalist

The coronavirus pandemic forced Walt Disney World to overhaul its operations. The theme parks stayed closed for many months when COVID-19 cases first exploded in the US and the parks finally reopened in July.

The number of people admitted to the parks remains reduced, although the capacity limit has been relaxed since the parks reopened. Guests in the parks are required to wear masks at all times, which are expected while eating or drinking. Certain attractions and experiences like meeting and greeting characters will be suspended due to the pandemic.

Most of Disney’s theme parks around the world have reopened, but Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California remain closed due to the state’s stricter pandemic protocols.

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