Dear Disney: Please Reconsider…
Dear Disney, I love you, but I’m mad at you right now.
The worst part is that you knew this was coming.
You decided to progress with something you understood would be extremely unpopular, yet you’ve moved forward with the plan anyway.
I’m asking you to reconsider.
Here’s why you should not end the Magical Express Program.
A Brilliant Program
For a time, I turned into a lapsed Disney fan.
Don’t get me wrong. I watched every Disney movie and owned a bunch of Mickey merchandise.
However, I didn’t visit any Disney theme parks for roughly 12 years. My wife loved the writings of Carl Hiaasen, an excellent author.
Alas, Hiaasen grew up in Fort Lauderdale, 200 miles from Walt Disney World. And he formed harsh opinions about Disney, many of which I find misguided.
My beloved took Hiaasen’s side and preferred Universal Orlando Resort instead.
After about a decade together, I finally wore her down on the subject.
After all, she loves everything Disney. In fact, her entire wardrobe consists of Disney!
So, her lack of appreciation for the parks struck me as incorrect pre-judgment.
My instincts proved correct during that first trip. Once my wife boarded the Magical Express and reached our destination, she was hooked.
Her previous vacations had involved travel to all-inclusive resorts and less qualified theme parks like Six Flags St. Louis and Great America.
The Disney trip proved enlightening and fundamentally altered her tourist perspective.
Disney came and got us at the airport. Then, they took us straight to Disney’s Old Key West Resort. We didn’t even have to pick up our luggage!
That sort of total customer service stands out in the highly competitive travel industry.
During two of our earliest trips as a couple, we also experienced some setbacks that Disney customer service addressed well beyond our expectations.
From that point through today, my wife has evolved into a dedicated Disney evangelist. We’ve averaged two trips a year for the body of a decade.
As such, the elimination of this program feels like a personal loss. I know many of you agree.
The Benefits of Magical Express
During the pandemic, Disney has altered the rules for Magical Express. So, I must approach this conversation from two angles.
Before Coronavirus, Magical Express allowed you to drop off your bags at your departure airport.
Once you arrive at Orlando International Airport, you visit the Magical Express kiosk. There, a cast member will direct you to a bus.
The bus will drive you to the resort where you’re staying. A few hours after you check in, your bags will arrive at your hotel room…like magic!
Due to the pandemic, Disney altered the rules slightly. The new process required guests to pick up their luggage at the airport.
Then, the tourists hand their bags over to the Magical Express bus driver, who stores them in the luggage compartment beneath the vehicle.
Once you reach your hotel, you carry your own luggage up to your hotel room.
The old way provides a better and more comprehensive service. However, the fear of COVID-19 makes the modified process smarter for now.
Either way, Magical Express always struck me as accurately named.
One of my concerns as a traveler is reaching my hotel destination. When I fly, I must either rent a car or order an Uber/Lyft.
When I drive, I’m responsible for locating the hotel. If someone else drives, I rely on them to get me there without getting lost.
All travelers possess horror stories along these lines, and I know that some popped into your head as you read that.
Magical Express totally alleviates Disney fans of such concerns. You hop on a bus, and then you ride straight to your hotel.
Disney even shows cartoons and trivia on Magical Express buses, reminding guests that they’re on vacation.
Everything involving Magical Express represents positive reinforcement for Disney customers.
The Main Reason Why Disney Has Canceled the Service
Coronavirus probably counts as 10 different reasons. Some of the problems don’t even involve Disney directly.
MickeyBlog chronicled the woes of members of the transportation industry during 2020.
On Disney’s end, Minnie Vans haven’t returned since the start of the pandemic, nor has the EPCOT monorail line.
Other companies have suffered the brunt, though. Mears Transportation Group laid off 104 employees last August, many of whom were bus drivers.
As a reminder, Disney pays Mears Transportation Group for the Magical Express service to and from resorts.
Occasionally, you’ve probably ridden in a bus that said Mears on the side rather than Magical Express. That’s the explanation.
Mears likely has a contract with Disney that ends on the last day of 2021. The latter party has chosen not to renew it.
I should state that I’m not reporting anything there but instead making a guess based on the facts in evidence.
After Disney announced the closures, Mears countered with a press statement.
Ashley Carter, the super-reporter for My News 13, tracked down this quote:
“While we are disappointed Disney will no longer offer this service, we intend to continue offering transportation services between the airport and all area theme parks and hotels to meet the demand of our visitors now and in the future.”
Disney’s Plan for the Future of Hotel Transportation
So, the main reason is money. Secondary causes do come into play, though.
Disney recently signed an agreement with Brightline to construct a high-speed train station at Disney Springs.
Disney envisions a future where guests exit their airplanes at the airport, pick up their bags, and then hop on a digital train to Disney Springs.
From there, I’m unclear on what the plan is. Will people carry their luggage onto regular Disney Springs buses and hitch a ride to the hotel?
That doesn’t strike me as a solid strategy. I mean, it really just switches Magical Express from the airport to Disney Springs.
Meanwhile, Disney tourists must take an extra train in the middle, thereby adding to their expense and slowing down their arrival time.
Also, that station is unlikely to arrive before 2023, leaving guests stranded for calendar 2022.
In short, Disney has started a countdown clock on itself. The company has 11 and a half months to come up with a solution that doesn’t hurt customers.
Otherwise, attendance will decline in 2022, a year that should be pandemic-free.
Disney’s cost to operate Magical Express is a fractional rounding number against its theme park empire. So, this whole decision feels ill-considered.
The Main Reason Why Disney Should Reconsider
I can make any number of arguments about why Disney has suffered an unforced error here.
I’ll rely on park history first and foremost.
During the earliest days of Disneyland, its creator worried that guests would grow tired of repeated experiences.
Walt Disney overheard guests stating that they had no reason to ride Jungle Cruise again. After all, they’d already ridden it once.
The entrepreneur winced at this casual dismissal of his hard work. He obsessed on solutions to attract recurring guests to his rides.
In those moments, the concept of Plussing started. The park founder famously stated:
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
When Walt Disney World officials created Magical Express, they effectively extended the Disney Bubble to Orlando International Airport.
Guests arrive at the airport to find themselves immediately blanketed in Disney customer service. It’s glorious.
The elimination of Magical Express embodies the opposite of Walt Disney’s lasting wishes for his theme parks.
This is Minusing.
You make Disney vacations worse by removing Magical Express.
Simultaneously, you reduce the desire of customers to visit Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney understood budgets all too well. He once sold his family’s dream home to finance Disneyland, after all.
Despite his financial focus, Uncle Walt would be aghast at this news. It stands against everything he believes in.
Anytime that statement rings true, Disney officials should reconsider.
Other Reasons to Reconsider
Disney sells its theme parks as the ultimate in family entertainment. Much of its decision-making involves the streamlining of vacations for parents.
Moms and dads want to know that Disney will do all the heavy lifting on vacations.
This announcement counts as a decisive setback against that notion. Parents must worry about setting up transportation to and from the airport.
Ignoring the cost factor, which isn’t insignificant, it adds a layer of overhead and concern.
This statement applies to all travelers who fly into Orlando, but parents will carry the heaviest toll.
Removing Magical Express automatically eliminates a primary sales tactic.
Also, whenever I recommend Walt Disney World vacations to friends – and I’m pretty relentless about this – I praise the glory of Magical Express.
I tell people that they won’t have to do anything once they reach the airport. A bus driver will transport them straight to the hotel.
While onboard the bus, happy videos will play on the monitor. All the passengers will share that tremendous Disney vacation buzz.
None of that happens now. Travelers are on their own once they fly into town, which isn’t very hospitable of Disney.
My Final Arguments
Meanwhile, the company absorbs hits to its reputation and brand due to this decision.
People will know that Disney could offer Magical Express service. The company’s just not because management has decided it’s too expensive.
In exchange, many travelers will decide that Disney is too expensive.
The company has raised prices annually on everything from restaurants to admission tickets to bottled water.
After all that, Disney will make its customers pay for buses, ride-shares, or other services.
In other words, Disney just saved itself money by passing those expenses on to customers. It’s a bad look.
Disney, I’m begging you to reconsider. The elimination of Magical Express may sound good in a boardroom or on a spreadsheet.
On the ground level, as a Disney fan, it feels short-sighted and callous.
Plus, it damages the already fragile Orlando economy by putting more local workers out of jobs.
Disney, PLEASE don’t cancel Magical Express. You’ve still got 11 months to realize your mistake.
As fans, we’ll respect you for recognizing this unforced error that hurts us all, including you.
Feature Image Rights: Disney