Weren’t These Things Free at Disney a Few Years Ago???
As we sift through the wreckage of the Bob Chapek era, it becomes clear how mercenary Disney became over the past few years.
Here are several things that used to be free…emphasis on the past tense.
One of Chapek’s major initiatives involved the resetting of expectations for park guests.
The then-CEO had worked as Chairman of the Parks division before he became the overall leader of Disney. So, he understood that he was facing years of training.
Guests had expectations about Disney that he didn’t like. Chapek reset those expectations via the pandemic.
With the parks closed, Chapek believed that guests may not expect as much when Disney reopened.
The CEO specifically removed virtually all associated amenities at the start, ostensibly for health reasons. In truth, something more nefarious was at play.
Disney had little intention of paying for some of its former licenses, especially the one with Mears Transportation.
Out of everything we discuss here, I’m most sympathetic to Disney on this point, though. Mears laid off more than nine out of every ten employees.
Why would Disney pay Mears for subpar service?
Still, that’s a 2020 excuse, not one as we enter 2023. By this point, Disney should have reintegrated Magical Express as a free service.
As a reminder, Magical Express is what we call the process when vacationers put Disney luggage tags on their bags. Then, they never worry about them after airport check-in.
Disney takes care of the rest by retrieving the bags and taking them to the hotel room. Meanwhile, Magical Express buses transport guests to their Disney resorts.
As many have noted over the years, Magical Express extends the Disney Bubble to the airport and starts a Disney vacation that much sooner.
Alas, Chapek killed the service and left guests to fend for themselves. Now, we must choose our own airport transportation, which isn’t easy and rarely goes smoothly.
We all miss Magical Express, and it needs to come back.
Speaking of things we all miss, Walt Disney World offers one travel package that towers above the rest.
At certain points each year, Disney has historically offered the free Disney Dining Plan as part of a vacation deal.
Guests could book free meals for everyone in their traveling party simply by staying at an official Disney resort and booking this package.
Obviously, that’s not possible right now because, well, Disney lied about dining plans. They were supposed to return in 2022 but didn’t.
Ergo, Disney isn’t giving away free dining plans. I mean, they’re not even selling paid dining plans at the moment.
Thankfully, I’m fairly confident that this aspect of a Disney vacation is something CEO Bob Iger will bring back soon.
The absence of free/paid Disney dining plans frankly feels wrong.
I’m not going to stick my head in the lion’s mouth too much on this one, as you all know the deal.
During the 1990s, Imagineers invented a unique concept for improving theme park traffic flow.
Guests could take a ticket called a FastPass and use it to hold a place for them in line for an attraction.
Once they returned to the attraction, they could enter the shorter line as if they’d stood it in for a while.
Casual fans will never understand what a groundbreaking innovation this was in theme park design. It maximized efficiency for everyone.
Over the years, many theme parks have introduced some FastPass equivalent. Usually, they have charged guests.
I legitimately have notes on my Desktop from an article I’ve been meaning to write for four years. It lists the prices of these options relative to Disney remaining free.
Alas, that article concept grew outdated when Chapek announced the addition of Disney Genie+. It was a long-expected move to monetize the former FastPass concept.
What none of us could have guessed is how greedy Chapek would be about Disney Genie+. It started at $15 per person but nearly doubled within 13 months.
Now, guests are paying up to $29 plus tax for daily usage of something that was free at the start of 2020.
From a holistic perspective, that’s Chapek’s tenure in a nutshell. He could take a reasonable premise and turn it into an exercise in shameless greed.
You’ll be surprised to learn that the following two price increases aren’t on Chapek. Both changes occurred before he became CEO.
Of course, he was Chairman of the Parks division at the time. So, he may have pushed for the changes to formerly free services.
For example, guests staying at Disney resorts enjoyed free parking for more than 40 years.
Then, a couple of years before the pandemic, Disney modified its parking policies. And that wasn’t even the frustrating part.
According to the policy still in place, pricing depends on where guests are staying at the time.
Vacationers at Value resorts pay $15 per day, while those at Moderate resorts pay $20 per day. Disney charges its Deluxe resort guests $25 per day.
So, a guest staying for six nights at a Moderate resort gets a $120 kick to the crotch thanks to the bean counters at Disney.
As you can tell, I don’t even drive at Disney, and this one still bugs me.
Roughly a decade ago, Disney finally rolled out its billion-dollar project, MyMagic+.
This innovation revolutionized theme parks by simplifying the guest experience for consumers.
At the time, wearables were all the rage, perceived as the superior means of easy technological access.
What nobody at Disney anticipated at the time was how societally dependent we’d become on our smartphones.
Still, anyone who has used a MagicBand knows that they’re brilliant. You tap the band against a Disney RFID reader, and it identifies you instantly.
Using a MagicBand, you can prove park admission, pay for goods and services, and add PhotoPass pictures to your My Disney Experience account.
When Disney rolled out the technology, all guests staying at official resorts received free MagicBands.
Alas, Disney recognized an opportunity to monetize this technology and later pivoted. Now, MagicBand+ is a thing. It’s a slightly better version of the original.
To use either one, guests must pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-$35, although prices depend on how basic/rare your MagicBand is.
Okay, this one’s admittedly kind of niche. Still, we should acknowledge that Disney’s recent budget cuts included some insidious stuff.
For example, previous versions of Walt Disney World’s annual pass program included better amenities. One of them saved passholders hundreds of dollars.
Under Bob Iger, these annual passes included PhotoPass as a free add-on.
Annual passholders could take pictures with Disney photographers during any park visit. Then, we’d pull up My Disney Experience and appreciate the magic.
Frustratingly, when Walt Disney World restored annual passes, management inexplicably took away this amenity.
Now, you must pay for PhotoPass…which is the recurring theme here. Apparently, Bob Chapek’s least favorite word was ‘free.’
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Feature Image Credit: Disney