Disney Stands by Theme Park Reservations in Response To Annual Passholders’ Lawsuit

The Walt Disney World Resort has continued to stand by the Park Pass Reservation System, which has operated since the theme parks reopened during the pandemic. When the Parks reopened in the summer of 2020, state and local government restrictions, along with guidance from the CDC, dictated that capacity limits be put in place for all kinds of public spaces. Of course, we’ve made a lot of progress since then, and other pandemic-era restrictions have all ended.

Disney fans generally loathe the reservation system, regardless of the logic the company has continued to share for why they remain required. The extra step in making theme park reservations has been especially frustrating for Annual Passholders, who were once able to enjoy totally spontaneous visits to the Parks, assuming they had purchased a Pass with no block-out dates/

annual pass

Credit: Inside the Magic

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Last year, two Walt Disney World Annual Passholders filed a lawsuit against the company citing Disney’s use of the reservation system as a way the company went against the terms of their agreement as Passholders. Florida residents Erica Kelly and Marilyn Paone believe that by not allowing them to enter the theme parks due to reservations being unavailable while the two have Passes without block-out dates. Disney has violated the terms of their contract.

According to Florida Politics, Disney commented on the situation in a motion to dispute the suit saying:

Changing the terms of their annual passes’ park access due to a pandemic, after expressly reserving the right to do so, is not plausible bad faith, injustice, or an unfair business practice.


Credit: Disney

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Disney further noted that the two Annual Passholders involved in the suit were given the option to be refunded for their Passes when the theme parks began to reopen during the pandemic, but that they chose to keep their passes knowing the reservation system would be in place.

Despite the option for a refund, and the added flexibility Disney has recently given Passholders (that they may visit any Park after 2:00 p.m. without a reservation, except for Magic Kingdom Park during weekends) the Guests involved and their legal teams have continued to argue that the business practice behind Annual Passes under this system is predatory.

epcot spaceship earth

Credit: Disney

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The adjustment to allow Passholders to enter any theme park after 2:00 p.m. without a reservation does seem to have helped, but Guests (Passholders and others) have continued to express frustrations over the system on social media and to Disney directly.

Despite Guests’ opinions on the matter, the company maintains the view that the system is beneficial for casual visitors in that it controls crowds and ensures that families from out of state are not showing up to a park that is at capacity. (We do have to point out, however, that this logic seems flawed as the Parks only ever hit capacity pre-pandemic on rare occasions like Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.)

We will continue to monitor updates to the Annual Passholder lawsuit, and the theme park reservation system in general, and will be back with more information as we have it here on Disney Tips.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."