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Will Bob Iger Finally Do Away With the Theme Park Reservation System?

Reinstated Disney CEO Bob Iger has quite the task ahead of him as he moves back into his former top executive position following the ousting of former CEO Bob Chapek.

So far, Iger has shared a heartfelt message with Disney Cast Members immediately following the announcement that he would return to the company on Sunday, and he already has a town hall meeting planned with Cast and employees for early next week.

Walt Disney Studio Lot

Credit: USA Today

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With lots of times on the metaphorical “wish list” from Disney fan’s following Iger’s return, the company under his leadership may not have time to get to everything during his two-year contract. Still, one request seems to be topping the list for many fans, and that involves the removal of the theme park reservation system.

The theme park reservation system was put into place shortly after Iger’s first departure from the CEO position while he was still serving as Executive Chairman. It is difficult to compare the need for the reservation system back then though (summer 2020) when the Walt Disney World Resort reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic and was subject to state and local capacity limits as well as recommendations from the CDC.

crowd-disney-world-guests

Credit: ITM

RELATED: Disney CEO Bob Chapek Discusses How Price Increases & Reservations Protect the Guest Experience

When health and safety restrictions from the CDC and governing bodies lessened, Disney continued to operate with a theme park reservation system that still exists today. Since the system was introduced during the unprecedented situation that unfolded in 2020, few people disagreed with the concept from the start, but now, nearly three years later, Guests have expressed the need for a change.

The theme park reservation system has caused confusion over Guests who did not realize they needed reservations before showing up at a Disney Park, only to discover that reservations were not available, and it has even led to a lawsuit by Annual Passholders who believe selling out reservations contradicts passes they purchased with no block-out dates.

Cinderella Castle

Credit: Disney

Bob Chapek continued to defend the reservation system throughout his tenure as CEO claiming that by giving the company the ability to manage capacity, everyone who visited the Parks was in for a better Guest experience. Moreover, Chapek repeatedly used examples of hypothetical families who travel a long distance on their once-in-a-lifetime or once-every-five-years trip to the Parks, and how the reservation system prevented them from being disappointed when they arrived to find that the Parks were full (as if this happened more than once or twice per year prior to the reservation system…)

With Iger set to restructure several areas of the Walt Disney Company with a focus on restoring creativity and focusing on the Guest experience, it is possible that we will finally see the end of the theme park reservation system (and with it, the end of that pesky 2:00 p.m. or later Park Hopping restriction.)

Bob Iger, Bob Chapek in Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

Credit: Disney

RELATED: Why is Walt Disney World STILL Requiring Theme Park Reservations?

As far as a general restructuring goes, the theme park reservation system is at the center of the issue, close to the Park Hopping issue, pause on Annual Pass sales, and of course, issues with Genie+ and Lightning Lane. If there is one move that would be the easiest to accomplish in the immediate future, it seems lifting the reservation policy would be the way to start.

Of course, we cannot know for sure that a change like this is coming until it is officially announced. As such, we will continue to monitor updates out of the Walt Disney Company, and will report 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."