More Grumbles About WDW Ticket Prices

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's been a couple weeks, and I'm still grumpy about the WDW ticket price increases. Listening to Episode 760 of the WDW Today podcast, I realized that the situation's worse than my last article suggested; while the one-day and AP tickets didn't increase all that much faster than inflation, the most popular tickets went up several times faster than inflation, with close to a 10% jump in price.

Strangely enough, I find myself missing Disneyland Paris, and not just for their excellent audio-animatronic dragon under Sleeping Beauty Castle. No, I'm missing part of their ticket pricing scheme.

Until recently, Disneyland Paris offered the Francillien Passport, an Annual Pass with a significant number of blackout days, plus one unusual constraint: It could not be used on the second and third days after purchase. So, if you bought the pass on Monday, you could use it that same day, but then could not use it again until Thursday, at which point it would be valid for the rest of the year, subject to scheduled blackout dates. This might have made the pass appealing to locals, but there was no residency requirement; Cast Members didn't bat an eye when I presented my United States passport for identification.

Since we were staying in Paris for two weeks, this pass was perfect for us. We bought our passes (and spent a day at the parks) early in our trip, then returned for three additional days later on. I'd checked the scheduled blackout dates in advance, of course, and none of them conflicted with our stay.

The Francillien Passport made it possible for a savvy consumer to save a lot of money, assuming they were willing to do some research and put up with some inconvenience. The Francillien Passport has been discontinued this year, but the Fantasy Passport still provides a relatively-inexpensive Annual Pass option. It carries a large number of blackout dates, but costs the same as a three-day park-hopper.

I do my research, and I always do the math. There simply aren't good ways to save much money on tickets for Walt Disney World. One can save a bit by using third-party ticket brokers; I'm a fan of the Ticket Calculator on TouringPlans.com, and I've also bought my share of tickets at my local AAA office. But the bottom line is, the savings are still only a small percentage of the ticket price.

One silver lining, I suppose, is that Annual Passes haven't been heavily affected by price increases in the past 10 years, especially compared to the increases in other categories. Many of us have complained in the past that Disney doesn't do enough to thank its most loyal customers; I for one still wish they had a frequent-stay program for their onsite hotels. But in keeping Annual Pass price increases reasonable, they do show some commitment to their most regular customers. In addition, this means that the gap is closing between multi-day tickets and Annual Passes, especially if one stays offsite and therefore must include the $14/day parking fee in their break-even calculations.

I don't have any easy answers -- I know that Disney is a publicly-traded company, and as such is under pressure from shareholders to continually increase profits. (An aside: Doesn't something feel kinda broken about that system? Why should profits have to continually rise, instead of continually exist?) I also know that, despite ticket prices that consistently rise faster than inflation, demand hasn't suffered much (and any losses from drop in demand for tickets may well have been offset by gains in ticket revenue). But I sure wish the bean-counters could find a way to offer better pricing on park admission.