Disney World has a big problem

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Long weekends have traditionally been very popular times for Walt Disney (SAY) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report Florida Theme Parks. People get an extra day and that makes Disney World an attractive destination not only for travelers but also for locals who hold annual passes.

Add to that that some public schools in the Northeast have February vacations that include the holidays, and you have a very busy time at the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot.

This normally crowded time becomes even more complicated for Disney, its guests and future guests as the shadow of Covid still hangs over the parks. Capacity limitations remain in place due to staffing issues and some large capacity shows are not yet operating.

And to complicate matters further, Disney parks still require reservations to visit, and most of those reservations — especially those for annual passholders — have already been claimed.

Disney World, at least for President’s Day weekend, is too popular.

That might be a good problem, but it’s still a problem.

Disney World has too many visitors

Disney knew crowded parks and being at full capacity was a problem. The company had stopped selling most categories of annual passes (except one that has numerous blackout dates) to manage demand at its already stressed parks.

That may have helped, but it didn’t fully work as President’s Day weekend crowds seek to push the parks to their limits, according to a report by Theme Park Tourist.

“For those planning to visit Walt Disney World over the next week, beware, as theme park reservations are limited and some parks are already at capacity on certain days, which means there are no more uptime,” Natalie Sim wrote.

“Currently, there is still availability for Annual Passholders on select days outside of Presidents Day itself on Monday, February 21, and availability is limited for February 18 and 19.”

The Magic Kingdom has no availability from February 17 until the end of the Monday holiday. There is currently no availability at any park on Monday, February 21.

In theory, reservations open up when people cancel their visits to the parks. This is unlikely to happen in large numbers for people who flew to visit the Disney theme park.

However, annual pass holders can make a reservation and then choose not to go. If they cancel, that slot goes back into the available pool (so sometimes sitting down on the reservations page on the Disney website and hitting refresh can score you a reservation on a seemingly full day.

Why is out of stock an issue for Disney World?

Disney offers different pools of reservations for passholders and people who have purchased tickets for one or more days at the parks. Not having reservations available — entry requires both a valid ticket and a reservation — frustrates people visiting Florida theme parks for just a few days.

They might be able to visit one of the parks, but if they’ve set their sights on Magic Kingdom because they have kids, or Hollywood Studios because they love “Star Wars,” going to Epcot or at Animal Kingdom can be disappointing. It’s an expensive disappointment when you factor in airfare, hotel and food costs.

Annual pass holders have a different complaint. Before the reservation system, they could go to the parks on a whim. Now not only do they have to make reservations, but they run the risk that there won’t be one available.

Indeed, these two problems are the same problem. Disney runs the risk of giving paying customers less than they had hoped for. The parks reached capacity before the pandemic. This usually happened in the Magic Kingdom during major holidays. At that time, however, capacity simply meant that guests could queue until someone left, and then a new person could be admitted.

That’s not how it works in the current system, and it suggests that Disney might actually raise prices more during peak times. This would increase revenue while possibly reducing crowds by attracting some visitors to less busy times of the year.

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