Disneyland fans blast annual-pass price hike as ‘greedy’

Disney said Sunday it will raise the prices on annual passes.

Disney said Sunday it will raise the prices on annual passes.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Happiest Place on Earth is about to get even more pricey, and customers aren't pleased.

Disney has discontinued the Premium annual pass, which for $779 a year allowed unlimited visits to both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure as well as free parking and discounts on some food and merchandise. Current passholders can continue to use the Premium pass until it expires but will have no option to renew.

SIGN UP for the free In the Loop theme parks newsletter >>

In its place are two more expensive options -- the Signature Plus pass, which costs $1,049 and includes all of the benefits of the Premium pass, along with parking and unlimited downloads of pictures taken through the PhotoPass program, and the Signature Pass, which costs $849 and includes all of the Signature Plus options but has about two weeks' worth of blackout days.

The prices of Disneyland's other annual passes also increased, as well as the price of parking.

The price increases quietly adopted by Disneyland over the weekend are intended to deter crowding by making visits to the park on the most popular days more expensive, according to industry analysts.

"Disney has a problem with excess demand," said Martin Lewison, a theme park expert and business management professor at Farmingdale State College in New York. "The park has a limited capacity. They have to close the gates on busy days. Nobody wants to do that."

The biggest crowding problems have been around the Christmas and New Year's holidays, and the price increases were timed to help control crowds for the upcoming holiday season, industry experts said.

But hard-core fans are irked because Disneyland already increased prices in February, and the park will have no major new attractions until the opening of Star Wars Land sometime in the next few years. 

Theme park experts say Disneyland is so popular that the timing and the size of the increase won't hurt the theme park's attendance numbers in the long run.

"You'll get a little bit of grousing by the people but they will continue to show up," said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati.

Here's evidence the price increase won't deter everyone from renewing their passes.

For more business news, follow @smasunaga.



Disneyland annual pass with no blackout days now costs more than $1,000

8 more unanswered questions about Disneyland's Star Wars Land

Disneyland 60th anniversary celebration gets end date -- but it may get a new use