Why Shanghai Disneyland is Shafting Annual Passholders
Just over a month ago I was fortunate enough to go to Shanghai Disneyland on its re-opening day after the park was shut down for coronavirus related health concerns.
Anticipation was high because this was the very first Disney park in the world to re-open, so I couldn’t believe that I was able to get tickets.
Even though I’m an annual pass-holder, I still need to get tickets any time I want to enter the park. The tickets are free and necessary because they’re how the park monitors its strict guest capacity.
While the virus remains a threat in China, Shanghai Disneyland will continue to run an online reservation system and only allow a fraction of regular guest capacity to enter every day.
Luckily for me, the opening day was also a weekday, so I was able to get in. Not many people in China often find themselves in a position to have fun at Disneyland on a workday.
But ever since re-opening day, I’ve had absolutely no luck in getting tickets, and until recently I had no idea why.
The Sunday Scandal
The trouble starts with the popularity of Sunday and the way Disney’s annual passes are structured in China.
Shanghai Disneyland has three pass options that were recently renamed Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Silver only allows access on Sundays, Gold only allows access on weekdays and Sundays, and Platinum allows access anytime. Platinum is twice the price of Gold, so it’s not very popular.
The only thing all passes have in common is that they allow access on Sundays, which makes Sunday an insanely popular day.
Sunday is made even more popular by the fact that regular ticket buyers are largely everyday Chinese people who work standard six-day per week jobs.
The regular job is Monday to Friday, with Saturday being an unofficial make-up day that you use to make-up any work you didn’t manage to finish through the week.
Sunday is the day that most people have for leisure, so it’s the perfect storm of high demand and low availability.
This high demand on one day each week has put Disney in an awkward position.
They just suffered months of absolutely no revenue, and still suffer six days per week. There’s only one day that the park receives real demand, and they can only let in a fraction of the guests they’d like to let in. So what do they do?
It seems that Disneyland may be locking out annual passholders to allow space for casual guests who bought one-time tickets.
While unethical, this is a practice that makes complete sense from a business standpoint.
The Dubious Online Reservation System
Annual pass-holders have already paid entry for an entire year, and our money has already been collected. So in a normal world, the amount of value we got from the pass would be entirely in our hands.
However, with the introduction of the online reservation system, the value of the pass is back in Disney’s hands.
When you go online to book your reservation, you first have to tell the website whether you’re using a one-time ticket or an annual pass.
Which calendar of availability your shown is dependant on whether you’ve told the website your an annual passholder or a one-time ticketed guest.
When I use the app to try and buy a regular ticket for this Sunday, not only is Sunday available, it’s not even being billed as peak period. It seems as though there’s plenty of space.
However, when I go onto the annual pass side (of which I have the most expensive diamond pass because I’m insane), Sunday is booked, as is every Sunday every week.
The diamond pass is so expensive because it allows entire-year access, even on public holidays. (Usually).
The calendar for annual passholders allows booking six days in advance of the day you want to enter. Today is Friday, so I’m able to book a ticket for any day until next Thursday (Thursday is booked out strangely, which is very rare).
Monday is the day that you’d ordinarily book tickets for Sunday, so you’d think that by sitting in front of the computer each Sunday night with the refresh key handy, eventually you’d be successful..
.. you’d be wrong.
While every other day acts normally in regards to following the six-day rule, Sunday behaves strangely every week.
I log in on Sunday night (in anticipation of it unlocking at midnight), and strangely, Sunday is already booked up, even though we’re still seven days out.
A Shanghai Disneyland cast-member told me that I should be booking at 1pm not midnight, but this theory is debunked because tickets are being sold-out at insane nonsensical times that change every week.
Sometimes I’ll jump on a week before and it’s sold out, even though it’s still seven days out. Sometimes I’ll login on a Sunday and tickets are only available until the following Tuesday.
If you’re accessing the site on a Sunday or Monday, you can bet that your experience will be far more confusing than on any other day.
When it comes to booking Sunday tickets, the website is a buggy mess trying to disguise the fact that Sunday is never available.
A couple of weeks ago (on a Monday) the website wouldn’t even let me log in for several hours, then once I finally did get in, you’ll never guess which day was booked solid..
There’s too much smoke for there to be no fire..
The evidence is piled high at this point that shows Disney is blocking access to annual pass-holders on Sundays in favour of guests that are paying for one time tickets.
They’re blocking access by having the website act strangely during booking periods and pretending that tickets were somehow sold out while the website was bugging out.
Why? Because Sunday is by far the most popular day and it makes no business sense to fill the park with people who add no extra financial value.
I know America takes this kind of unethical business practice a lot more seriously, so I’m betting US-based Disney parks will have to work a lot harder when trying to disguise these kinds of shenanigans or they’ll find themselves at the butt-end of a class-action lawsuit.
So to all American readers, I say, be careful.
Disney has suffered a lot because of the virus, and they’re not above shady business practices when it comes to making the shareholders happy.
I also recommend not going to Disney unless you have a hazmat suit because people take social distancing about as seriously as Disney values its passholders.