Walt Disney World passholders file lawsuit over theme park reservation system, park hopping

Two Disney annual passholders have filed a federal lawsuit against Walt Disney World over its park reservation system, which was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic and requires passholders and guests to purchase theme park tickets and to make a reservation in order to visit -- alleging the theme park company breached its passholders' contract by restricting their access to the theme parks.

The lawsuit was filed in Florida federal court on Tuesday by two people – identified as "E.K." and "M.P." – who both have reportedly been Walt Disney World passholders for several years, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, E.K. and M.P. both purchased premium passes, which reportedly did not have "blockout dates" – dates where passholders were unable to visit Disney's theme parks due to high attendance, outside of purchasing a ticket. However, during the 2020 pandemic, Walt Disney World added a park reservation system for passholders and general ticketholders to manage crowd size, a system that still remains in place.

"It was believed by the Plaintiffs and other members of the class that this reservation system would only be temporary and would end once the threat of the pandemic lessened because they had not been subjected to this system pre-pandemic. By restricting access to the park, Disney effectively unilaterally modified all Platinum Pass holders’ and Platinum Plus pass holders’ contracts. These pass holders were forced to reluctantly agree to the terms of this new agreement, having no meaningful alternative," the lawsuit states.

The passholders also challenge the limits on "park hopping," a feature that allows guests to visit multiple parks on the same day. Passholders and day guests can still visit multiple parks with a "park hopper" ticket, but cannot switch parks until 2 p.m., according to Disney's website.

"Plainly put, by choosing not to honor the term "no Blockout Dates", Disney has engaged in breach of implied contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. Plaintiffs have initiated this lawsuit to remedy the foregoing and to seek actual damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.," the lawsuit stated.

You can read the lawsuit below.

In response, Walt Disney World said it has been upfront with its passholders about changes to the program, and that the lawsuit "mischaracterizes the program and its history."

"Annual Passholders continue to be some of our biggest fans and most loyal guests. We’ve been upfront with Passholders about the updates we’ve made, and we offered them the flexibility to opt in or opt out of the program early in the pandemic, including refunds if they desired. This lawsuit mischaracterizes the program and its history, and we will respond further in court," Disney said in a statement.

The plaintiffs seek class-action status and have requested a jury by trial.

A similar lawsuit was filed in California in 2021 against Disney after a passholder – referred there as Magic Keys – claims to have purchased a pass with no blockout dates, but was restricted from visiting the park due to limited reservations.

According to the Orange County Register, in May, a judge ruled that the lawsuit could move forward after Disney filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Disney has denied all allegations in that lawsuit, the newspaper reports.