Family Travel Theme Park

Coming to Disney: Surge Pricing?

Visitors to the Happiest Place on Earth may soon pay a premium to hobnob with Mickey and Goofy on the park’s busiest days. It’s called “surge pricing.”

When Uber implemented surge pricing for its ride-sharing services, the reaction from customers was a mixture of confusion and anger. What is this? And how dare you!

Although the concept of a company raising and lowering prices as demand waxes and wanes in real time is a familiar one, finding oneself on the pay-more side of the surge-pricing model can be infuriating, especially if it’s for a service where year-round prices are traditionally fixed, changing only gradually over extended time periods.

Visitors to Disneyland theme parks may be next in line to experience surge pricing first hand.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the company recently asked holders of its annual passes to complete an online survey clearly designed to gauge their willingness to pay surge prices for daily tickets to the company’s theme parks in Anaheim and Orlando.

The survey envisioned a three-tiered pricing scheme, with Gold tickets ($115) good every day, including high-demand periods; Silver tickets ($105) good for any day except high-demand days; and Bronze tickets ($99) good only for low-demand days. Disneyland currently charges $99 for an any-day-of-the-year ticket.

Since there’s no discount from the current year-round price for off-peak visits, the net effect of the proposed pricing model would necessarily be an increase in the average price paid by visitors. So it’s hard not to interpret the move as simply another way of digging deeper into consumers’ pockets. A gouge, in other words.

And in the case of a theme park, there’s also the fundamental disconnect between the pricier tickets and the value of the service received. During heavy demand periods, lines are longer, so customers will be paying more to spend more time waiting and less time enjoying the park’s rides.

Pay more to get less? Adding injury to insult is hardly the recipe for remaining the Happiest Place on Earth.

Reader Reality Check

What would Mickey do?

This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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