disneyland park
Disney will lay off 28,000 employees at Disneyland and Walt Disney World as the company continues to struggle with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the six-month closure of its Anaheim theme parks, the company announced today.
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  • Disneyland has been closed since March due to California health and safety guidelines.
  • The park is ending its annual pass program and will refund passholders who paid for days beyond the parks’ closure.
  • The President of Disneyland Resort said the annual pass program will be replaced with new membership offerings that will be announced later on. 

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Disney announced on Thursday it is discontinuing its annual pass program for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks.

Due to California health and safety guidelines, Disneyland has been closed for over 10 months as coronavirus infections continue to rise in southern California.

The popular program allowed Disney enthusiasts to visit the park several times a year and featured a multi-tier ticketing system with a premium package of $1,399, which allowed visitors access to the park any day of the year.

Disney is refunding pass holders who paid for days beyond the parks’ closure in March. Disney paused monthly payment plans for annual passes and agreed to extend the end date on prepaid plan for passholders who didn’t want a refund when the parks closed.

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President of Disneyland Resort, Ken Potrock, said the annual pass program will be replaced with new membership offerings. 

"Our teams are taking the time now, during the closure, to develop new membership offerings that will provide choice, flexibility and value," a spokesperson told Insider. "Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock is eager to let APs (annual passholders) know that we appreciate their loyalty - and understanding during this time."

With an average daily attendance of 50,000 at the theme park, a replacement pass program for Disneyland is unlikely to be implemented until more people have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The US is not expected to reach widespread immunity until the end of the year, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield.

Government officials announced Monday that Disneyland Resort would be used as a mass vaccination site. The theme park will be one of five Super PODs in Orange County, where thousands of residents will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more: How Disney plans to expand its streaming services to key international markets with a playbook that's dramatically different from Netflix's

The change will not affect the Walt Disney World resort in Florida, which opened back up in July.

Disney will extend discount benefits to guests who had active annual passports as of March 14. These passholders will receive a 30% discount on merchandise at select stores, from Jan. 18 to Feb. 25.

Potrock said he anticipates the park's decision to end the program will be a blow to some of their most loyal guests, but that he's optimistic about the park's future.

"I know that sunsetting the Annual Passport program will be disappointing to many of our Passholders who are just as anxious as we are to reopen our gates and welcome Guests back when the time is right," Potrock said in a press release.

The pandemic cratered two of Disney's core businesses, parks and cruises. Disneyland's closure contributed to the company losing $4.72 billion, it announced in earnings reported in August, the company's first quarterly loss in almost 20 years. Disney laid off 28,000 workers across its US business in September to minimize costs. As a result of the realities of the pandemic, Disney leaned into its streaming business, prioritizing Disney Plus in a large reorganization announced in October.

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