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Disneyland has longer lines, wait times during holiday passholder ban, data shows

Disneyland attraction lines were longer this Christmas season during an annual passholder ban compared to 2021 when Magic Keyholders packed the Anaheim theme park, according to wait time data released by Disney.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure average wait times rose 10% during the busy holiday period while Magic Key annual passholders were prohibited from entering the parks, according to an analysis of Thrill Data metrics.

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The annual Disneyland Christmas tree stands in Town Square at the foot of Main Street U.S.A. inside Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, November 11, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Thrill Data scrapes wait times released through the Disneyland mobile app and uses data analytics to track trends and generate charts about the visitor experience at the parks. Disneyland does not release daily attendance figures or discuss crowd levels.

For the first time in decades, Disneyland and DCA blocked all annual passholders from visiting the parks from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1.

The 2022 Christmas holiday season offered a glimpse of what a passholder-free Disneyland could look and feel like during what is traditionally the busiest time of the year at the parks.

Holiday decoration on Main Street U.S.A. inside Disneyland at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, November 11, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Average wait times at Disneyland and DCA were 42 minutes during the 2022 passholder blockout compared to 38 minutes during the same 12-day period in 2021, according an analysis of wait times collected by Thrill Data. The average 2022 holiday wait factor was 9 on a 10 scale compared to an 8 wait factor during the same period in 2021, according to the Thrill Data metrics.

The big difference: Disneyland experienced a wait factor of 10 out of 10 on five straight days from Dec. 27-31 in 2022 compared to only a single peak wait factor day during the same period in 2021, according to Thrill Data.

SEE ALSO: Disneyland announces virtual queue for ‘World of Color – One’ – What you need to know

Longer wait times for Disneyland and DCA attractions did not necessarily translate to more crowded conditions during the holidays — in part because visitors waiting in longer ride queues help free up space on theme park midways.

The queue for the popular Rise of the Resistance attraction reached “epic proportions” during the holidays with wait times rising to three hours in part due to visitors using the Genie+ Lightning Lane paid service to skip the standby line, according to MiceChat.

“Overall, the parks were very enjoyable during a season when they were nearly impossible to navigate in the past,” according to MiceChat. “Disney learned something: They can charge top dollar for park tickets and front of line, block passholders, create a better park experience and still make a record amount of money per guest.”

The annual Disneyland Christmas tree stands in Town Square at the foot of Main Street U.S.A. inside Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, November 11, 2022. This is the 25th year the ride has had a holiday overlay. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The absence of annual passholders during the 12-day holiday period changed traditional traffic patterns at Disneyland and DCA. Tourists less familiar with the parks stumbled upon nighttime spectaculars rather than filling walkways and streets to wait for the fireworks and water shows like in-the-know passholders. Disney parking garage entryways were relatively quiet in the afternoon as tourists arrived early and after-work rushes by passholders were nonexistent.

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In years past, passholders got blamed for the massive holiday crowds at Disneyland and DCA, according to MiceChat.

“What Magic Keys should be worried about is that Disney now knows they can fill the park without them,” according to MiceChat.

Disneyland used the yearlong pandemic closure to reboot the four decade-old annual passholder program — launching the new Magic Key program in August 2021.

A year later, Disneyland introduced a new Inspire top-tier annual pass with no park access during the two weeks at Christmas and New Year’s that replaced the former Dream Key with year-round access.

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