Is Disney THAT desperate?
Getting rid of Disney’s Magical Express is a major issue for many visitors to the Magic Kingdom. What had once been part of the excellent guest experience is now something else for busy families to have to not only plan for but spend more money on. In the most recent edition of Disney Files Magazine, the publication produced for Disney Vacation Club, the question for the “Listening Post” column was about finding alternate transportation to the resort. Disney’s answer? Find your own solution.
When they first announced the change, cast members we asked made it seem like it would be just as easy as it has always been. Who operates it may have changed but the convenience would stay the same. Although they did not say it, another difference was the cost. Obviously, it would no longer be included as part of your vacation package. But how much and how long were questions still to be answered.
Mears, the company which operated the former Disney Magical Express on behalf of Disney, still runs a shuttle service to the resorts. They offer two options, Standard and Express. Express is the option most closely resembling the former service and costs a whopping $250 for four OR LESS people with a $55 charge for each additional passenger. Standard service for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) would cost substantially less at $118 round trip but takes longer and makes more stops. But since it’s a per person cost, a couple on their honeymoon could go for only $64 combined (vs. the flat rate $250). It’s just a matter of when you arrive. Mears doesn’t post on their website approximate travel times for each service, but contacting a representative from the company says a Standard trip makes 3 stops vs. 1 stop for the Express.
There are other options also (as there always has been) including taxis, Uber and Lyft (as unreliable as those can be at times), and of course limo service. But the reasoning behind Disney’s decision to cut ties with Mears is unclear beyond the obvious – maximizing profits for the company. Since Bob Iger stepped down as CEO, Chapek and/or his team have continued to introduce these “cost cutting” measures to maximize profits at the cost of their guests. But no one is fooled by these quick ways to turn a buck.
One of the reasons Disney is so beloved is they seem to genuinely care about their guests. They have gone the extra mile to produce “the Disney experience.” When I took a class at the Disney Institute, they were quick to point out that what gives Disney the competitive edge is their focus on guest happiness. They are able to be successful despite the economy because they offer an experience that is worth the extra cost. When guests are happy, they will WANT to come back and they will invite family and friends. But Chapek is chipping away at that experience by nickel and diming guests. Many perks which were once included in a Disney vacation package are slowly disappearing – like the Magical Express and FastPass just to name two.
Hopefully Disney leadership will realize they may be able to turn a short term profit but the long term reputation and thus the long term prospect for future profits is being eroded away. It’s hard to replace an outstanding leader like Bob Iger with anyone, but profit-minded leadership is always short-sighted – a sure downfall for a company that relies on visionaries.