Magical Express transportation and Extra Magic Hours will no longer be options for guests.
While 2020 brought many changes to "the happiest place on earth," it seems that 2021 still has more in store. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walt Disney World has had to make many adjustments to how people visit, some temporary and others permanent. Many of the services and experiences that were suspended during the park closure and subsequent reopening have resumed in a different form than they were pre-March 2020. The most recent change was announced this week on the Disney Parks Blog: starting on January 1, 2022, the Magical Express will no longer be available as a transportation option for Disney World resort guests. Disney also announced the replacement of Extra Magic Hours with an across-the-board 30-minute early entry for resort guests.
For years, Disney's Magical Express has been the beginning of the magic for resort guests and has been one of the touted benefits of staying at an on-property resort. The free service delivers guests from Orlando International Airport to their resort via bus, and pre-pandemic even delivered luggage to the guests' rooms and allowed guests to check-in for flights from their resort for their departures. Once the parks reopened this past summer, the service no longer included luggage delivery or check-in. Now, when booking for 2022 opens later this year, Magical Express will no longer be an option at all. Disney cited the expanded offerings of alternative transportation (such as ride-sharing services) as the reasoning behind retiring the service.
While the implication is that guests value the flexibility of alternative options more, the comments on the blog post (almost universally negative) clearly show that people think it's a terrible idea to retire this magical extra. Mears, the company that runs the service for Disney, has said they will continue to offer transportation, but it won't ever be quite the same.
Another perk of staying on-property was the ability to arrive to select parks early or stay late for "Extra Magic Hours." This is also not coming back in its original form. Prior to the pandemic, one park each day would have extended hours just for resort guests (and guests of select non-Disney hotels), usually an extra hour prior to opening, but sometimes up to three hours after park closure. This perk has not resumed yet in any form, and when it does it will be an across-the-board early entry of 30 minutes. This means that resort guests will be able to get into any of the parks 30 minutes prior to the general public, regardless of the day.
The change is likely due to concerns about overcrowding as we continue through this pandemic since Extra Magic Hours often results in that day's park being very crowded for the entire day. Limiting early entry to only 30 minutes will likely ease this crowding, since many may not find it worth the rush.
While it is understandable that things must change in the wake of COVID, these changes are especially disappointing to many die-hard Disney fans. The loss of the Magical Express and Extra Magic Hours (on top of the earlier discontinuation of free Magic Bands) signals the end of just a little bit more of the magic that made staying on-property special.
Are you sad to see the Magical Express and Extra Magic Hours go? Let us know in the comments below!