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The one constant at Walt Disney World is change, as the massive theme park resort always has something new on the horizon. While fans frequently get frustrated when favorite attractions are replaced, there's always something new coming along to replace it. However, this week Walt Disney World announced the end of something, and it doesn't appear there will be any replacement for it. Disney's Magical Express the complimentary bus service that has taken vacations from the Orlando Airport to Walt Disney World since 2005, will be ending its service at the end of 2021, and while this may look like the standard procedure for change, this is potentially a much bigger change than it appears on the surface, as it has the potential to change the way many visit Walt Disney World entirely.
Disney Magical Express was an incredibly convenient way for visitors to the Magic Kingdom to get from the airport to their Walt Disney World resort hotel. Guests didn't even need to pick up their own bags at the airport. They simply needed to board the bus, and Disney World would take care of checked bags getting into the hotel room. While the bus service itself will continue for the next 12 months, the bag service portion is over as of now.
Of course, the whole thing was sort of brilliant. It made the need for additional vacation costs, like rental cars or taxi fees, unnecessary, essentially saving people money. Of course, without a car, those vacationers were sort of stuck at Disney World, meaning every penny they spent was spent there rather than someplace else.
With the end of the Magical Express, Walt Disney World is essentially writing off this captive audience. Why they would do this isn't entirely clear. It seems likely that with the convenience of ride share services like Uber and Lyft, taking a day trip from Walt Disney World to other places is now so easy, people were using that to get off property when they wanted to visit other places, and so the Magical Express is simply no longer doing its job. This makes it an expense that perhaps Disney simply doesn't need anymore, and with business being what it is, saving money where possible is likely seen as a necessity.
Mears, the transportation company that managed the magical Express under contract with Walt Disney World released a statement that made it clear that company had no interest in ending the service.
Spending an entire vacation at Walt Disney World is still very easy to do of course, and many people still will do just that. However, without Magical Express being an option, one assumes many more people will consider other options outside of Walt Disney World. If you've got a rental car, then changing hotels to another resort becomes easy. And staying off-property, at a hotel that's close by, but not actually part of Walt Disney World, becomes much easier to do as well. Depending on the cost, staying someplace less expensive may make more sense, even with the added cost of rental cars, parking, and/or ride share. The simplicity of staying on property is still part of the calculation, but less so.
Disney doesn't make these moves without really considering things, so I'm sure the company feels like this is the right move, but for those who will be looking to plan a Orlando vacation next year and beyond, this could really be a decision that changes people's plans. Vacations are a lot of work and the simplicity of Magical Express made Walt Disney World that much more attractive. The lack of it certainly won't keep guests away, but it might keep them from committing their whole trip to Disney.