Major Airline’s New Rules Transform Disney World Flights

minnie mouse in front of southwest plane
Credit: Disney

Flying to Walt Disney World on certain airlines may change soon, with a controversial policy up for debate.

Orlando International Airport

Credit: Orlando International Airport

Unless you live close to Florida or you love a long road trip, you are likely to fly into Orlando when you come on your Walt Disney World vacation. Orlando International Airport is designed to greet guests with a magical Disney touch, whether you are landing in Terminal A, Terminal B, or the new Terminal C section of the airport. 

With Disney stores and billboards around every turn, guests will know they are moments from the most magical place on earth as soon as they land.

In fact, flying into Orlando for a Disney vacation has become so popular that Orlando International Airport broke records in March with most passengers traveling through MCO in a single day. By the end of the year, over 56 million guests are expected to arrive into the sunshine state to hear Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer greet them as they hop aboard the monorail to baggage claim (if you have ever landed into terminal B, you know the feeling.)

Lately, multiple airlines, such as Lynx Airlines (not to be confused with the new and controversial LYNX bus service), have either shut down entirely or terminated their Orlando route, giving guests fewer options when picking their flights into the city.

Now, Southwest Airlines, one of the popular and more affordable flight options, has shared that big changes are coming, which will change one of their unique policies.

orlando international airport planes on tarmac at sunset

Credit: Orlando International Airport (MCO)

CNBC writes, “Southwest Airlines is considering changes to its single-class, open-seating cabins to drive up revenue, CEO Bob Jordan told CNBC on Thursday, a shift that would be among the largest in the airline’s history.”

“We’re looking into new initiatives, things like how we seat and board our aircraft,” Jordan said in an interview after the carrier’s disappointing first-quarter report.

Southwest Airlines stands out from competitors with its unique approach. Its fleet consists solely of Boeing 737 aircraft, offering a single, streamlined economy-class cabin. While this was initially a pro, the recent string of Boeing 737 accidents may make the airline less desirable to some.

Unlike some airlines, Southwest doesn’t assign seats beforehand. However, they give passengers the option to purchase earlier boarding, allowing them to choose their preferred spot on the plane.

MCO tsa

Credit: WFLA, X post

This focus on simplicity extends beyond the passenger experience. Southwest prioritizes streamlining its operations, minimizing costs and complexities throughout its business model.

This approach stands in stark contrast to rivals like Delta and United. These airlines have seen significant growth in their premium cabin offerings, such as business class, and boast strong sales figures for additional services and upgrades. Southwest even allows baggage on board for free, lowering costs for passengers yet again compared to their competitors.

But with Southwest looking to bolster its bottom line and knowing that “Eight U.S. carriers—Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit and United—together brought in $4.2 billion from seating fees in their domestic networks in 2022,” adding a fee for seat selection may be a good start.

Minnie Mouse poses in front of a Southwest airplane.

Credit: Southwest Airlines

Jordan did note that adding this extra charge is something that the airline is heavily considering at this time; however, their free two-baggage policy will remain as is: ” People choose Southwest Airlines because we don’t have bag fees.”

Southwest has been a popular option for Disney travelers specifically, so much so that the airline teamed up with Disney during the theme park’s 50th anniversary to wrap some of their planes. 

While this would be a small overall fee to add to a Walt Disney World vacation, it will certainly add up. Price increases have been spreading over The Walt Disney World Resort, with food and hotel costs going up, and Disney Genie+ costing as much as $35 per day just to use 2-3 Lightning Lane options at Magic Kingdom.

A Ferry boat taking guests from TTC to Magic Kingdom via a Disney transportation service.

Credit: Inside The Magic

Plus, if you are flying into MCO, gone are the days of Disney’s Magical Express, the complimentary bus service to and from your resort. Now, guests must either taxi, Uber, Lyft, or take a paid bus service like Mears Connect to get to their Disney resort and back to the airport. 

Disney CEO Bob Iger also stated that in 2025, ticket prices for Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will rise yet again to $190 per day, at their highest. Ticket prices across the board have increased by roughly $5 to $10 per ticket per day.

As Deadline reported just last year, Bob Iger, Disney’s reinstated CEO, acknowledged that fans had valid reasons to feel frustrated as theme park ticket prices steadily increased under the previous leadership. He admitted that this was not the most effective approach to managing the brand.

“I always believed that Disney was a brand that needs to be accessible,” he said. “And I think that in our zeal to grow profits, we may have been a little bit too aggressive about some of our pricing. And I think there is a way to continue to grow our business but be smarter about how we price so that we maintain that brand value of accessibility.”

A bustling Magic Kingdom street lined with fanciful buildings under a clear blue sky, leading towards a carousel with a colorful tent top.

Credit: ITM

That way of thinking seems to have gone out the window.

These higher ticket prices may be implemented to offset the upcoming $60 billion theme park and Disney Cruise Line expansion over the next 10 years, which aims to increase capacity and add new stories to the parks.

Do you prefer to fly to Walt Disney World when you visit? 

This post originally appeared on Inside the Magic

About Alessia Dunn

Orlando theme park lover who loves thrills and theming, with a side of entertainment. You can often catch me at Disney or Universal sipping a cocktail, or crying during Happily Ever After or Fantasmic.

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