Suit filed against Disney World Hotel for refusal to waive $1 million cancellation fee after group cancels conference in response to rise in COVID cases

Credit: TripAdvisor

The Swan Hotel at Walt Disney World is in hot water over its refusal to allow for a conference cancellation sans fees in light of a tidal wave of COVID-19 cases hitting the Sunshine State and the country.

Walt Disney World Swan Hotel

Credit: Marriott

Court documents filed on Tuesday by the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) in the United States District Court’s Orlando division detail the group’s desire to cancel its winter meetings that were scheduled to be held at the hotel on Disney World property from January 27 through February 5, 2022.

International Union of Operating Engineers symbol

Credit: IUOE

The Swan Hotel doesn’t take issue with the cancellation, but rather with the IUOE’s requests to have a cancellation fee of more than $1 million waived. The IUOE claims that the basis for its cancellation is the growing number of COVID cases that would put its members in danger of being exposed to the virus and becoming ill while traveling to the conference and also while they are in Florida to attend the conference.

Swan Ballroom - Theater room

The Swan Hotel Ballroom or Theater Room for conferences and meetings/Credit: Marriott

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Approximately 400 Guests from Canada and the United States had planned to travel to The Swan and Dolphin Resort near Disney World to attend the IUOE’s winter meetings. The reservation contract was signed in December 2018, three years ago and more than a year before the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States.

Now, in light of the pandemic and the growing number of cases of the new variant of the virus, the IUOE wants to cancel its winter meetings, but The Swan Hotel is imposing a cancellation fee of almost $1.05 million for doing so. Per court documents, the penalty amount matches the amount of revenue the hotel believes the conference would have generated once costs for each Guest room, food for Guests, and other expenses were accounted for.

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The IUOE cited a force majeure provision in the contract it signed with the hotel when it notified The Swan Hotel on December 2, 2021, that it was canceling its conference at the hotel because of the two prevalent variants of the coronavirus–delta and omicron.

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Artist rendering of the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus/Credit: LiveScience

According to the American Bar Association, a force majeure provision in a contract “allocates the risk of loss if performance is hindered, delayed, or prevented because of an event that the parties could not have anticipated or controlled.” Further, the provision “provides a contractual defense, the scope, and effect of which will depend on the express terms of a particular contract.”

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Court documents filed by the IUOE state that The Swan Hotel refused to cancel the contract without the massive penalty, even with the special clause in the original contract.

“Against the backdrop of the [Swan] Hotel’s tone-deaf insistence that IUOE send its conference attendees into a dangerous environment, COVID-19 cases and deaths in Florida continue to rise, and the CDC guidelines continue to advise against large gatherings and promote social distancing of at least 6 feet,” documents for the lawsuit read. “Travel to and from the event will place many attendees in situations where their exposure to COVID-19 and potential serious illness [are] a statistical certainty. IUOE believes the public health crisis and the threat to the health and the lives of its 400 attendees will render performance under the Contract illegal, impossible or impracticable.”

Walt Disney World Swan Hotel sitting on the banks of Crescent Lake at dawn

Credit: Disney

A spokesperson for the hotel, Joel Kaiman, said Wednesday that The Swan Hotel doesn’t make comments concerning pending litigation.

The Walt Disney World Resort does not own The Swan and Dolphin Hotels, though they are located on Disney property. Both hotels are owned by Marriott, and each is a Category 6 Marriott Hotel.











About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!