Walt Disney World, Orlando International Airport strike deal to extend Disney’s Magical Express

Walt Disney World and Orlando International Airport completed a deal Wednesday to continue the resort’s free passenger-and-luggage shuttle until at least the end of 2016.

Under the terms of the deal, the airport agreed not to raise the 75-cent-a-passenger fee it charges the resort for Disney’s Magical Express. The previous contract would have allowed the airport to raise the fee to as much as $1.50 a passenger under certain circumstances.

Disney buses ferried just under 2.2 million travelers from OIA to either its resort hotels or cruise ships in 2008, according to airport figures. That works out to about $1.6 million a year in payments to the airport — compared with about $3.2 million were the per-passenger fee doubled.

The previous agreement had been set to expire at the end of 2011. The new pact also gives Disney the option to extend the agreement by another five years, until 2021.

Airport leaders have been working to cut costs and raise money — including plans to cut an undisclosed number of jobs — as passenger traffic and revenue tumble amid the global recession. But Jeff Fuqua, chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, said the agency decided it was better served by not raising Disney’s fee, in return for securing a longer commitment from the company to operate Magical Express.

Because Disney’s Magical Express luggage is processed in a remote hangar at the airport, the service diverts thousands of bags every day away from OIA’s main luggage-sorting systems and claim areas. That eases pressure on the airport to spend money expanding its baggage facilities, Fuqua said.

“What they were looking for was control on costs. What we were looking for was to relieve ourselves of capital costs — big costs,” Fuqua said.

The airport also agreed to raise the threshold under which it could have forced Disney to open a second customer check-in location in the airport’s main terminal. Under the previous deal, OIA could have required Disney to rent more counter space once Magical Express reached 2.2 million arriving travelers in any 12-month period; now, it can do so only once the shuttle service reaches 2.5 million arriving passengers

The new agreement continues a provision preventing Disney from establishing another Magical Express at any airport within a 100 mile radius of OIA — ensuring Disney can’t bring the service to Orlando Sanford International Airport.

“We’re pleased the contract extension will enable us to continue to operate Disney’s Magical Express for many years to come,” Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty said. “We think Disney’s Magical Express has proven to be incredibly successful it has benefited the airport and the Central Florida community, as well as Walt Disney World and millions of visitors to our region.”


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