Mears reveals alternative for axed Magical Express shuttle to Disney hotels

Mears reveals alternative for axed Magical Express shuttle to Disney hotels
Photo via Disney
With pre-pandemic crowds regularly causing its theme parks to close for capacity on the busiest days, Disney is seeking out new ways to make its shareholders happy.

Earlier this year, it took one of the boldest moves since Bob Chapek took over as CEO last year when the company announced it would be ending the complimentary airport shuttle service, Magical Express, for on-site hotel guests. Starting in 2022, on-site guests, including those stays in Disney suites that can regularly go for more than $1,000 per night, must find their own transportation to and from the resort.

Some have pointed to the upcoming Brightline  train service that will link Orlando International Airport to Disney World as an alternative, but this service is still years away.

Instead, many will likely opt for the new shuttle service offered by Mears. Mears, best known for their kingpin role in Central Florida transit, operated the Magical Express and was deeply unhappy about Disney’s announcement not to renew their contract. They quickly vowed to offer their own alternative and we now know what they have in store.

Mears Connect will offer guests arriving to Orlando International Airport quick access to Walt Disney World resort hotels. Many of the same benefits that Magical Express offered, such as onboard entertainment will be provided.

“We plan to offer the same level of experience, service, and convenience we’ve provided for the last 16 years, on behalf of our longtime partner, as returning guests and first-time visitors can expect nothing less,” said Roger Chapin, a Mears spokesperson. “It is important for visitors to know they will still have many of the same safe transportation options for their Orlando visit, all offered by the same company who has been providing seamless, economical, and hassle-free transportation for decades.”

The service has two tiers, with the Standard offering roundtrip service for $32 per adult/$27 per child and one-way tickets costing exactly half that. For those seeking direct service to and from their hotel, an Express option is available for a $200 flat fee for up to four guests. The prices are introductory and will likely rise on higher demand days, but they note that they will not engage in surge pricing. They also recommend making reservations, which can be done via their website.

The prices are slightly lower than Universal’s SuperStar Shuttle service, operated by Mears competitor SuperShuttle. For now, Mears Connect will not provide service to Universal Orlando.

Mears Connect will begin service to Disney World’s on-site resorts, Hotel Plaza area, the Bonnet Creek resorts, the Four Seasons, and other select Lake Buena Vista area resorts. They’ve indicated that the service may expand in the future. Mears does offer other transportation options, including via a partnership with Uber, for those guests seeking access to areas not available from their shuttles.

The pricing is above what Brightline charged for tickets of a similar distance in South Florida, but pricing for the Orlando International Airport to Disney leg has yet to be shared. The private train service remains years away, with ongoing negotiations on what route the service should take between Disney and the airport. Many local officials are pushing for one that would also provide rail service to the International Drive district despite this alignment costing twice what Brightline’s preferred route is estimated to cost.

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