BOSTON (CBS) – Walt Disney World celebrates its 40th Anniversary tomorrow. A lot has changed in central Florida and the aviation industry in the last four decades.
On October 1, 1971: 10,000 people visited The Magic Kingdom. Today Disney World hosts over 50 million visitors a year. When the park opened, it had about 5,500 employees. Today, with major expansion, it employs nearly 60,000.
Orlando is one of Boston’s major destinations with both direct and connecting airline service. Orlando built a new airport to handle the domestic business. Nearby Sanford Airport is used by international charter flights. It has its own customs hall, rent-a-car facilities and check-in counters for people who visit for a week.
When Disney began operating in Florida, Eastern Air Lines along with Northeast Yellow birds and its merger with Delta carried the majority of the passengers to Florida.
Eastern operated from its own Terminal A at Logan Airport. It also maintained a large reservation center on the airport. Eastern went bankrupt in the early ‘90’s after attempting mergers with New York Air and Continental Airlines.
It was the introduction of jet aircraft and airline deregulation in 1978 that brought new airline service to Orlando, along with a reduction of airline fares.
Disney World has always counted on Florida residents and snowbirds from the northeast to boost attendance. When the park opened, parking was just 50 cents. Today it is $14 a day. When Disney opened, there were 23 attractions. Today there are 35 major sites in the park.
Disney World now has a major competitor in Orlando.
Universal Studios opened the Harry Potter theme park this year and it has been a runaway success, thanks to the books and movies.
Bob Weiss’ All Things Travel reports can be heard weekends on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.