The BLOGFlume—Into the Fray
Six Flags' new policy, new coaster, and the future of Fastpass
Written by Russell Meyer
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Washington Post 5/20/05
The Six Flags Corporation has recently added new verbiage to the back of its tickets and passes that reserves them the right to refuse entry to convicted sex offenders. This is the first time such a disclaimer has been associated with a theme park. With the increase of child molestation and kidnappings, Six Flags is sending a message to parents that they can feel safe about sending them to their local theme park without fear. Six Flags will not be conducting background checks on every single person the goes through the turnstiles, but if a person is seen exhibiting unusual behavior, a comprehensive check will be done, and if they are found to be a convicted sex offender, that person will be forever denied permission to enter the Six Flags family of parks. This sounds like a pretty sound rule to me, and while it will not necessarily prevent people from coming into the parks and stalking children, it does add some sort of deterrent to those who may have other interests at theme parks. However, it seems all are not happy with this decision. The story in the Washington Post seems to take the side of convicted sex offenders who committed their crimes long ago, have families now, and feel that they have the same rights as anyone else. Who are we kidding here? Equality is something that every American strives for, and something that every citizen of the United States expects, but when you commit a felony, you must face the consequences of that decision. Six Flags has made a very aggressive and pro-active stance here, and should be applauded, not criticized. Every other theme park company in the country should take notice here, and create similar rules, especially Disney.
Record Broken Officially
Despite nearly a month delay, Cedar Point fans can finally shed a tear, since Top Thrill Dragster is no longer the tallest, fastest roller coaster on earth. The new king of the giants is now Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. The coaster made its media debut on Thursday, sans yours truly, and made its official public debut this weekend. While the operation was not flawless, according to a number of first hand accounts, it did seem to perform better than Dragster did during its first weekend. Lines stretched for a reported 5 ½ hours because of some minor breakdowns and some inclement weather. However, those who have had their first taste of roller coaster speed over 128 MPH seemed to be pleased with their experience. Like Cedar Point, Six Flags will not let guests ride this rocket coaster with any loose articles. However, Six Flags has extended that policy to include glasses, even if you have a strap. It seems that Six Flags thinks it can make more money in locker rentals than it can by selling straps for glasses. I will have to wait a couple of weeks to grab a ride on this extreme thrill machine, but it appears that the patience exhibited by Six Flags may have actually paid off. By waiting the extra month, and allowing for additional testing, they were able to run the coaster relatively consistently throughout the weekend, making a number of guests extremely happy.
I know there are people out there who would love to see Fastpass disappear forever, but I, for one, love the system, and actually enjoy the challenge of trying to work it to my advantage. However, rumors are brewing that Disney may be cooking up something new with their Fastpass system that may make me wish it never existed. The system we have now allows people to walk up to a ride, and reserve a spot in that line. Based on the number of people who are in front of them in the “virtual” line, they are given a time to return so that they can ride. While guests are waiting for their time, they can go to another attraction, and stand in the line to ride that. In essence, you can stand in line for two lines at the same time. Sounds great right? However, purists feel that by skipping the line, you miss out on the experience of waiting in line. You don’t have the same anticipation of waiting an hour or two to get on an attraction, and by just hopping from one ride to another, guests miss out on the experience, and some would say the “magic” of that attraction. I don’t mind the system too much, especially if it’s something I’ve already been on a number of times. Disney’s new proposed Fastpass system, however, will rock the theme park world. This new system will set up a hierarchy of guests based on how much you spend at the Walt Disney World Resort. The proposal, which is mostly based on patent applications, not actual plans or company documents, will provide better access to attraction to those who stay at the more expensive properties at WDW. The concept is simple. If you can afford to spend the money to stay on a concierge level at one of the premier resorts like Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Floridian, or Wilderness Lodge, you would have “walk-on” access to every attraction. Those who cannot afford to stay on site, or at one of the “value” resorts like Pop Century would not have the same Fastpass access. It’s a little fuzzy exactly how Disney would limit Fastpass access, since a number of the patents cover acquiring Fastpasses through your cell phone and internet, but it’s pretty clear that those who are staying on concierge level would be given a jump on the rest of us who still value our hard-earned dollar. Other theme parks have a “pay to play” system (Six Flags and Universal), but Disney has always held a philosophy that everyone would be treated the same inside the parks. It’s true that guests are given preferential treatment at the more expensive resorts, and in the more expensive rooms, but once in the park, it’s every Mickey-head for themselves. Is Disney trying to establish a “class-system” in its parks, or just trying force us to stay on-site? It’s difficult to say whether this rumored change to the Fastpass system is going to be implemented, but if it is, expect an uproar from those of us who cannot afford five nights on concierge level so we can experience our favorite rides. Why doesn’t Disney just close the parks one day a week for “Millionaires Day?”
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