The highest of the 3 levels of The Flash Pass reduces wait by 90%. My assumption is that means being able to access those entrances immediately without obtaining a return time, is that correct?
It kind of depends on the park and the number of top tier rides.
Great America in this case.
My understanding is that the speed at which you receive return times is based on the individual ride's capacity and current demand. For instance, on a ride like MaxxForce that is opening tomorrow, you will likely still have to wait some (maybe up to an hour) for a return time (if they're even offering it on the Flash Pass for the first couple of weeks - it looks to have a very low capacity). Once you receive the return time, you're still stuck waiting in the last part of the queue (usually any line within the load platform), which could take 15-30 minutes depending upon the ride and your choice of seat/row.
I don't know about the specific nitty gritty of how SF hands out return times, but unless you're planning only a few hours at a park with just a few highly rated rides (I would say SFGA is close to that categorization with perhaps 4 top 50 coasters, including MaxxForce), the most expensive Flash Pass is probably not worth the additional expense. That's especially true if you're going alone and unable to take advantage of the bulk discount (cheaper per person when you have up to 4 people in your group). SFGA is probably right on the edge of actually needing a Flash Pass unless you're going on a Saturday/Holiday or only have a few hours in the park with no plans to return any time in the near future. Flash Pass can sell out, but my experience has been that I NEVER purchase a line avoidance pass until I'm physically in the park and have observed the crowd levels. Holidays and once in a lifetime visits would be my only exceptions and only at certain parks - SFGA would not be one of them IMHO.
Thanks for the detailed reply, Russell. I know the basic level is essentially the actual wait time, and with them saying the top level eliminates 90% of the wait, I figured the other 10% was whoever's was in the queue ahead.
Maxx Force is only included on the top level. Our, my 23 yr old son and myself, complication is that we'll have a family member with early stage Alzheimers that can't be left alone, and only 3 of us total. So we have to take turns riding, and will be a weekend, likely Sunday. They may allow a child swap scenario, which could work, but if we can just go straight to the line without a return time to deal with, that is appealing, although the cost is repellant.
The way Flash Pass works, your wait time is based on the official time posted for the ride. With Regular, you wait the same amount of time as the actual queue, with Gold you wait 50%, and with Platinum you wait 10%. Therefore, if the ride is posted at 60 minutes, your return time will be 60 minutes from when you reserve on Regular, 30 on Gold, and 6 on Platinum. This does not account for the wait time from the merge point, which is generally 10-15 minutes depending on the attraction.
In general, I usually opt for a Gold Flash Pass when I purchase one, as it seems to be a good balance between cost and wait reduction. Since you may reserve a new attraction as soon as you scan in, more often than not by the time you wait, ride, and walk to the next ride, you will be able to go right in (or be within a few minutes of your return time). In the event you're left waiting, it's a good opportunity to get food or ride something less popular. For Six Flags Great America in particular, I absolutely recommend budgeting for a Flash Pass as that park can see insane crowds, but don't purchase it in advance in case the park isn't busy. Also, keep in mind that Platinum only gets you a single reservation on Maxx Force...if you want to ride more than that, you'll need to wait in the (likely) 2+ hour queue.
One last note...if you're going to be riding separately, it is possible to purchase a unit for one person and trade it back and forth. You will need to re-reserve attractions for a second rider and wait a second time, but it does save on costs.
Wasn't sure if there was a wristband or something,only done FP once years ago, so swapping the unit will be the way to go. As my home park is the other Great America it's going to be fun playing compare and contrast.
We always splurge for the top tier so we can get on the newer attractions and usually get immediate line entry (except for the merge queue of about 15 minutes that AJ mentions). If only two of you are riding each time you’ll only need to buy for two people.
Some of the SF parks will give you a wrist band for a re-ride when you buy the top tier.