Six Flags to Require Advance Reservations to Visit

May 4, 2020, 5:40 PM · When the Six Flags theme parks reopen (whenever that is), you will need to make a reservation in advance in order to enter the park.

That's the news today from announcements posted to each park's operating hours pages.

Six Flags announcement

As the announcement notes, the reservation requirement applies to members and season pass holders, so this isn't just a new system for selling date-specific tickets. Reservations will be made via an as-yet-unlaunched online system.

The new reservation system will allow Six Flags to more tightly control the number of people inside its parks without frustrating and disappointing pass members who might come to the park only to be turned away. Six Flags and other theme park companies will need to limit their capacities to comply with the social distancing requirements that most states will implement as a condition of reopening.

Last year, Disneyland introduced an advance reservation system for some of its annual passholders, with its Disney Flex Pass, so this won't be the first time that a theme park's passholders have had to make a reservation in order to use their passes.

Six Flags' theme parks are closed temporarily due to the pandemic, with no reopening dates announced.

Replies (19)

May 4, 2020 at 6:05 PM

I think all parks will have to do this. Weeks ago, in multiple posts, I said that Disney needs to go to a reservation-only system. Until the pandemic is really behind us, I don't see how any parks can be a free-for-all, packing them in like a well themed sardine can.

May 4, 2020 at 7:08 PM

"Sorry folks, park's full. Moose out front should have told you."

But in all honesty, it's not a bad idea.

May 4, 2020 at 7:59 PM

There's a good chance reservations are going to become the norm at all but the smallest parks for the foreseeable future (or at least as long as capacity restrictions are in place). It's far better to tell someone they can't visit on their date of choice before leaving their home rather than having them pull up to the gate only to find the park is at capacity. Yes, it is unfortunate for those who can't plan their visits very far in advance, but with parks struggling for money they'll surely give preference to those coming for the day vs. those dropping in for a couple hours.

May 4, 2020 at 9:51 PM

With the number of Disney hotels, you may have to stay on premises to get in the parks. Probably will do away with the park hopper option, too.

May 4, 2020 at 11:49 PM

The 'soft opening' approach is really a good idea. This is new territory for any theme park and the ones that open first want to get it right.

It has been extremely easy to be critical of how Six Flags manages their parks and perhaps rightfully so, but with new leadership (Spanos), we need to give the chain a chance to rise to the occasion. They might surprise us all as well as become a model for other theme parks eager to open up.

May 5, 2020 at 12:16 AM

WDW should have the easiest time with this, since you need to make your Fastpass+ selections 30 to 60 days in advance and your ticket is tied to your selections those tickets are given priority to enter. Once all tickets with Fastpass+ selections are in then they open up to the day ticket holders.

May 5, 2020 at 9:04 AM

After our trip to Disney World Hollwood studios this year and the attempt at Boarding passes for Rise of the resistance. I saw utter disappointment in my families faces when we were turned away. I wish i could make reservations for a park so i would never have to see those looks ever again. The only issue i see is... we live near SFOT we go after 4pm to beat the heat. If i made a resavations would it be for the whole day? And if it was for night how do you make day people leave?

May 5, 2020 at 10:00 AM

I think Txfamily4 has come across the biggest issue with having to make "reservations" to visit a theme park, particularly small regional parks (and even to a certain extent destination parks). Very few guests visit a park from the moment the gates open until the park closes. There is also a high variability in the amount of time guests stay in a park in a given visit as well as their arrival and departure times. Some guests will want to experience every attraction, have a meal or two and then leave after a nighttime show. However, other guests will want to come in, ride their favorite attractions, perhaps grab a snack or do some shopping, and then leave.

Will that change after parks start reopening? It's hard to tell, but I do know that many many guests at Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks have little interest in eating food in those parks and either go back to the car for a picnic lunch or drive to a nearby off-property establishment. Will parks forbid that and create a "no park re-entry" policy (like many have for Halloween and Christmas events)? What about guests that want to avoid forecast bad weather and either delay their arrival or expedite their departure to avoid storms?

There are a lot of variables at play here, and it could result in parks being over-crowded during peak times of the day because parks make their reservation capacity calculations based on average length of stay independent of time of day, or parks are sparsely crowded during the beginning and end of the day because those reservation capacity calculations assume everyone shows up at the same time.

It's a very complicated situation that regional parks are going to struggle with a lot more than Disney/Universal. I could definitely see Disney/Universal only allowing on-site guests and those with APs to get first dibs at daily park reservations, and if capacity is not reached, allow off-site guests a chance to visit.

However, the one big advantage of requiring reservations is that parks will know exactly how many people will be showing up on a given day, and can staff up to meet that number as well as determine attraction availability/capacity and food stand availability based on the precise number of guests confirmed to visit the park. Parks can also run promotions and deals to entice additional guests to visit on days when there are fewer reservations, which is kind of what Disney and Universal already do, just not with such exacting detail.

May 5, 2020 at 10:29 AM

I think it's f'ing riduculous to go to an amusement park and have to stand a specified distance away from other people, run empty rows (like that's going to do anything), wear a mask, etc. The whole thing is absurd. If its been deemed unsafe to be within 6 feet of someone else then you should not be at an amusement park.

May 5, 2020 at 10:29 AM

I gotta agree with The a Man. Better to wait until the numbers are down low enough to return to Track/Trace/Isolate (presuming the tech is available)

May 5, 2020 at 10:39 AM

@the_man: Sadly, all you need to do is see news to note how some folks think "the worst is over" etc and be right back to being close to folks without a mask.

On that, I already sympathize with park workers who will have to calmly explain to certain guests that wearing a mask is currently required and that turning them away without one is not 'infringing on your freedom."

May 5, 2020 at 12:06 PM

@MikeW - That's probably why if parks are going to require that guests wear masks on their property that they provide them to guests upon entry (either free or as an itemized portion of their admission cost). There was a reported homicide in the Detroit area the other day because a person was denied entry into a store because their child was not wearing a mask. Providing masks at entry would not only eliminate any such confrontations that could turn hostile, but ensure that all masks meet minimum requirements, and aren't just re-purposed underwear.

May 5, 2020 at 1:08 PM

@Russell Meyer: Yeah, that was just astounding. I even saw reactions to the Michigan protests of "I'm a gun owner and proud defender of 2nd Amendment but open carry does not mean you wave your gun in someone's face as a threat."

Back to this, the whole mask issue is debated with many insisting social distancing is still far more important to combat spread. Providing masks can be fun (and come on, you can bet Disney will have a ball making character-themed ones kids can enjoy wearing) yet making sure folks adhere to guidelines is still going to be a key issue.

May 5, 2020 at 1:24 PM

I think this might be the route they all have to go.

May 5, 2020 at 1:46 PM

I often refer to the handy dandy "Safety Pyramid" when thinking about stuff like this. I work in an industry that values safety very highly, so I'm well versed in how to evaluate risk and determine how to mitigate it.

Mitigation of risk and the effectiveness of that effort is as follows (from most to least effective)...

Elimination/Substitution - This entails avoiding the risk/hazard altogether or performing a completely different task. This is what we're doing now in areas where strict region-wide lockdowns are in place. We are eliminating the risk of the virus by physically isolating ourselves from it. This is the most effective mitigation because it eliminates our contact with the hazard (virus).

Engineering controls - This usually means physically designing tools and processes that eliminate our contact with the hazard. This is kind of like what some states are doing in stay-at-home orders where people have limited and controlled contact with potential vectors outside of their home (grocery stores, delivery drivers, and food servers). This would also include a vaccine for the virus once it's been completed and distributed to the masses.

Administrative controls - This includes educational campaigns that request people follow protocols and rules to keep from coming in contact with a hazard. This is where "social distancing" comes into play. Health officials are asking people to stay 6-feet away from others, but there's not physical barrier to keep us from getting too close. This also would manifest in decreased capacity limits for theme parks and other businesses where officials ask companies to reduce the number of people allowed into defined/closed spaces to accommodate "social distancing" .

PPE - This is gear you wear to protect yourself from direct contact with the hazard. These are the masks, face shields, gloves, sanitizer, and other equipment we wear to keep from coming in contact with virus particles. This is the LAST LINE OF DEFENSE, and is always the least effective of the mitigation categories.

Each level of the "Safety Pyramid" increases the risk and potential for people to come in contact with the hazard from top to bottom. Most companies will use a combination of mitigations from different levels of the pyramid to further decrease risk and also to increase awareness. However, there's never a "silver bullet" once you get below the "elimination/substitution" level (where risk is near 0), so it becomes a question as to what level of risk you are comfortable with and the effectiveness of the mitigation at each level. The problem is that effectiveness is based on people abiding by recommendations/requirements, which is going to vary widely.

May 5, 2020 at 2:23 PM

@Russell Meyer: And that last line nails it: For every person ready to abide by any rule and be helpful to others is another who will act like it's four months ago and "I'm not going to let some flu stop me from doing what I want."

May 5, 2020 at 3:09 PM

A reservation-only system is only part of the equation. Another part is limiting capacity, probably to 20-25%. If it's reservation-only but you take a ton of reservations, the parks will still be swamped.

May 6, 2020 at 8:37 AM

@Russell Meyer. Nice review of safety management.

However, I have worked on infection control and patient safety for several years and seen real life issues with the pyramid:

1) For administrative controls (policy) to work, they have to fit into the flow of work (or play) and benefits need to be somewhat obvious.

2) For engineering controls to work, the same as above. In addition, most require admin controls (required training, high stakes assessment). It is rare for organizations to invest enough (exception: nuclear power plants require yearly simulation training and skill testing of donning and doffing protective equipment)

3) Any control needs to be usability tested, and rarely are. This partially ensures they fit into flow of work/play, and what are most effective ways of making the benefits visible. I am already using the "don't stand here" and "stand here" images from Shanghai Disney as teaching examples for patient safety classes (via Zoom of course)

May 6, 2020 at 9:11 AM

@gosbee - I agree with your additional notes, and recognize that effectiveness of any control or PPE (aside from elimination/substitution, which is almost always 100% effective) has a lot to do with acceptance and understanding of how to use it properly. It's like the people out there that have N95 masks, but are wearing them around their chin. They have the right PPE, but it's not helping anyone to not have it covering you mouth and nose, unless they're trying to protect us from some bizarre chin virus. Same goes for engineering and administrative controls, and if people don't understand the science behind them and how to properly execute those controls, they're about as effective as improperly worn PPE. Another issue we're finding with PPE, is that the PPE that works best to prevent virus transmission prohibits critical activities like eating/drinking, breathing during exercise, and lip reading (for the hearing impared). There's also the comfort level of PPE, and safety professionals have dealt with this since the start of time. People won't wear PPE that is not "comfortable", and will also not wear PPE if it's not convenient. That's why many safety-focused companies purchase PPE for employees (or reimburse employees for buying custom PPE), and make sure it's available everywhere throughout a work site.

There's also a function of controls being tested and proven effective. Just because a safety professional comes up with an idea to protect people, doesn't mean it will work. The same applies here, and as we're finding, not every recommendation (despite the scientific validity behind it) is created equal. That's why officials are defaulting to controls that are as close to elimination/substitution (lockdowns/stay at home orders) as possible, because they are essentially flinging stuff against the wall to see what sticks only to find that most reasonable controls are not really effective.

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