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Six Flags Guests Get Out of Line

How to Eliminate Lines with Flash Pass

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© Arthur Levine. Licensed to About.com.
Things to know
  • What: Flash Pass virtual line program eliminates waiting in long lines for popular rides.
  • Cost: varies by park. The per-person price generally drops with additional guests for the Q-bot program.
Waiting and waiting (and waiting) in rat-maze lines is as much a part of the theme park experience as riding roller coasters. Enduring 90 minutes of inching along in stanchion hell is the price you must pay for 2 minutes of coaster heaven. Or is it?

Parks have been introducing programs to alleviate the bottlenecks and move people out of lines. Six Flags' version, called Flash Pass, uses a high-tech, electronic "Q-bot" device. If a park is crowded, Flash Pass may be the way to go.

Q-bot Gets You Out of the Queue

Essentially retrofitted beepers, Q-bots are like virtual placeholders. They calculate the amount of time you would have waited in line, then vibrate and flash a text message when it's time to report to the ride--while you're off doing other things.

Six Flags says that Flash Pass is fair because guests using the device wait the same amount of time as the Q-bot-nots; they just don't have to suffer in infernal lines. While the explanation sounds convincing, it still feels as if you are pulling a fast one when you sashay up the special Flash Pass entrance and walk past the huddled masses to the front of the line. Having said that, it's incredibly satisfying to skip a one- or two-hour queue and hop aboard a popular attraction.

At a recent visit to Six Flags New England, the Flash Pass program worked like a charm. Once my park companions and I determined which rides we wanted to try, we ran around and beeped in at the reservation stations in front of each Q-bot-equipped attraction. The device then prompted us to head over to the rides at the appropriate times. Instead of waiting in lines, we were eating lunch, chilling out at the waterpark, or off riding other attractions.

Q-bot does not give you a full-day itinerary; it only indicates the boarding time for one ride at a time. After guests have finished a ride, it calculates the wait and lists the time to arrive for the next ride. When a coaster had a problem and we had to wait an extra 45 minutes before we could board the ride, the Q-bot "knew" that we were detained in the line even though we had already checked in.

When another coaster had a brief delay, the Q-bot informed us of the problem and recalculated the wait time. And when we realized we had reserved too many attractions to reasonably experience in one day, canceling a ride was a breeze.

Is It Worth the Extra $?

Unlike the Disney parks, which include time-ticketing programs as part of the admission price, Six Flags charges extra for Flash Pass. Once you've shelled out your hard-earned cash to get into the park, does it make sense to fork over more money to avoid lines? If the park is crowded, yes.

If you've already made the investment in time, effort, and cash to visit a park, it probably doesn't make sense to wait four or five hours in lines over the course of a day just to save the cost of the Flash Pass program. The additional rides you'll be able to experience, not to mention the freedom you'll gain, translates into real value. And as they say in those credit card commercials, the red-carpet treatment is "priceless."

How It Works

  • Rent a Q-bot at the Flash Pass booth near the front of the park. Up to six people in one party can use one Q-bot.
    TIP: Get to the park early and rent the Q-bot as soon as you get there because parks have a limited supply and will sell out on busy days.
  • Plan a rough itinerary for your day. Estimate the waits between rides. Very popular rides may have two- or three-hour waits. Plan to eat lunch or go to the waterpark during the long waits.
    TIP: If you are not sure about estimated wait times, ask a Six Flags employee.
  • Go to the attractions in the order you want to ride them and make your reservations using the Q-bot. Note that you can make as many reservations as you wish, but the Q-bot will only schedule one ride at a time.
    TIP: If you want to take a long break, say to enjoy the waterpark for a few hours, make reservations for the rides you want to ride before the break. Later in the day, perhaps while you are in the waterpark, send a member of your party to make reservations for the remaining rides. Otherwise, the Q-bot may schedule a ride before you are ready for it.
  • To make a reservation, hold the Q-bot up to the reservation slot in front of the ride. The Q-bot will beep and display, "Ride Reserved."
  • Soon after making the first reservation, the Q-bot will display the scheduled time for your first ride. You have a ten-minute window.
    TIP: Don't miss a ride. If you show up later than ten minutes after the appointed time, you lose the reservation and have to start over again. If you want to get in line for another ride, ask the attendant to estimate the wait time and make sure you leave enough wiggle room to make your Flash Pass reservation.
  • A few minutes before your scheduled time, the Q-bot will vibrate, beep, and remind you to head over to the ride.
  • To check in, follow the Flash Pass signs and find the Q-bot "Enter" terminal (it's different than the one used to make reservations). Point your Q-bot up to the enter slot. The Q-bot will beep and display "Enjoy Your Ride." Proceed to the ride and show the operator your validated Q-bot.
    TIP: Each ride handles Flash Pass a little differently. On some rides, it may be possible to request a front- or back-row seat for a coaster. Ask the ride operator who checks your Q-bot.
    TIP: If the ride will get you wet (or if you go to the waterpark), place the Q-bot in the provided plastic bag or the device may get ruined.
  • To cancel a ride, go to the ride's reservation terminal, and place the Q-bot up to the slot until it displays, "Hold to Cancel." Keep it there a little longer until it confirms, "Ride Cancelled."
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