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Devices aim to cut visitor waits at Six Flags


By Todd R. Weiss

(IDG) -- Wireless technology could soon make waiting in long lines to get on popular rides a thing of the past for customers in nine of the Six Flags Inc. amusement parks across the United States.

Under a deal announced last week, Six Flags is partnering with vendor Lo-Q PLC in England to rent text pager "Q-bot" devices to customers at nine of its 38 theme parks.

Instead of having to wait in long lines, park visitors can pay extra for the luxury of registering at a special kiosk for each ride. The devices will then notify them when they can return and get on the ride without having to wait, said Debbie Nauser, a spokeswoman for the company. Six Flags is headquartered in Oklahoma City and in New York. INFOCENTER
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Last year, under a pilot project at the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park near Atlanta, the companies offered the pagers to park-goers and found them to be so popular, it had to increase the number of available pagers from 60 to 800, Nauser said. This year, about 1,200 of the devices will be offered at the park.

The devices are expected to rent for about $10 per person over and above regular entrance fees, she said. In Atlanta, guests "loved it" despite the fees, because the devices allowed them to eat meals, visit shops, watch entertainment shows and more without having to wait for hours at many rides, she said.

And the company likes them because if customers aren't in ride lines, they are often spending money in other parts of the park.

The devices, which look like round, colorful pagers, can also provide special offers to customers for restaurants and other vendors within the parks, Nauser said. The data collected through the devices allows Six Flags to see where it is getting the highest visitor counts so it can improve facilities, she said.

Lo-Q is providing the devices and the infrastructure behind them to Six Flags at no cost and will share in revenue to make money on the deal, Nauser said. A Lo-Q spokeswoman couldn't be reached for comment.

"Waiting in line is the least attractive thing to do with your day," she said. "It really is something that is going to be useful to us and our guests."

Analyst Alan Reiter, principal of Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing in Chevy Chase, Maryland, called the concept a good one but cautioned that while the convenience for customers is a good thing, he's not sure that the average middle-class family will pay a $10-per-person premium to cut their wait in line.

"I wish them luck if they can find enough users at these prices, but I think it's far too expensive for a typical family," he said.

Six Flags will be the first and only amusement park in the nation to use such a system, according to Nauser. The company tested several other paging systems before choosing Lo-Q for the deal.

Each Q-bot can serve a party of up to six guests. They simply point their Q-bot at the ride kiosk and wirelessly get reservations. When their time is near, they enter through a special line.

The Q-bot system will be used this season at Six Flags Over Georgia; Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey; Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas; Six Flags Astro World in Houston; Six Flags Worlds of Adventure in Cleveland; Six Flags New England in Springfield, Massachusetts; Six Flags St. Louis; Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio; and Six Flags Marine World near San Francisco.

Six Flags America in Largo, Maryland, and Six Flags Magic Mountain near Los Angeles are scheduled to add the system next year.


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