Six Flags offsets decline in per capita spending with massive attendance boost

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Six Flags said guest spending per capita declined 7% to $35.39 during the quarter, but attendance surged 22% due to the growing popularity of its Halloween- and holiday-themed events.

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Jeff's avatar

This is great news, but the lower per cap spending makes me nervous. Didn't the old Six Flags go down that road? I realize that they attribute a lot of this to the holiday events, but it implies a radical shift in pricing strategy. Where are their season pass prices relative to other parks?

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

I believe that in 10 years, Six Flags parks will either keep the dirt cheap pass prices and end up like Geauga Lake, or raise them and stay around

Hey, let's ride (random Intamin coaster). What? It's broken down? I totally didn't expect that.

I was just gonna say, this is what happens when you let everyone in practically for free. They're gonna show up a lot, but leave their billfolds at home.

Jeff said:

Where are their season pass prices relative to other parks?

It really depends on which Six Flags park you get the pass at, when you buy it and how many people are buying it with you.

On the low end, a season pass purchased at several SIX parks - including Six Flags St. Louis and New England - during the SIX annual sale around Labor Day would run you $60. That pass included an upgrade to the Gold level, which includes free parking at all SIX parks.

On the high end, one Gold level pass at Six Flags Magic Mountain will run you $160. Having said that, if you buy 4 or more passes you can drop the cost to under $100 per pass - with Gold level upgrade - at every SIX park with the exception of Magic Mountain.

For comparison purposes (all prices shown as if pass was purchased in the fall for the next season):

SIX Gold-level pass in 2009: $100 (purchased at Six Flags Over Georgia - season pass cost of $55 plus $45 all SIX park parking pass)

SIX Gold-level pass in 2017: $63 (purchased at Six Flags Over Georgia, using Discover card promotion of buy one regular season pass and get free Gold upgrade). For someone purchasing one 2017 Gold-level pass at the time without any special offers in late 2016 the cost was $100

Cedar Fair Platinum pass in 2008: $140

Cedar Fair Platinum pass in 2017: $184.50 (this was the renewal price, $189 otherwise)

SeaWorld Platinum pass in 2012: $180 (purchased from Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

SeaWorld Platinum pass in 2017: $228 (purchased from Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Point is that just about every park chain or independent parks have increased their season pass prices except for SIX. SIX season pass holders account for 60% of their attendance figures now - up from about 30% in 2009. FUN is between 40% and 45% currently.

The upward trend in SIX season pass sales is completely unsustainable. A lot of the uptick has to do with the fact that SIX is pricing season passes nearly in line with a one-day ticket at the majority of their parks. SIX is selling a ton of passes that way, but they're not really reaping much in the way of incremental benefit because they've held the line on prices for the last eight (eight!) years. What that strategy is doing, however, is increasing attendance because those were are buying season passes cheaply (instead of just the one-day tickets) are simply coming to the parks more frequently to get value out of their passes.

What's going to happen when SIX decides to increase season pass prices?

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Gary Dowdell said:

On the low end, a season pass...would run you $60.

Jesus. That's ridiculous.

Thank goodness Cedar affair offers that <2.5% loyalty discount for those who renew their Platinum Passes...

And yeah, $60 is absolutely absurd. That's less than Darien Lake ($69.99) or SeaBreeze ($72.99 for 15 visits) charge for their season passes, and they are each only for that specific park! People do still ask if their Darien Lake pass is good for any Six Flags park, though...

Last edited by ShaneDenmark,

But then again, what do I know?

It is cheap for sure. I paid $60 for my season pass at SFGAM and that includes the water park as well. I bought 5 more to give out as X-mas gifts to family and friends.

LostKause's avatar

Cheaper than DelGrosso's season pass. It's $79.99. LOL

Jeff's avatar

Whoa, that's nuts, I didn't realize they were that cheap. Fun Spot here in Orlando is $100. It's for both parks, but combined they're not even a Six Flags in scope.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

^^ Well worth it Travis with the new water park. We didn't make it there last year. We will this year. We always get the buy one get one promotion the local radio station offers every year.

It's crazy how big Six Flags discounts their season passes.we went several years without their passes. Went to SFNE two years ago when Wicked Cyclone opened and with pass being the price of a single day admission couldn't resist. We made one of them gold for free parking.

We went to SFGR8ADV last year, but still won't go to SF America when it's 90 minutes from home. We are going to SF Over GA next month. Been a while since we've been.

I was thinking about a quick SFNE/Lake Compounce trip this spring. I was gonna combine that with taking my camper to the (alledgedly) premier TrailManor service center on the east coast for a tuneup, they are in Maryland. If season passes can really be had that cheap maybe I'll just hold off until next year and pick up Six Flags passes this fall.

But then again, what do I know?

I would assume that the season pass meal plan that they pushed so hard last year hurt their per cap and they likely expected that to some degree.

Especially with all the people that have the dining pass and are frequent visitors. I kept a running total in 2015 and from opening weekend to the end of Fright Fest if I had paid out of pocket, it would have cost $500 for the food compared to the $80 they were charging for the dining pass. It isn't that difficult to get to that total visiting almost 20 times and with each meal costing $10 - $13 and a snack that is $3.50 - $9 (I usually get something like a popcorn bag that is easy to bring home) so 1 trip you could get $35 worth of food if you got the most expensive items. Before the dining pass, I used to go out of my way to eat outside of the park and maybe got 1 meal in the park around once a season so I guess Six Flags gets $80 from me that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

Season Pass prices keep getting lower and lower. The first year I got a Six Flags season pass was in 2008 and it was around $60 for the pass and $60 for the season parking pass. I bought my 2017 pass during the Labor Day Flash Sale and got the gold pass with parking and Hurricane Harbor for $63.99 (Great Adventure). I never expected 9 years later it would be almost half the price of what I first paid for a pass.

Last edited by YoshiFan,

Not only are they that cheap, but when you buy in September you get the rest of that season too, including the rest of that season when you buy the cheap dining pass. The dining pass means nobody is spending money because they give you the free cup for unlimited refills, plus 2 meals and a snack every visit. I believe for less than $80 on sale (74.99?) and there is no limit to its use.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

A Six Flags season pass with dining option is the cure for poverty - we can offer unlimited drink, two meals and a snack and a safe place to spend each day to anyone needing it for 6 months for just $140.

ApolloAndy's avatar

YoshiFan said:

It isn't that difficult to get to that total visiting almost 20 times

I suspect the average pass holder visits way less times than that. I also suspect the vast majority of pass holders (myself included), regardless of number of visits, spent very little on food per visit before the dining pass. We probably average 15 visits a year and 5 to the water park over the past decade and probably spent a total of $20 per year on food and $15 for a refillable soda.

Finally, the actual cost to Six Flags for the food is nowhere near the $500 you would have paid a la carte. I bet they still made a profit on you, despite all the food you ate. And depending on your previous eating habits, probably stayed in the black even accounting for the opportunity cost of selling you food a la carte.

Last edited by ApolloAndy,

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Bobbie1951's avatar

This thread has convinced me that I would do well to buy a dining pass. On the average I visit Six Flags parks about 15 times a year and on each occasion buy a black bean burger for just over $12, so that a dining pass would be more than a 50% saving. I've never gotten a season pass for as little as $60 - I think this year I paid about $77 and the previous year about $67 by going in on it with someone - but it's still the best deal around and ironically, cheaper than a season pass at Dorney, the other park closest to me. Although most of my park time is spent at Great Adventure I've become enamored of the two Texas Six Flags parks and it's nice to know that when I go to Texas that's one less thing I have to pay for.


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