Six Flags installs finger-scan system for season pass holders

02/25/2014 6:01 PM

02/25/2014 6:03 PM

Season pass holders at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington can expect to move through the front gate with the speed of a thrill ride this summer when the amusement park switches to a finger-scanning system for entry.

The move comes after a successful test of the biometric scan system at the local park and at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio and Six Flags Great America in Chicago last summer, said Jay Thomas, vice president of the company’s project management office and information technology, who is overseeing the project.

“That gave us a test of three parks,” Thomas said. “We will be rolling it out all of 2014 and 2015. Hurricane Harbor will be this year.”

The test was driven in part by Six Flags’ constant search for ways to improve the guest experience, he said.

The finger scan has eliminated an extra processing line for season pass holders, which at times could be “very long,” Thomas said. “That’s what drove the biometrics at the front gate. It makes the process a whole lot easier.”

In the company’s most recent earnings call, CEO Jim Reid-Anderson touted the program with investors and analysts, saying it would not only enhance the guest experience but also reduce labor costs.

Although biometric technology has been around for a while, Six Flags is joining a number of industries taking advantage of advances that make it more affordable. Disney, for example, has used fingerprint scanning at its park entrances since 2005.

The new system is simple. When people buy a season pass, their right index finger is scanned, a step that takes about nine seconds, Thomas said.

The scan takes an image of the finger and assigns a mathematical representation, a series of numbers, to unique features of that fingerprint. A plastic card is issued that contains a bar code used to match the numeric value from the finger scan to validate access to the park. The scanners are spread across the front gates and all entry points.

At no point is a fingerprint being captured, Thomas said. The mathematical data cannot be reconverted to an image.

In the past, season pass holders were issued a card with a photo. But after swiping the card, the holder had to get in another line so an employee could verify that the guest was the one using the pass.

Thomas said his office spent about 18 months developing the finger scan program, which will be operated from computers at Six Flags’ Grand Prairie headquarters.

“The rollout of the biometrics has gone much better than planned,” Thomas said. “Everyone has been very happy with the implementation.”

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