Re: Fast Lane prices just increased
I think it's perhaps a combination of the time you're saving, the number of rides, and probably most importantly the specific rides for which you're saving the time.
Hershey's cut-the-line system is really going to test out that theory and I'm very curious to see if they decide ultimately to include the two rides that it would be most beneficial on (Skyrush and Fahrenheit aren't included in their skip-the-line once on every ride for $50 plan). If you cut out Maverick, TTD, and MF from the Fast Lane rotation I would imagine that demand for Fast Lane would instantly go way down if you kept the prices level with where they are now.
The other side of that coin is best illustrated by an example. Let's say that Maverick is the only ride running in the whole park. How much is a Fast Lane pass worth it to you at that point? It depends, right? It depends on (a) how many Fast Lane passes they're selling and (b) how much they're charging for it. If they sell each of the passes for $1 and there's a pass available for every person in line then you'll have problems. If you sell the passes for $500 each and there's only two available then you'll also have problems.
I do think that there's an easy way to find a balance between satisfying the Fast Lane user and the non-Fast Lane user: variable pricing with a bit of a twist. If Cedar Fair is looking to maximize revenue, why not go all out Here's how I would propose this...
For Fast Lane sales in advance:
Have the same system that's in place now but provide a small discount with the per person prices (perhaps $5 off per person). I would do this to encourage sales of the passes in advance with the tradeoff being the uncertainty as to whether they'll need it because of low crowds, bad weather shutting down rides, etc. There's also the flip side to them getting lucky and having a super busy day where they're paying much less than the current market rate. If there's a high demand early simply raise the prices accordingly.
For Fast Lane sales at the park:
Stock market style! I'm guessing that most of the Fast Lane sales currently generated are being done the day of visit so it's important to have a handle on current conditions. Use historical data to set a base price for any given day (i.e., a weekday in May will have a lower base price than will a July Saturday). After "X" number of passes are sold (and how quickly they're sold...this accounts for people buying Fast Lane during the day after seeing the crowds in standby lines) you raise the price incrementally for each "X" number of passes sold in each level. Don't cap the amount of passes sold (it's not like they do anyway now for all intents and purposes). If someone is willing to pay $150 per person, why not let them? Let the market decide.