Love thrills? 6 can’t-miss rides, coasters and attractions coming to Texas this year

Sometimes you just can’t beat the whooshes, whirls and splashes of an amusement park. And according to the International Association of Amusement Parks, a lot of people really, really love them. In 2017 alone, parks in the United States and Canada are expected to entertain 412 million people and generate $23 billion.

We’re lucky in Texas to have plenty of places to go to get a thrill. Here are some of the biggest ride and amusement openings coming to the Lone Star State this year.

Thunder Rapids Water Coaster, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio

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Thunder Rapids is a new ride at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. credit: Six Flags Fiesta Texas

This three-story, 942-foot-long thrill ride includes five uphill blasts, four spiraling turns, custom-made inline rafts and new water jet propulsion technology. Oh, and there will be no awkwardly lugging tubes to the top of this ride — it features a loading system where guests board at ground level, then ride up the lift hill to the top of the slide. It’s part of White Water Bay, the free water park at Fiesta Texas (included with the price of admission). Learn more at sixflags.com/fiestatexas/newfor2017.

The Joker, Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington

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The Joker comes to Six Flags Over Texas on May 20. credit: Six Flags Over Texas

Got Batman fans in your house? You won’t want to miss this. Six Flags Over Texas is debuting The Joker, a 120-foot-tall “free-fly” roller coaster with 4-D seats that spin forwards and backwards. The ride, which opens May 20, will include leaps, dives and surprising drops. Riders will even flip head over heels, literally, at least six times during the course of the ride. See more at sixflags.com/overtexas.

“Wave Breaker: The Rescue,” SeaWorld San Antonio

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The cars of “Wave Breaker: The Rescue” were designed to look like Jet Skis. credit: SeaWorld San Antonio

This double-launch coaster stretches 2,600 feet and goes as high as 61 feet. The theme? Marine animal rescue missions — it aims to replicate the high-stakes experience of animals being rescued at sea. The cars even look like Jet Skis. Get details at seaworldsanantonio.com.

“Constellation,” Reunion Tower, Dallas

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Reunion Tower offers views of the Dallas skyline. credit: Helen Anders

This high-tech interactive attraction features a series of touchscreen monitors on the GeO-Deck, which overlooks the city skyline. Here, visitors can add their name and geographical information to a star, create an avatar and describe their experience with creative illustrations. Access is included with GeO-Deck admission. Visit reuniontower.com for more.

Caribbean Journey, Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi

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The new Caribbean Journey will open soon at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. credit: Texas State Aquarium

The aquarium has long been a must-go attraction for visitors to the Texas coast, and with the addition of Caribbean Journey, which will celebrate its grand opening May 13, that’s even more true now. The exhibition takes visitors into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Preserve in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the western Caribbean. It covers 71,000 square feet and includes a 100-seat 4-D theater, a 400,000-gallon shark habitat as well as interactive exhibits and a new education center. Check it out at texasstateaquarium.org/caribbean.

Topgolf, new locations in El Paso and Fort Worth

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Akash Patidar takes his turn at TopGolf near The Domain in Austin in 2013. Ashley Landis for American-Statesman

Feel like you’ve been missing out because there isn’t a Topgolf in your town? You may be in luck. This year, Topgolf is bringing its signature family friendly golfing experience to Fort Worth and El Paso. Never been before? Expect self-scoring microchipped balls, climate-controlled hitting bays and lots of snacks and sips for purchase. Get details at topgolf.com.

Explainer: When can an airline force a ticketed passenger off a plane?

News of a man forcibly removed from a United flight on Sunday after not voluntarily giving up his seat is making the rounds, raising questions about what authority airlines have to remove ticketed passengers in situations of overbooking.

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United Airlines is receiving criticism for its handling of an overbook situation. credit: RODOLFO GONZALEZ/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

According to accounts from passengers on the flight, which was leaving from Chicago O’Hare and bound for Louisville, the airline wanted the seats for employees who needed to travel to be at work the next day. Cell phone video from the aircraft shows a man who said he was a doctor being forced from his seat and dragged down the aisle of the plane with onlookers screaming, “Oh my God!”

 

It hasn’t been a great few months for United. In March, the airline received widespread criticism for barring two teens from their flight because they were wearing leggings.

So in what situations do the airlines have the right to force ticketed passengers from a plane? And what is the protocol for doing so?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, overbooking is legal, with most airlines overbooking their scheduled flights to a certain extent in order to compensate for no-shows. When an oversale occurs, the DOT requires airlines to ask people to give up their seats voluntarily in exchange for compensation. If no one volunteers, the airline may then bump passengers involuntarily, although they too are entitled to compensation.

According to United’s Contract of Carriage, “If a flight is oversold, no one may be denied boarding against his/her will until UA or other carrier personnel first ask for volunteers who will give up their reservations willingly in exchange for compensation as determined by UA. If there are not enough volunteers, other passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily in accordance with UA’s boarding priority.”

It adds that passengers with disabilities, unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 and minors ages 5-15 who use the unaccompanied minor service will be the last to be involuntarily denied boarding. It adds that “the priority of all other confirmed passengers may be determined based on a passenger’s fare class, itinerary, status of frequent flyer program membership, and the time in which the passenger presents him/herself for check-in without advanced seat assignment.”

According to the DOT’s Consumer Guide to Air Travel, airlines must give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily “a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn’t. Those travelers who don’t get to fly are frequently entitled to denied boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash. The amount depends on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay.”

DOT statistics show that, on average, only about one of every 10,000 airline passengers is bumped involuntarily, although that number can increase over the holidays and during other busy travel seasons.

United has said little about the incident but did release this response to WHAS: “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.”