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June 22, 2008|Jane Engle; Susan Spano; Hugo Martin

Passengers cite unfriendly skies

It's the staff, stupid. That's the message from more than 19,000 air passengers surveyed by J.D. Power & Associates, a marketing information company in Westlake Village. In the company's 2008 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, released last week, it was people, not price, that sent the industry's scores skidding to their lowest levels in three years, said Linda Hirneise, executive director. Among big network carriers, United Airlines took the biggest dive from last year's survey, tying with Northwest Airlines for last place in customer satisfaction. Alaska and Continental tied for the top network spot by improving their scores. And just like last year, JetBlue was No. 1 overall and among low-cost carriers. Info: 80%A6.

-- Jane Engle

Picasso's place

The Picasso Museum on the French Riviera, closed for renovation since February 2006, will reopen next month (tentatively July 20). The museum occupies the historic Chateau Grimaldi in Antibes, owned by a branch of Monaco's royal family until the little Cote d'Azur port town became part of France in 1608. Picasso (pictured above), who was in Antibes with his companion, Francoise Gilot, in the mid-1940s, decorated the chateau's walls with "Ulysses and the Mermaids" and completed other paintings there, including "La Joie de Vivre." In 1966, the Chateau Grimaldi was officially renamed the Picasso Museum. Subsequent bequests by Picasso family members and collectors have made the museum one of the best places to see Picasso's work. Info:

-- Susan Spano

All about you

Tell us where to go. We mean that literally, not figuratively. The Times Travel section wants you, dear reader, to share your favorite vacation spot in the western United States. It might be a mountain idyll or a great inn, a quiet beach or a rocking resort. We'll sift and sort the ideas and present a package of stories in an August Travel section based on your feedback (and credit you with the idea too). Tell us what makes your spot special by using the online form at Please include your name and contact information; we won't print your contact info, but we will need it for verification purposes. The deadline is Monday.

Join the fold

Car racks may become a thing of the past, thanks to the improving quality of folding bicycles. Today's folding bikes are big, sturdy and, best of all, cool looking. We tested a new folding mountain bike by Swissbike that performed admirably. The TX model looks like a bona fide mountain bike with front shocks, front disc brakes, an 18-inch frame and 26-inch knobby tires. Within 30 seconds or so, we had the bike folded to 36 inches by 28 inches. We are also happy to report that the bike did not fold up during a test ride. The bike, weighing 30 pounds, was agile and rugged. Our only critique: The rear rubber brakes lose friction when they get wet, and the pedals are too small. The bike sells for $679. Info: (800) 736-5348 or to find a dealer.

-- Hugo Martin

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