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Summer Games tickets available; customer study rates airlines

SUMMER OLYMPICS TICKETS ON SALE. The first Sydney 2000 Olympics tickets have been released for sale in the United States. Cartan is the official ticket agent. For information, check the Web at www.aussie.net.au.

ART ON THE WEB. "The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000," the most comprehensive exhibition of American Art ever assembled, opened at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art April 23. Part I spans 1900 to 1950. Part II, which will open in September, covers the second half of the century. The exhibit is presented by Intel, whose technologists and engineers worked alongside Whitney curators to establish a Web site www.artmuseum.net that will feature over 200 art objects selected from the museum's exhibitions and archival documents and images. The online exhibit will allow Web visitors to learn about art as it related to major historical events and key themes addressed by artists over the past 100 years. People who can't visit world-class shows in person will have access to the art via this Intel site. The site currently features "Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam," a compilation of 72 works and sketches by the legendary artist.

FINNAIR HAS AN ONLINE DOCTOR. The airline is one of the first to include medical information on its Web site www.finnair.com. The company doctor discusses various illnesses, vaccinations and in-flight first aid procedures. There's information about air filtration and circulation in passenger cabins. He also answers concerns about the safety aspects of flying during pregnancy. The pages also include basic medical tips for travelers.

SANTA BARBARA VISITORS GUIDE. The Santa Barbara County Destination Guide is available free by calling 1-800-676-1266. This, the 1999/2000 issue, lists day trips as well as the major tourist attractions. The publication covers the city of Santa Barbara as well as the county including Lompoc, Santa Maria, Santa Ynex and Solvang, among other cities.

THE BEST OF AIRLINES, THE WORST OF AIRLINES. The gap between exceptional airlines and marginal ones has widened, according to the Frequent Flier magazine/J.D. Power and Associates 1999 Domestic Airlines Customer Satisfaction Study -- U.S. Flights. Who ranked highest? Continental, in passenger satisfaction for long-haul flights of more than 500 miles. TWA came in first for short-haul flights and closely followed Continental for long-haul segments. American Airlines also weighed above industry average in the long-haul category. In the short-haul competition, TWA is followed by Southwest, and Continental and Delta tied for third. America West and USAirways came in at the industry average for short-haul flights. On-time performance was the major factor contributing to passenger satisfaction. The study is an independent analysis of major U.S. carriers based on the experience of frequent flyers. A wake-up call for airlines is the fact that of all the travel segments studied by J.D. Power and Associates, customer satisfaction with airlines is the lowest. Nearly half the respondents experienced some kind of problem with their flight. The study also pinpointed statistics about time: On average, passengers wait nearly 11 minutes at the check-in counter; 16 minutes past the scheduled flight time to begin boarding, 13 1/2 minutes from boarding to lift-off and 18 1/2 minutes in the baggage claim area. Respondents who ranked their recent airline experiences as "truly outstanding" recorded average cumulative wait times of less than 40 minutes. Those who had "poor" experiences reported average wait times of more than two hours.

STARGAZE AT MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK. The Hansen Planetarium will provide a weekend of sky programs and stargazing at Mesa Verde National Park June 11-12. Participants will take a half-day tour of the cliff dwellings and villages and later view Venus, Mars and various constellations through the planetarium's telescopes. The cost is $79 per person, based on double occupancy. The fee includes a guided tour of the park and overnight stay at Far View Lodge. For information or reservations, call 1-800-449-2288. Information is also on the Web at www.visitmesaverde.com.

SAN ANTONIO ON SALE. Visitors to this south Texas city between June 2-20 might be able to get a deal. Early summer vacation packages are $160 on weekdays and $189 on weekends. They include two nights in a selected hotel (up to four guests per room), two tickets to SeaWorld San Antonio, and two tickets to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Only a limited number of packages are available. Advance reservations are required and you must pay by credit card. Call 1-800-295-3295.

GOVERNMENT LANDS. Public lands that are great for recreation include national parks, national forests, BLM lands and national wildlife refuges. An updated Web site www.recreation.gov provides more information than ever about where you can go hiking or fishing or mountain biking. Select the type of recreation you're interested in and the region or states where you want to go. The site will then display a list that meets your specifications. By clicking on any recreation site, you'll get more information.