The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

Changing laws for passports

Changes in passports, here and abroad, are coming:

By 2008, under a federal law passed last year, Americans will need passports for travel to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The purpose is to tighten security on reentry to the U.S., said Maura Harty, U.S. assistant secretary of State for consular affairs.

Also, high-tech U.S. passports, with data and facial images stored on computer chips, may not be issued until next year, Harty said. They had been expected to make their debut as early as this summer. The timetable "slipped a little," Harty said, as the government tinkered with the technology, which has been criticized as a security risk.Critics say the computer chip, which uses radio frequency identification, can be read from up to 60 feet away. Harty said the chip could be read only from about 4 inches or closer and was unreadable when the passport was closed.

Meanwhile, the European Union hinted it might require visas of U.S. citizens if Congress refuses to extend an October deadline requiring machine-readable, biometric passports for citizens of 27 visa-waiver nations, mostly in Europe. It said many of its nations would not be ready with the passports by then.

— Jane Engle

JetBlue still No. 1 in study Though its on-time arrival average slipped slightly in 2004, JetBlue was again the No. 1 carrier in the annual airline quality rating study conducted by Wichita State University in Kansas and the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Five of the six top-performing airlines were low-fare carriers. Results for the 15th annual study, which ranks the 16 largest U.S. airlines, were announced Monday.

"Five years ago, low-fare carriers had a 5% to 7% market share," said co-researcher Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State. "Today, the low-fare airlines have a 25% share."

Following JetBlue were AirTran, Southwest, United, Alaska, America West, Northwest, American, Continental and ATA.

The study ranks airlines on 15 elements, including on-time arrival, baggage handling, customer complaints and denied boardings. United Airlines showed the most significant improvement, moving from ninth to fourth.

— Cynthia Mines

Fresh face on the Huntley Santa MONICA's Huntley Hotel is to reopen most of its renovated 209 rooms by the end of April, the first phase of a $12-million redo to be completed by year's end.

The rooms at the 30-year-old Huntley, which transferred from Radisson to Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide on April 1, were designed by Thomas Schoos of L.A. The Huntley's décor is "fun and functional," said its spokeswoman, Lucy Moore, and has a marine theme reflected in coral fixtures and a lobby wall covered with 300 white lacquered ceramic fish.

The hotel expects to reopen a restaurant on the 18th floor by September.

Rates at the hotel, at 1111 2nd St., begin at $249. Information: (310) 394-5454, .

— Vani Rangachar

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