Lost bags, botched reservations, hotel rooms with pole lamps--travel is often surrealistically imperfect. Which makes near perfection, when you can find it, a precious thing indeed. Herewith, a compendium of travel's blatant overachievers:
In a customer-satisfaction survey of 3,000 frequent flyers conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, Frequent Flyer Magazine and the Official Airline Guide, respondents gave these airlines top marks in the following categories:
--Frequent flyer program: Northwest
--Seat comfort: TWA
--On-time performance: Southwest
--Flight attendants: Delta and American (tie)
THE INN CROWD
The 1995 Mobil Travel Guide bestows a mere 11 hotels with its ultimate five-star rating. Six of those are--ta-da!--in California. And the winners are:
--Clift Hotel, San Francisco
--Four Seasons Hotel at Beverly Hills
--Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
--The Peninsula, Beverly Hills
--The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
--Stouffer Renaissance Stanford Court, San Francisco
PERFECT IN-FLIGHT MOVIE
Times film critic Kenneth Turan casts his vote for "Airplane!" (1980), the Zucker brothers' furious spoof of affairs airborne. "It skewers practically everything annoying that can happen on a flight. 'Otto,' the inflatable autopilot, is my favorite character."
PERFECT HOTEL BAR--THE RITZ-CARLTON, BOSTON
The Ritz chain has cloned this estimable saloon at its properties around the world, but you can't beat the original. With its dark paneling, riding-to-hounds prints, crackling fireplace and view of Boston Garden, it's the perfect spot to down a nostalgic highball and watch the leaves fall.
In a survey by the nonprofit Urban Initiatives to find America's best public places, experts in architecture and urban planning pondered the aesthetic and cultural merits of nearly 200 U.S. locales and crowned 63 winners. The sites chosen will be published in the book, "The Pocket Guide to Great American Public Places" in January. Among the picks:
--Central Park, New York City
--Downtown Plaza, Santa Fe, N.M.
--Low Memorial Library Steps, Columbia University, New York City
--Main Street, Madison, Ind.
--Old San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico
--Union Station; Venice Beach, Los Angeles
--Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
--Golden Gate Park, San Francisco