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US Airways eases change penalties

March 09, 2003|Jane Engle

Seeking to reassure nervous travelers, US Airways says it will loosen change penalties in the event of a Mideast war or a domestic "code red" alert -- the highest of five levels. It is thought to be the first U.S. carrier to make such provisions. Industry experts said last week that other airlines probably would follow.

Under the policy, ticketholders can change their travel dates and destinations without penalty as long as they rebook travel to occur within 90 days from the start of a Mideast war or a code red, which the U.S. government defines as "severe" risk of terrorist attack, versus "high" for the recent orange alert.

Under regular US Airways policies, holders of nonrefundable tickets can be charged $100 for domestic flights and $200 for international flights, plus any difference in fares, for changes. Fees for same-day changes ($25 for nonrefundables) will not be waived, said spokesman David Castelveter. He noted that the airline waived change fees only for military personnel and families in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but an "overriding fear of flying" is a factor now.

Singapore dishes out a monthlong festival of food

Singapore becomes a culinary crossroads for a month starting March 28, when it opens its 10th annual Food Festival.

Dozens of workshops, marketplaces, food fairs, children's activities and other events are planned through April 30 in the Southeast Asian island republic. Many activities are free.

New events include "Bugs Mania!" (April 4 to 6; free admission), where the adventurous can sample scorpion scaloppine and grasshopper kebabs; and five "Beer Gourmet Dinners" with tutored brew tastings (April 21 to 30; about $51 per person). 011-65-6278-2467, www.singaporefoodfestival.com.

Las Vegas casino installs tribute to Sept. 11 victims

Las Vegas

The New York-New York casino in Las Vegas, where visitors spontaneously left thousands of T-shirts and other tributes soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has installed a permanent memorial to victims on the sidewalk. It consists of a granite wall with 20 recessed boxes of mementos. Between the boxes, brass plates display quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela and others. Other mementos will be periodically rotated into the memorial; the rest are archived at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

-- Associated Press

Hope springs eternal for D.C. blossom fest

Deterred by neither rain nor snow, Washington, D.C., is planning its annual National Cherry Blossom Festival for March 22 to April 7. The festival is timed for the average peak bloom of Tidal Basin-area trees, which has in the past varied from March 15 to April 18. This year's forecast by the National Park Service is scheduled for Monday. New activities this year include walking tours and visits by tall ships. (202) 547-1500, www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.

Traveler's notes

Recent rains lifted hope for annual wildflower blooms this spring in California deserts, which have struggled through unusually dry years. "We may have a short-lived bloom ... in April, but I still believe we need additional rainfall in March for much of a bloom to develop," said Death Valley National Park ranger Charlie Callagan. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park reported a few flowers but had not issued a forecast as of Tuesday. Updates are at www.nps.gov/deva (click on "Spring Wildflower Update") and www.anzaborrego.statepark.org (click on "About the Park" tab, then choose "Wildflowers").... Low-fare carrier

JetBlue Airways on May 8 will begin daily nonstops to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and thrice-daily nonstops to Atlanta from its Long Beach hub. Introductory one-way fares start at $99.... The airline-owned Internet travel seller www.orbitz.com this month introduced a search tool, Flex Search, that searches airfares for up to 42 date combinations in a month for weekend trips or up to 94 date combinations for trips of varied lengths.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Cruising the 'Med' for less

Several cruise lines are cutting Mediterranean fares amid a reported drop in demand caused by Mideast tensions. Among them is Princess Cruises, which has an "Ultimate 2 for 1 Sale" -- actually better than 2 for 1 -- on the Golden Princess, which sails 12-day itineraries between Barcelona, Spain, and Venice, Italy, departing May 5 to Sept. 2. Fares begin at $1,295 per person, double occupancy, compared with regular "saver" fares of $3,140. Stops include Florence, Italy; Athens; and Istanbul, Turkey. The deal offers at least partial reimbursement or cruise credits for late cancellations. Airfare is extra. You must book this deal by March 31. Even lower fares may be available on the line's Web site, www.princess.com, which recently posted $999 fares for May departures of the Golden Princess. You can also book through a travel agent or by calling (800) PRINCESS (774-6237).

FREE FOR THE ASKING

Pinpointing Poipu Beach

The compact, 36-page "Poipu Beach" guide is a useful introduction to lodging, activities, beaches and shopping on the south shore of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It includes maps and lists dozens of hotels, condos, B&Bs and vacation rental agencies, with rate ranges. Contact the Poipu Beach Resort Assn., (888) 744-0888, e-mail info@poipu-beach.org.

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