Change penalties evolving

Compiled by Jane Engle

Several travel suppliers have loosened their cancellation rules in response to the Iraqi conflict. Policies may change daily; check with the operator. Some sample policies in effect last week:

* Airlines: US Airways customers can reschedule without penalty for travel through June 17 that is booked by April 2. American will waive change fees for tickets bought through April 19 for travel through May 18. Northwest will waive change fees for tickets that were bought by March 19 for travel through May 19 (within North America) or June 19 (trans-

pacific and transatlantic).

Rebooking windows vary by airline and destination, and customers generally must pay any fare difference.


* Cruise lines: Costa Cruises is waiving cancellation penalties on spring transatlantic and European departures through April 30; you get a refund of the cruise-only fare. Seabourn is selling optional travel insurance for $295 per person that, among other coverage, allows cancellations for any reason, in return for a 90% credit of the paid fare that can be applied to a future cruise.

* Tours and packages: Pleasant Holidays customers can cancel up to four days before departure in return for a future travel credit. (The tour packager also sells a waiver plan that gives refunds.) For prices starting at $79 per person, Trafalgar travelers can buy a plan that allows them to cancel for any reason up to 48 hours before departure; the plan also provides medical and emergency assistance.

* Hotels: Two chains known for their Caribbean all-inclusive resorts -- SuperClubs and Sandals and Beaches Resorts -- were allowing travelers to reschedule stays without penalty for up to a year. Vail Resorts was waiving most cancellation penalties for lodging stays through June 1; group and conference stays will be decided on a case-by-case basis, it said.

* Internet: Web sites Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity loosened change penalties on certain hotel bookings. Policies vary, but most changes must be made by Wednesday or Thursday.