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Schumer: Help those skipping trips after Sandy

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) (May 17, 2012)

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) (May 17, 2012) Credit: AP

Three major airlines are considering a request from Sen. Charles Schumer to refund or credit customers who booked tickets or made deposits on travel now that dozens of local school districts have canceled or may cancel all or portions of the February break because of superstorm Sandy.

"Many of these schoolchildren, faculty and families have gone through extreme personal and economic hardship, and I urge you to take into consideration the unique and unpredictable circumstances that these families were forced into by this devastating storm," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday in a plea to airline and cruise officials.

Delta is "working on a waiver for those families affected," a spokeswoman said. US Airways and American Airlines are considering the request, company officials said.

JetBlue has no plan to act on the matter, a spokeswoman said.

Southwest Airlines doesn't charge change fees, so if customers have to move or cancel a flight, they have up to a year to use the credit, spokesman Paul Flaningan said. If they don't have refundable tickets and cannot take a trip within a year, the airline will work with them on a case-by-case basis, he said.

More than half of Long Island's 124 public school districts have canceled or are considering canceling all or part of the midwinter break, which falls on Feb. 18 through 22, to make up the lost time and meet the state's requirement for 180 school days.

New York City schools, which serve 1.1 million students, have canceled Feb. 20, 21 and 22 as vacation days and turned a half-day of instruction on June 4 into a full day.

Schumer's letter was sent to Nicholas E. Calio, president and chief executive of Airlines for America, and Christine Duffy, president and chief executive of Cruise Lines International Association.

A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a lobbying organization, said it is not within the group's scope to answer such a request. A Cruise Lines International Association spokesman said the company had not yet received the request.

Carnival Corp. said it had not received the letter late Wednesday, a spokesman said.

Royal Caribbean deferred to the cruise lines association.

Schumer said families and educators could lose hundreds or thousands of dollars unless the companies give them special consideration.

The senator, in his letter to travel officials, noted that winter weather could put districts in a tough spot, forcing them to lose even more class time.

With John Hildebrand

and Michael R. Ebert

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