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Q&A: PERILS OF GETTING BUMPED FROM YOUR FLIGHT

QUESTION: My husband and I were recently "bumped" from an Alitalia flight to Rome.

We arrived at the ticket counter 40 mintues before the flight, because of delays in traffic, and were advised that our seats had been sold. We took a later flight to London and a connecting flight to Rome the next afternoon, losing a full day of our vacation.Are passengers on international flights entitled to be compensated for the inconvenience and loss of time resulting from overbooking as are passengers on domestic flights?

ANSWER: Passengers on international flights from the United States are entitled to compensation if they are bumped because of overbooking.

If the airline cannot put bumped passengers on a flight that will arrive within four hours of your original flight, the passengers are entitled to two times the price of the one-way fare to the destination or $400, whichever is lower.

The computation is not based on half the round-trip fare, which is often less than the one-way rate. For domestic travel, if the airline cannot provide a flight that arrives within two hours of the originally scheduled time, passengers are entitled to double the one-way fare or $400, whichever is less.

If passengers get to their destination between one and two hours of the original flight, they are compensated the one-way fare or $200, whichever is less.

To qualify for compensation, passengers must check in no later than the time recommended by the airline. A spokesman for Alitalia said that international passengers are advised to report two hours before flight time.

Therefore, you were not entitled to compensation. Other exceptions: if passengers are bumped because a connecting flight is late, if the flight is on a plane with fewer than 60 seats, or if the flight orginates outside the United States.

QUESTION: Please advise me when the Thyssen Collection will open in Madrid.

ANSWER: In 1988, Spain arranged a 10-year loan of 787 paintings of the 1,500-work collection of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. They include masterpieces by Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Durer, the Holbeins, Rubens, El Greco, Klee and other major painters from the 14th to the 20th centuries.

The paintings are to be on display in the 19th-century Palacio de Villahermosa in the Plaza de Neptuno across from the Prado. The building is undergoing extensive internal remodeling, expected to be completed in September 1991, and then the paintings will be moved there from Lugano, Switzerland.

Tentatively, the collection will go on exhibition in November 1991.

The government hopes that the loan arrangment will be made permanent.

QUESTION: I have visited Yosemite National Park twice. Once, in the fall, I saw the giant sequoias, but the waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley had stopped flowing.

The other time, in April, the waterfalls were flowing, but I could not see the seqouias because the road was clogged with snow. There must be a period when you can see the falls and the trees.

ANSWER: Your April trip must have been at a time when it had just snowed, because it is usually possible to see the giant sequoias when the falls are full.

The falls in Yosemite Valley are fed mainly by melting snow pack, and they are normally at their peak water flow in late May.

However, snowfall in the Sierras has been unusually light over the past four years, and the peak has been late April, according to a park spokeswoman.

In drier years, the flow can appear to stop as early as late April and not be visible until mid-September.

Actually, they do not stop flowing altogther, but continue in crack systems behind the falls, or run moderately down the rock face, which will appear wet.

There are three seqouia groves in the park, at 5,000 to 7,000 feet. The main park roads at that altitude are open year-round, though snowfall occasionally necessitates use of chains.

The most visited trees, a group of 200 called the Mariposa Grove, are at the southern end of the park. The grove is reached by a two-mile spur, the Mariposa Grove Road.

From the parking area it is a half-mile walk to the largest tree. When it snows, mainly between November and April, the spur is closed intermittently; the road is last on the park's plowing priority list, the spokeswoman said. Some visitors walk, snowshoe or ski when the road is closed.

Mid-May to mid-October there is a loop road through the grove open only to tour trams. Tuolumne Grove, a group of about 25 giant seqouias in the northwest part of the park, is served by a six-mile one-way road, which is typically open from late May to October.

Merced Grove, 20 trees also in the northwest part of the park, is a two-mile walk from a trailhead off a main road.