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AIRLINES AREN'T LIABLE FOR BAD WEATHER

Question: Are airlines liable to their passengers in the event of delays or cancellations caused by weather? The recent TWA plane that burned at Kennedy International Airport and the subsequent runway closure afterward caused great inconveniences for passengers. Were airlines responsible for looking after their customers in that case?

Answer: The only circumstance under which an airline passenger is entitled to compensation from an airline is when a passenger is "bumped" because of overbooking, according to the Aviation Consumer Action Project, a consumer organization. If a flight is held up or canceled because of weather, mechanical problem or air traffic control delay, the airlines are not liable. The contract the airline makes is to deliver the ticket buyer safely, and if anything makes conditions unsafe, the airlines are considered free from their contract, according to the project. The closing of a runway on July 30 after a TWA jet's aborted takeoff and subsequent fire would qualify as such a condition, a project spokesman said.Airlines generally book passengers on the next available flight in case of delay or cancellation; the project recommends that a passenger ask that the airline absorb the additional cost if the ticket for the new flight costs more than that for the old one. And airlines sometimes provide vouchers for meals or hotel rooms if passengers must wait a long time for a new flight. TWA says it gave meal and hotel vouchers to all its passengers that were delayed July 30 and that all passengers were eventually flown to their final destination.Question: Are there any surfing schools on the West Coast or in Hawaii?

Answer: In San Onofre, Calif., about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Paskowitz Surfing Summer Camp offers weeklong sessions between mid-June and late August. Participants can be any age and range from beginners to experts. The camp was founded in 1972 by Dorian Paskowitz (he is now the camp doctor and his wife the girls' counselor) and is now staffed by his eight sons and one daughter.

Participants camp at San Onofre State Park in San Clemente, staying in platform tents with cots. Students surf at San Onofre Beach with slow, rolling waves ideal for beginners, or walk to Churches, Trestles or other challenging areas. The cost is $800 a week, which includes the camping, all meals, 24-hour supervision for children and use of surfboards and other equipment. There are 25 campers in attendance at one time. More information: Paskowitz Surfing Summer Camp, Post Office Box 522, San Clemente, Calif. 92674; (714) 240-6111.

In Hawaii, surfing education can be found by the lesson. In Honolulu, one teacher is Nancy Emerson, formerly the women's surfing champion. She teaches at beaches near Diamond Head, and students may be any age and any level of experience. Group lessons - two to five students - are $45 for one hour and $65 for two hours. Private lessons are $80 for one hour and $110 for two hours. For two-hour private lessons on five consecutive days, the cost is $400. More information: Nancy Emerson, (808) 377-2337.Question: Do you know of agencies that can arrange a rental of a house or apartment in or near Florence next summer?

Answer: Here are some agencies that represent house and apartment rentals in Italy, including the Florence area. Prices are given for one week - the usual minimum rental period - for the summer. The rates may not include charges for such things as electricity and gas or linen and towel rentals; be sure to ask. Cuendet U.S.A., 165 Chestnut St., Allendale, N.J. 07401; (201) 327-2333, represents about 1,500 properties in Italy. In the center of Florence, the company has a one-bedroom apartment for $746 and a one-bedroom house set in a courtyard for $711. About 15 miles south, in a castle divided into 50 apartments with two pools and a cafe, apartments are $527 for a studio to $2,000 for four bedrooms.

Interhome, 124 Little Falls Rd., Fairfield, N.J. 07004, (201) 882-6864, represents about 3,000 properties in Italy. A three-bedroom house about seven miles north of Florence is $1,668. Three apartments on a farm about 12 miles northeast of Florence, share a pool: a three-bedroom is $1,163, another is $1,275 and a four-bedroom apartment is $1,468. A one-bedroom cottage five miles south of Florence is $833.

Italian Rentals, 3801 Ingomar St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20015, (202) 244-5345, represents about 500 properties in Italy. A one-bedroom apartment in Florence is $910 and a two-bedroom apartment, with terrace, is $1,500. A house for four about 30 miles south starts at $1,180.

Italian Villa Rentals, P.O. Box 1145, Bellevue, Wash. 98009; (206) 827-3694, represents about 650 properties in Italy. In an apartment building in Florence, a one-bedroom unit is $890 and a two-bedroom is $1,550. On the outskirts, one-bedroom apartments in restored villas are $1,150 to $1,350, and a three-bedroom house is $750 to $1,450.

Vacanze in Italia, P.O. Box 297, Falls Village, Conn. 06031, (800) 533-5405, handles about 500 properties in Italy.Question: Do you know of companies that offer a tour of Vienna and other European capitals around Christmas built around symphony and opera performances?

Answer: Dailey-Thorp Travel, 330 West 58th St., New York, N.Y. 10019, (800) 998-6777 or (212) 307-1555, operates a number of music-based tours to Europe. Around Christmas there are two tours that can be combined. One, "A Holiday Prelude in Italy," Dec. 15 to 23, visits Milan for a production of "Don Carlos" with Luciano Pavarotti and Samuel Ramey; Bologna for "Gotterdammerung" (cast not yet set, as is the case for many of these productions), and Venicefor "La Traviata" with Edita Gruberova and Neil Schicoff. The cost, not yet set, is estimated at $3,830 a person based on double occupancy, not including air fare. The second tour, "Christmas and New Year's in Europe," Dec. 22 to Jan. 2, takes in Budapest, with a ballet version of Anna Karenina and "Adriana Lecouvreur"; Prague (program not yet set), and Vienna, with a production of Rossini's "Barber of Seville," and traditional New Year's performances of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and "Die Fledermaus" plus a New Year's Eve ball at the Hotel Sacher. The cost is $4,695 a person double occupancy, not including air fare.