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Airline alters fee policy over foot-mouth disease

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Northwest Airlines will not charge its $100 cancellation or postponement fee to passengers flying to Britain or Ireland who are concerned about foot-and-mouth disease.

The offer, available to people booked for travel on or before May 21, came after Northwest agents received inquiries about the disease, airline spokeswoman Mary Beth Schubert said Saturday.

Northwest said it had no indication that sales for flights to Britain are down.

United Airlines had not changed its cancellation policy, said Matt Triaca, a spokesman for the Chicago-based carrier.

Delta Air Lines has not modified its cancellation fee policy.

Phone calls to American Airlines were not immediately returned Saturday, and a spokeswoman for Continental Airlines said she did not immediately know whether the airline's policy has changed.

At airports, agriculture inspectors are inspecting and in some cases sanitizing the shoes of incoming passengers who have been at zoos or on farms while overseas.

Schubert said for now, Northwest's cancellation policy only applies to travel to Britain and Ireland.

Many herds in Britain have been slaughtered to control the epidemic, and Ireland, Netherlands and France have had scattered cases.

Foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a highly contagious virus and affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cows and pigs. It causes sores on the animals infected, and debilitates those that survive.