The World Health Organization is urging against travel to Beijing, China's Shanxi province and Toronto, Canada. This after an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in those areas. SARS is a respiratory illness that seems to be spread through close contact.
A local symphony, however, stands to lose about $65,000 in airfare and tour fees if it pulls out of the trip to China they have been planning for more than a year. The Wausau Symphony and Band made its reservations and purchased airline tickets in November before SARS became a major concern.
"At this point," Ted Aarrestad, the symphony's conductor said, "even though the government's recommending we don't go there, the airline's saying you go, or we keep your money."
Aarrestad says the inflexibility of the airline in this situation is the band's main motivation to make the trip at this time.
"There's not much history of this kind of thing," said Aarrestad. "But we accepted the risk by not taking the insurance individually on our tickets."
Twenty-three members have backed out of the trip, but the rest of the group is still planning to go. Three doctors will be part of the group that is scheduled to leave June 16 and return June 27.
Northwest Airlines was contacted for this story, but at the time of publication said it could not comment except to say the company has offered to extend the group's departure date to Dec. 19.
Northwest says there's little more it can do, however. A spokesperson for the airline says the group gave up its rights to cancel or delay the trip past mid-December when it agreed to the conditions for a discounted group rate.
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