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Airlines won't allow booster seats

Children will not be permitted to sit in booster seats, harnesses or safety vests aboard airplanes after Sept. 3, by decree of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

This action follows tests by Van Gowdy, an FAA biodynamics engineer, that found backless booster seats and harnesses did not offer children the protection in airplane seats that they offered in automobile seats. Approved child safety seats with backs and sides that belt into an airplane seat continue to be acceptable despite inadequacies Gowdy's tests found with some forward-facing models. The FAA recommends that children under 20 pounds ride in rear-facing approved seats, that children 20 to 40 pounds ride in approved forward-facing models, and that children over 40 pounds ride in the regular adult safety belt.

Airline rules still permit children under 2, who need not have tickets, to ride in adults' laps; they are the only people aboard airplanes not required by law to be belted in for takeoff and landing.

Travel agents group tightens ethics code

Prompted by complaints about vacation-certificate and vacation-property sales tactics, the American Society of Travel Agents has changed its ethics code, requiring members to disclose all costs and restrictions _ when requested in writing _ before any travel offer is purchased.

The rule states, in part: "Full details of the time, place, duration, and nature of any sales or promotional presentation the consumer will be required to attend in connection with his/her travel arrangements shall be disclosed in writing before any payment is accepted."

A few weeks before the board's action this summer, ASTA expelled a Fort Lauderdale company, Vacation Break USA, that it said had violated a consumer fraud settlement in Idaho. Vacation Break said it planned to continue its business, which includes vacation certificates, as usual.

Major cultural exhibitions under way

Among the summer's hot tickets in museums:

+ Fourteen life-size terra cotta figures of soldiers and horses from the tomb of China's first emperor _ the largest number ever to travel to the United States _ are on view at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama through August. "The First Emperor: Treasures From Ancient China" will examine the history and culture of ancient China during the reign of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi from 221 to 210 B.C.

Accompanying the figures are architectural elements from the imperial palaces, bronzes, coins, jewelry and horses' reins of solid gold. Born in 259 B.C. Emperor Qin assumed the throne of the state of Qin when he was 13 years old. He had built vast public works, including more than 270 palaces and an imperial mausoleum, which housed the tomb of the Emperor and the buried terra cotta army surrounding it.

Tickets to the exhibition, which are sold for a specific date, are $10, and $5 for those 6 to 18. To purchase tickets, call (205)715-6000 or (800)277-1700.

+ To help accommodate potential viewers to the acclaimed Cezanne exhibition, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has extended the hours _ 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week _ to accept reservations. Best time to call: evenings after 7 and on weekends. (215) 235-SHOW. There's a service charge of $2.75 per ticket with phone orders.

Admission is $12.50 for adults, Wed.-Sun., $10.50 on Tues. Seniors, students and children 5-18 pay $9.50, $8 on Tues. Tickets can also be purchased at the museum during regular hours. Information: (215) 684-7500 (recorded) or (215) 763-8100.

But the best deals in town are at the 14 hotels that offer one night's accommodations for two persons, breakfast and two VIP tickets to the show. These hotel packages also include parking, two tickets to the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, two city transit passes and more. The hotel packages run from $155 to $245; ask when calling for reservations if the museum package is available. Both Amtrak (800-USA-RAIL) and USAir (800-334-8644) also offer special deals.

For Philadelphia visitor information, call 800-752-8206.

Bus service offers D.C. museum route

A new bus service provides relief for Washington tourists' feet by offering inexpensive rides around the Mall and to several museums throughout the city.

The Washington Museum Bus offers unlimited boarding to 20 off-the-Mall, less-frequented museums and attractions including the Woodrow Wilson House, the DAR Museum, the National Building Museum, American Red Cross History Center, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery and the Phillips Collection. The Museum Bus passes near eight Metrorail stations.

One-week passes are $5 for individuals and $12 for a family with two adults and up to three children under age 16. With an average wait of 15 minutes, the bus has 14 downtown stops and runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Bus passes may be purchased at the shops in participating museums, at Ticketplace or by calling 202-TICKETS.

_ Compiled from Times wires

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