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Discounted adoption fares available

Parents adopting children overseas shell out thousands of dollars in fees, so naturally when it's time to make travel arrangements they hope to catch a break in air fare costs.

They might find them at Delta and Northwest, two major U.S. airlines that joined a handful of international companies in offering discount rates last year after learning about that need from travel and adoption agencies.

But perhaps even more important than the discounts is the flexibility the companies give travelers to either cancel or reschedule trips at a moment's notice without financial penalties.

"When this would be useful would be when you are literally waiting and have to leave that afternoon," said Liz Curry of Destinations Everywhere in downtown St. Petersburg.

Delta and Northwest offer fares 65 percent off full coach fares for parents and a variety of discounts for adopted children. As low as those discounts may sound, some travel agencies that specialize in international adoptions say prospective parents may get even better fares by negotiating directly with an airline.

"Sometimes, it can really come in handy like during the time of the year when the rates are higher," said Marina Ryjof, a travel agent with All Ways International in New York, which works with people adopting from Russia. "At other times, the adoption fares might be more expensive. It really depends.'"

With a growing number of Americans adopting internationally _ more than 18,000 children last year alone _ adoption agencies say there is a need for discounts. Airlines from other nations, such as Germany and China, also offer specials. All require verification of the adoption.

"Delta recognized our customers need these fares," spokeswoman Katie Connell said. "As good corporate and community citizens, Delta made the decision to offer these discounted fares because it was the right thing to do for our customers and for the company."

Delta and Northwest officials could not say how many travelers have used the program since it was first offered last spring, though Northwest spokeswoman Kathy Peach described the Special Delivery program as "popular and well-accepted."

Most soon-to-be parents discover the discounted fares through their adoption agencies or the handful of travel agencies across the country that deal almost exclusively with international adoptions. Internet ads and electronic chats between adoptive parents also help get the word out.

"Airlines are very accommodating," said Joann Lynch of the Gift of Life adoption agency in Pinellas Park. "They will do what they can to work with adoptive parents."