SUIT CASE : Couple Win Action Against Airline That Kept Them Off Europe Flight Because of Their Attire

Times Staff Writer

Donald and Magdalena Colgan boarded a World Airways jet in Los Angeles last June for their first trip to Europe.

But they only got as far as Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where the Colgans were grounded by an airline official who said their grey, his-and-her jogging suits--the same ensembles that had not raised an eyebrow when they got on the plane in Los Angeles--were now unsuitable attire.

The Oxnard couple had bought their half-price tickets from a friend six months earlier through a special World Airways "Share Our World" program offering discounts to friends and family of employees.

A brochure with their tickets specified that passengers flying on the discount fare must meet certain requirements, including flying standby and wearing dressy attire--suits or sports jackets for men, dresses, skirts or pantsuits for women.

In their 10 months of planning for the trip--visas, passports and even a $15,000 auto loan to buy an Audi in Europe--two "nice, clean" jogging suits were the last thing that the Colgans expected would interfere.

"Nobody mentioned that to us when we boarded in L.A.," said Colgan, 37, who figured that if he had read the dress code brochure all those months ago, he had probably forgotten it anyway. "If they had, we would have come back the next day or changed our clothes there or whatever. . . . We wanted to be comfortable."

But it was too late. The plane, with the Colgans' luggage--including the change of clothes that would have met the dress code--flew off for Frankfurt. The Colgans did not.

Instead, they returned home on another airline, had themselves photographed in their offending jogging togs and sued World Airways in Los Angeles small claims court for $1,500.

They were awarded $1,000 last month, the airline is appealing the award to Superior Court, and the Colgans still haven't got to Europe.

Planning Undone

"It's amazing how much time wouldn't have any problems," sainsurance company. "We told theconsciously flaunted a dress codus on (the plane) in Los Angeles Colgan says he has "no probl1768300665somewhere, but there were no shops in the airport."

About half an hour before departure time, Colgan said, the ticket clerk's supervisor came back and put the couple back on the plane, where there were "plenty of people" dressed just as casually as they were, Colgan noted--but they were probably full-fare passengers.

Escorted Off Again

Fifteen minutes later, he said, that supervisor's supervisor came aboard and escorted them off again.

"The fact that somebody would do something like that, knowing all the planning--you don't go from California to Europe on a whim--to have somebody upset all those plans on a capricious whim, really irked me," Colgan said.

But grounding the Colgans was not, says World Airways, a capricious whim.

"We have extended a courtesy (in the discount ticket program), and we sort of feel that person (Colgan) has not accepted it in a gracious and businesslike manner," said company spokesman Michael Henderson, who noted that most airlines require certain dress for employees and relatives traveling at reduced fares.

Henderson said he was not aware of the details and did not know why the Colgans might have been allowed on the plane in Los Angeles and then, in the same clothes, kept off the plane in Baltimore.

"I think it kind of boils down to, in exchange for 50% to 60% savings, we don't feel it's unfair to ask those passengers to accept certain rules and regulations as far as their actions as well as their dress . . .," Henderson said. "If you're unwilling to accept that, we'd prefer you pay the full fare."

Colgan said that if he had known how the trip would turn out, "I would have gone with another airline, paid twice the price. The discount isn't worth the hassle."

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