CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Don't blame your local travel golf bag manufacturer if his hair is looking a bit thin, his fingernails are down to the nub, and the sweat from his brow could fill a bathtub. Delta Airlines announced earlier this month that it would implement a new policy requiring soft-sided golf travel bags to be enclosed in hard shell containers, purchased from the airline for $10 per one way trip.
Delta officials announced Monday, however, that the proposed policy has been put on hold for further examination. The new regulation was originally scheduled to go into affect on May 15, but was then pushed back to June 1 due to an unforeseen amount of industry feedback.
"In an effort to ensure adequate protection of customers' golf clubs, Delta is further reviewing it's policy regarding the acceptance of golf clubs for transport" said Delta spokesperson Kristi Tucker.
Sources close to TravelGolf.com have indicated that a number of soft-sided travel bag manufacturers and vendors have pressured Delta to re-evaluate the policy, citing free trade violations and brand name discrimination.
The proposed regulation contained a lone exception for soft-sided Club Glove models and did not apply to hard shell travel golf bag models. Club Glove manufactures the only soft-sided travel golf bags listed in Delta's SkyMall in-flight catalog.
"There certainly appears to have been some illegal maneuvering going on there, but I think they (Delta) are doing the right thing by stepping off and looking at all the issues," said one travel golf bag manufacturer wishing to remain anonymous.
Delta is the official airline of the PGA Tour, and Club Glove is the most popular brand of travel golf bag among Tour players who use commercial flights to travel to and from tournaments.
"I am not able to discuss any agreements with Club Glove at this time," said Tucker. "The proposed policy was designed to limit damage and offset additional expenses associated with handling specialty items."
Delta's announcement caught a number of industry insiders off guard and has sent many soft-sided bag manufacturers into a holding pattern that could ultimately impact sales and liability issues if the policy is implemented. The Atlanta-based airline's existing policy allows passengers to check any type and name brand of travel golf bag, provided they sign an indemnity clause for soft-sided bags.
Not all travel golf bag manufacturers are taking issue with Delta's proposed policy, however. Jan McMasters, national sales manager for Stone Legacy's Journeyman Golf Bag, says the intent of the policy was not to freeze out the soft-sided golf bag manufacturers, but to potentially save Delta thousands of dollars.
"I can certainly see why they are doing this," McMasters said. "There are so many claims each year and golf clubs are so expensive. The proposed policy would actually help us, because our bag has been classified as hard shell. But it could put the soft-sided guys out of business and I think that is what they realized from the reaction to the announcement."
Tucker says that until the new policy is revamped, Delta will accept any golf club bag/travel bag contained within a hard shell container without a limited liability release being signed by the customer. Any other golf travel bag, including soft-sided bags, will be accepted after the completion of a limited liability release by the customer.
A new date for the revised policy has not been released, but according to Tucker, "Delta is working diligently on the new policy and plans to introduce it soon."
One of the world's largest airlines, Delta provides over 5600 daily flights to 417 cities in 73 countries. In 2001, Delta emplaned over 100 million passengers and realized $13.9 million in revenues.
Canton, Ohio resident Terry Grant has been arranging golf trips to Myrtle Beach for his group of 24 for the past 11 years. Members of Grant's group arrive at the Myrtle Beach Airport from all over the U.S., but Grant says that only those flying Delta through Atlanta have experienced excess "turbulence" in getting all their gear to the Grand Strand.
"Delta service from Atlanta is provided by ASA and the aircraft's baggage compartments are not large enough to handle full loads of golfers and their travel golf bags," Grant says.
Case in point: Two years ago, four members of Grant's group from Colorado arrived at the Myrtle Beach Airport without their luggage or clubs.The four golfers had been delayed in Atlanta, and arrived late on a Saturday night.
Delta baggage officials in Myrtle Beach instructed them to purchase whatever clothes and shoes they would need to play the next day, to rent golf clubs, and that their gear would be delivered to them as soon as it arrived.
All four golfers bought shirts, shorts, shoes, and balls, and rented clubs the following Sunday. Delta required that they keep all receipts and present them at the airline's claims counter when they departed Myrtle Beach.
Grant says his friends' gear finally arrived Sunday evening, but when the four golfers returned to the Delta claims counter they were told that they'd have to pay 50 percent of the cost of the shoes they purchased if they wanted to keep them, or they could turn them into Delta.
Needless to say, Grant and the four members of his groups were shocked, and turned the shoes into Delta. Grant says that in addition to the members of his party, at least 20 other passengers on the flight from Atlanta arrived without their gear.
"From what I understand from speaking with Delta employees at the (Myrtle Beach Airport) counter, this is a fairly regular occurrence," Grant says. "The next year, the exact same thing happened to two members of our group flying in from Atlanta. I just wonder what they do with all those shoes."
May 17, 2002
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