I get an urgent phone call from Mason Rose the PR company that is running my press trip to Vietnam, Felicity is on the other end of the phone, “there is a problem, Singapore Airlines want £300” to carry your golf clubs as excess baggage”, “You’re kidding”, I replied, “are they trying to kill the golf travel industry?”
And I am afraid this is becoming an all too frequent feature of the golf tour. Now not only do we have to figure in the high price of the Euro against the pound, or left wondering if it is cheaper in the long run to go to the US or Dominican Republic because the pound is strong against the dollar. Or head off to Thailand or that wonderful new golf destination in Vietnam. We now have the added cost of paying for golf clubs that once went free, even good old BA have gotten in on the act.
To be fair to the Portuguese government and the airline TAP they realised very quickly this could kill golf tourism in Portugal on which they heavily rely, but they also realised they could turn this into a PR coupe by announcing that all golf clubs travel free.
According to research by comparison website travelsupermarket.com, which included a selection of airlines to the most popular golfing destinations, Virgin Atlantic was a clear winner with their golf clubs go free on long haul flights.
No surprise who the worst culprit was, Ryanair charge £40 each way to bring your clubs on board. This is more than the single rate of US carriers who charge $50 to fly your clubs over to the United States.
The weight of your golf clubs are also taken into account on some airlines, Aer Lingus has a limit of 15kg while Virgin and BA allow up to 23kg.
Bob Atkinson, travel expert from travelsupermarket.com said: ‘Always pre-book your golf bags, either online if you can or by phone, it is cheaper than paying at the airport.’
‘You should also check the total cost of your flight including golf clubs and all other relevant charges such as seats/bags/card charges as other airlines with a higher basic price may still be cheaper overall once you have factored in all of your equipment.’
I think it is down to governments and tourist boards to start lobbying the airlines and have a bit more joined up thinking going on. Governments are after all, investing millions of dollars in golf resorts and advertising around the world to bring more golfers to their shores. So killing golf tourism to their countries at birth with excessive charges for golf clubs/equipment will see many of these stunning new designs/destinations with empty fairways. Something none of us including the airlines want to see.
Because once golfers start to stay at home rather than travel, everyone loses, including the airlines. Dutch Elm Disease anyone!!