November 27, 2018 12:59 am
Updated: November 27, 2018 1:00 am

Pro golfer blames Air Canada for temporarily losing clubs, hurting his chance at the European Tour

A B.C professional golfer says Air Canada losing his clubs cost him his chance to join a high-profile professional tour. Anne Drewa reports.

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Pro golfer Austin Hughes has blamed Air Canada for a major setback in his career as a professional golfer, after the airline temporarily lost his clubs.

Back in October, the Delta athlete flew from Vancouver to Lisbon, Portugal to try to qualify for the European Tour – one of the top pro golf tours in the world.

He missed the cut and did not earn his playing card.

Coverage of Consumer Matters on Globalnews.ca:

“That trip was for me to set up my career and I wanted to play on the European Tour for 2019, but this has been a setback,” said Hughes.

The travel nightmare began when Hughes and his coach traveled from Vancouver to Lisbon.

They had checked their bags at YVR, but their luggage and Hughes’ golf clubs didn’t travel with them.

“Instead of practicing and preparing for the tournament, you are now battling Air Canada,” Hughes said.

Hughes said there was a major communications breakdown with the airline.

He said he spent days trying to track down his golf clubs, but that he was bounced from one representative to the next.

Finally, Hughes said he was forced to ask his father to drive out to YVR to investigate.

READ MORE: Air Canada, WestJet raising checked baggage fees

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“After seven hours, he was able to make a simple phone call to the airport in Toronto and find my clubs and my clothing,” said Hughes.

By then it was too late, Hughes said.  He was forced to use rental clubs for part of the tournament.

He didn’t make the cut.

“Trying to qualify for the European Tour was a dream of mine this year and I worked really hard on my game trying to get to that next level,” said Hughes.

The entire trip, which included Hughes’ entry fee, cost Hughes approximately $9,000.

Air Canada compensated Hughes and his coach $900 in total, apologizing for the inconvenience.

Air Canada also offered Hughes and his coach two travel vouchers valued at $500 each as a goodwill gesture after Consumer Matters investigated.

A second $100 cheque was issued to cover the baggage fee.

The tail of the newly revealed Air Canada Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft is seen at a hangar at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ont., on February 9, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Air Canada told Consumer Matters that the customers’ original Oct. 2 flights from Vancouver to Calgary and Toronto were cancelled due to extreme winter weather in Alberta.

They rebooked on a non-stop flight from Vancouver to Toronto, ensuring Hughes and his coach could still make their connecting flight from Toronto to Lisbon that same night.

“Unfortunately, YVR airport experienced a breakdown of its baggage system that day, so these customers’ bags could not be loaded on the same flight to Toronto and had to be sent later,” the airline said.

Travel experts warn people to have a backup when travelling with important cargo.

A luggage forwarding company can help — they function like couriers.

While they do present an additional cost, it could prove to be money well spent.

“If something is vital to you whether it be for your work or for your health for whatever reason, make sure you have either a backup or you may look at another way of sending whatever it is that you need just to ensure it’s done, said Claire Newell of Travel Best Bets.

Newell added, “unfortunately with airlines, not just Air Canada, communication is really tough for organizations this size, the backward and forward, not being able to get a hold of somebody to speak to in person.”

Hughes hopes that Air Canada improves its communication with customers — though he appreciates the airline’s offer.

“They definitely need to make a better effort on how they resolve these issues with their customers,” he said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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