Delta Birdies Its Response to Golf-Bags Bungle

Thom Weidlich 05.30.24


Delta Air Lines responded well to a recent small crisis involving its handling of golf bags. The company appropriately used some humor (usually dangerous in crisis comms) and suggested that it may swing even harder to make amends.

On Tuesday, May 21, the East Tennessee State University Men’s Golf team landed in San Diego on a Delta flight to compete in the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship in Carlsbad, California. Alas and aghast, the team sat in the aircraft waiting to deboard and observed through the windows a Delta baggage handler below tossing their golf bags from the plane onto the tarmac like so many sacks of grain.

They didn’t just watch it, they recorded it. The 24-second video posted to X (with the text, “Nice of @Delta to handle our clubs with such care”) has nearly 11 million views. “They’re getting ready to play in what might be the most important competition in their lives (so) to see that, it was scary,” ETSU athletics director Richard Sander told Knox News.

Specifically Fitted

Ultimately, some of the bags and players’ personal items were damaged, but not the clubs themselves, which are specifically fitted for each golfer and which were obviously the main concern.

Also obviously, Delta had to respond. Sander told Knox News the company reached out to the Buccaneers team the next morning. “They were very apologetic,” he said. “After the tournament, I think they want to do something for the players and the university. They understand there was a problem and they need to do better.”

Delta also put out a media statement that was widely picked up. Though brief, it was appropriate. The company didn’t deflect. “We apologize to the ETSU Golf team and ask for a mulligan on how their equipment was handled,” the airline said. “We’re in direct contact with the Bucs to ensure they have what they need to successfully compete in the NCAAs.”

Mulligan Humor

The humor about a mulligan, or do-over in golf, worked and was picked up by a lot of outlets, including in headlines. Humor is difficult to pull off in a crisis because people are usually so upset or angry, but here it was appropriate. It probably wouldn’t have been had the clubs been damaged.

Which is not to say that everyone appreciated the joke.

Photo Credit: Delta

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