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Delta loses pole vaulter's poles, athlete calls it 'bummer for sure'

Central Washington University senior Kati Davis clears the bar at the 2012 University of Washington Open Indoor Meet in Seattle on February 12.
Central Washington University senior Kati Davis clears the bar at the 2012 University of Washington Open Indoor Meet in Seattle on February 12.Thomas Von Ahlefeld / CWU Athletics

Lost baggage can ruin any air traveler’s day, but a pole vaulter who says Delta Air Lines lost track of her poles has been left wondering what could have been after a disappointing finish at a national championship.

Kati Davis, a senior at Central Washington University, paid the carrier a $200 fee to have the 14-foot poles transported on a flight from Seattle to Colorado Springs on May 22.

She was on her way to the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field National Championships in Pueblo, Colo., where expectations were high for the 23-year-old athlete: Davis was going for her third All-American title.

But while she anxiously awaited the arrival of her equipment, the poles went on a three-day odyssey that eventually included stops in Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Denver. They never made it in time for the competition last Friday, where Davis had to use borrowed poles and ended up not making the cut.

“I don’t blame Delta for how I did at nationals. It definitely aided in me not jumping my best, but I don’t blame them for that,” Davis told msnbc.com.

“At the same time, I think it’s unacceptable in this day and age when you’re having to pay so much for baggage ... how they treated me during this whole week and what they do with baggage and how they can’t keep track of things.”

Delta did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

When the poles were nowhere to be found once Davis landed in Colorado Springs, a Delta agent told her they had never left the ground in Seattle and were still in the airport’s oversize baggage area, Davis recalled.

The airline arranged to have them delivered to her the next day, but after a stop in Salt Lake City, the poles somehow ended up in Atlanta for two days.

They finally arrived in Denver on the day of the competition, so Davis’ coaches made the two-hour drive from Pueblo to pick up the equipment, but they got stuck in Memorial Day traffic on the return trip and didn’t make it back on time.

Davis was on her own when the championships began.

“I was at my national meet and I had some borrowed poles and I had no coach. It was a bummer for sure,” she said. She ended up “not-heighting,” or not able to clear the initial height.

Davis, who has flown with her poles more than 20 times, noted that this was the first time she has ever had a problem with an airline transporting the equipment.

She was on the phone with Delta at least five times a day during the three-day quest, she said, and wasn’t impressed.

“The most frustrating part was the lack of customer service. I got the runaround the whole time,” Davis recalled.

She did receive two $100 vouchers for her trouble from the carrier and is in the process of getting the $200 fee refunded, David said.

Delta's luggage handling statistics stack up favorably compared with other domestic carriers, the latest government statistics show, with just over two lost bags per 1,000 passengers. 

The best performer -- Virgin America -- had less than one complaint per 1,000 passengers, while the worst performer -- American Eagle Airlines -- had more than six complaints.

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