Leaders of a group known as Vantage Travel Customers Seek Restitution are asking the U. S. Bankruptcy Court to appoint a Customer Committee to grant thousands of Vantage Travel customers voice and legal representation during the tense and complex proceedings, according to a press release.
According to the statement, with over 500 signatures, the petition was submitted July 17 to the U. S. Trustee Eric Bradford.
The group said that Vantage customers, mostly senior citizens, represent the largest group of unsecured creditors with $80 million owed to them due to cancellation of cruises and tours.
“Once a Customer Committee is appointed by the court, we hope a full-scale investigation will be launched into what happened to all the advance payments made by consumers for tours and cruises that never operated,” said Robert Hert, co-founder of the Vantage customer group. “This should include thorough financial forensics into Vantage Travel, its foreign affiliates and owner Henry. R. Lewis”
The bankruptcy court also notified customers that Vantage Travel intends to sell its assets to the highest bidder with multiple companies expressing interest. Currently, there is a bid for $1 million by United Travel Pte. Ltd, a Singapore corporation which, in exchange would receive the Vantage customer list.
Court documents indicate the purchaser has agreed to provide future credit to certain customers which has been reported to be 20 percent off of the new company’s travel offering.
“This is an insult to those of us who have worked so hard and saved for years in order to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip with family members,” said Hert. “If the new owner stands to gain millions of dollars in business, it behooves them to be generous in treatment of those who have been jilted by Vantage and its questionable business practices.
“We believed our money was in safe hands. We thought we were doing everything right, especially by taking out trip protection that carried the Allianz name. It never crossed our minds that Vantage Travel might be financially unstable or that our trip protection would not cover us if they went bankrupt,” added Hert.
There are hundreds of people, predominantly seniors, gathering online who are sharing stories and asking for help in seeking restitution as the assets of Vantage are being sold to the highest bidder.
“I planned a safari trip with my 81-year-old mom since I just retired from 30 years as a teacher,” said Hert. “This was supposed to be a celebration of life and it turned into a nightmare. Not just for me, but for thousands of people like me.”