Vantage appears in bankruptcy court, says it owes customers $80 million

Luxury travel company Vantage Travel Services appeared in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Wednesday after admitting in court documents it owes customers $80 million for future trips.

The company vantage-files-bankruptcy-agrees-sell-united-travel-pte-ltd/BHV7XX47JVA5TJWCZAQG6LBXLM/” data-ylk=”slk:filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week;elm:context_link;itc:0″ class=”link “>filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week and announced it is under an agreement to sell its assets to United Travel Pte. Ltd., an affiliate of Nordic Hamburg and Heritage Expeditions. The deal still needs to be approved by a judge.

In court filings, Vantage attorneys said the company has no cash and terminated all but five of its employees on June 20. The company estimates it owes between 10,000 and 25,000 creditors and has liabilities between $100 million and $500 million, according to court documents.

“As was the case throughout the travel industry, COVID-19 had a substantial impact on the Debtor’s operations,” a Vantage attorney said in a motion filed on June 29.

Vantage has been under fire for months after hundreds of consumers complained about a lack of refunds for cancelled or postponed trips. The Mass. Attorney General’s Office said it has received at least 1,120 consumer complaints against Vantage since January 1, 2020.

“Right now, our office remains focused on resolving consumer complaints and securing refunds for affected customers,” an AG spokesperson said in an email last week.

Vantage said United Travel has agreed to provide a 20 percent credit on future travel for customers who booked trips with Vantage before May 11, 2023.

Michelle Couch-Friedman, founder of Consumer Rescue and moderator of a Vantage customer Facebook group with more than 1,400 members, wants to see more done for the thousands of Vantage travelers who lost money.

“I think it’s not a good deal for consumers at all,” consumer advocate Michelle Couch-Friedman said. “Of course, it’s better than nothing, but the customers I speak to? They have no interest in traveling with a new company.”

Vantage’s attorneys are asking the judge for a speedy process.

“The uncertainty surrounding the Debtor’s operations and the status of trips booked by its customers has resulted in a growing amount of negative publicity, which could, absent an accelerated sale process, cause further deterioration in the value of the Debtor’s brand name and other Intellectual Property,” Vantage said in a June 29 motion.

However, a U.S. Trustee accused Vantage of trying to ram the bankruptcy and sale through the courts.

“The Debtor filed its voluntary chapter 11 petition late last Thursday afternoon, just before the Fourth of July weekend, and sought a first day hearing immediately following the Federal holiday…The filing appears to have been orchestrated to limit notice and to prevent parties in interest from having an adequate opportunity to review the filings and raise objections at the first-day hearing,” U.S. Trustee William Harrington wrote in his objection filed July 5.

Couch-Friedman said a hearing will be scheduled for later this summer so that Vantage customers can ask questions and voice their concerns.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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