Confusion remains high for the former customers of the bankrupt tour operator Vantage Deluxe World Travel. The legalese in each notification from the bankruptcy court invariably brings a new wave of bewilderment for those unsecured creditors. Unfortunately, that confusion has now reached a fever pitch.
There’s something very fishy going on with Eileen Whalen’s lost credit card chargeback against bankrupt tour operator Vantage Travel. It’s unclear who from the out-of-business company is fighting customer chargebacks for cruises it canceled, but someone is.
Whalen was plunged right into the middle of this bizarre mystery last month. That’s when a strange chargeback response allegedly from Vantage Travel caused Capital One to reject her valid credit card dispute.
In that rambling missive, the grammatically and factually challenged anonymous author claimed Vantage Travel hadn’t canceled any cruises in September. To add insult to injury, the letter implied Whalen was misusing the credit card dispute process. In summary, it asked Capital One to return the funds to the bankrupt tour operator.
And that’s what happened.
The remnants of Vantage Deluxe World Travel have been sold to Pacific Travel Partners, a subsidiary of Aurora Expeditions, for $2 million.
Pacific Travel Partners will operate the new company as Vantage Explorations.
This outcome has surprised many following the Vantage Travel bankruptcy proceedings since late June, as competing bidder United Travel was widely expected to emerge as the winner.
And there were more surprises when the purchase agreement details were revealed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on August 9. For Vantage customers, who are collectively owed $108 million, the offer from Pacific Travel Partners is considerably better than the initial sale proposal from United Travel.
Now that the assets of Vantage Travel have been sold to Pacific Travel Partners, here’s what customers should know.
Vantage Deluxe World Travel finally pulled the plug on itself and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 29. This move was no surprise to anyone following the troubling situation at the once well-respected tour operator.
What did come as a surprise was the true debt the company amassed before increasing negative publicity about its operations forced it to shut down. The legal team of Vantage Travel revealed that shocking figure in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proposal.
All told, Vantage Travel owes customers, vendors, contractors, and other creditors over 170 million dollars.
For years, legions of Vantage Deluxe World Travel customers eagerly purchased their trip insurance directly from the luxury tour operator. They loved the ease and convenience of having a one-stop shop for their travel planning. Unfortunately, many, if not most of these unsuspecting consumers neither read nor understood the trip protection they were buying.
That was a mistake.
Now with Vantage Travel seemingly unable to pay its bills or operate its tours, a giant light is shining on its pricey waiver product. Thousands of desperate customers are finally reading the details of the trip protection Vantage sold them. Far too late, they’re discovering the policy provides virtually no protection at all if the company runs out of money.
In the past month, pleas for help from distressed customers, vendors and even employees of Vantage Deluxe World Travel have flooded my inbox at an alarming rate. That’s the Boston-based company that announced bad guys had hit it with ransomware at the end of April. At that time, the tour operator’s website went offline, as did its call center – for an entire week.
Since then, it’s been all downhill for the customers of the once well-respected and beloved operator of luxury tours. Today Vantage Travel appears to be in a state of suspended animation. It has officially canceled all its cruises and land tours through June 10.
Although Vantage Travel has not publicly announced that it will continue to cancel more cruises, it is inevitable. In fact, a Vantage Travel employee sent me an internal memo yesterday that announces that it will cancel all tours through Aug. 28.
The once-lively vessels of Vantage Travel are turning into immobile ghost ships without passengers or crews.
Attention Vantage Deluxe World Travel customers: The news isn’t good if you’ve got a trip planned with this tour operator. The unfortunate reality is that you might not be going anywhere.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, my consumer advocacy team has been fielding a heavy volume of Vantage Travel complaints. But recently, the number of pleas for help from customers of the troubled tour operator has skyrocketed.
On April 21, things went from bad to worse. That’s when the Vantage Travel website suddenly went offline and its phone system stopped working. Simultaneously, the administrator of the tour operator’s Facebook page disabled commenting.
But not before angry Vantage customers began sharing disturbing stories.