Vantage Travel Refutes Report It Has “Ceased Operations”

Earlier this week, Travel Agent covered a report that Vantage Deluxe World Travel had ceased operations, leading travelers stranded. Following up the incident in April, where the cruise and tour company, canceled several departure days before disembarking, the company did the same again this month.

Vantage Travel, according to Boston.comhas received at least 793 complaints filed through the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office since the start of 2020; over 150 of those have come this year. A group on Facebook called “Vantage Deluxe World Travel Complaints Page -Refunds Trip Cancellations etc” has nearly 1,000 members.

A California woman, Yahoo reported, recently filed a class action lawsuit against Vantage Travel, which alleges it is “continuing to sell trips, cancel trips and let these unpaid refunds pile up.” The lawsuit, filed June 4, accuses Vantage of owing thousands of customers, tens of millions of dollars in unpaid refunds. In addition, on June 8, the Pennsylvania Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Vantage Travel and its founder Henry Lewis for alleged violations of the “Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law,” resulting in consumer losses of thousands of dollars.

On June 3, CruiseMapper reported that Vantage Travel’s two ships, Ocean Explorer and Ocean Odysseyhave been laid up at Port Caen (France). Nearly two weeks later and they remain in the same spot. (Ships are laid-up when freight rates are not sufficient to cover the running costs.)

One couple, both aged 77 and from New York Stateshared with Travel Agent that their recent river cruise from Lisbon to Madrid was canceled four days prior to departure. The couple said this was the third time using Vantage Travel, first in northern Italy and again for a safari in the south Africa—”They were absolutely fantastic adventures and we trusted them for this third trip,” they said.

The current trip was initially booked for 2021, which was canceled due to COVID, then again in 2022. The money was reportedly kept by Vantage Travel to use on a future trip, which was again canceled this month. The total amount is over $18,000 and the couple has not seen a refund yet.

In a statement provided to Travel Agent, Vantage Deluxe World Travel’s general counsel, Rossella Mercury, said, “For correction, Vantage has not “ceased” operations, nor have any travelers been stranded.”

She added: “Vantage is currently engaged in sensitive negotiations for a sale of the company. Our primary goal is to obtain the best outcome for our customers. Confidentiality agreements governing our negotiations prevent us from disclosing additional information at this time.”

When we reached out to various travel agencies and travel agency networks, none of the three who responded said they did business with Vantage Travel.

Marnie Brownfounder and CEO of Trusted FIT Services—whose goal is to provide travel industry professionals with a better way to source and verify overseas tour suppliers—told Travel Agent “this debate illustrates two major weaknesses in the US travel industry that puts consumers at risk.”

The first: “Some US tour operators are self-insuring pre-trip cancellations with a cash benefit that is not underwritten, insured, bonded or in any way financially guaranteed. These policies look very much like ‘travel insurance’ but only post-trip is a real insurance product (regulated/underwritten). Thus, they are sometimes referred to as ‘hybrid’ policies.”

The second: “The US travel industry is woefully behind Europe in terms of putting laws in place that would protect advance payments and stop tour operators from using these funds as play money. Travel seller laws exist in just five states—but they are almost worthless upon close examination.”

Here is how Vantage Travel markets its Travel Protection Plan: Choosing the new Travel Protection Plan, administered through Allianz Global Assistance, ensures that you, your loved ones, and your investment are 100 percent protected from point of purchase until you return home. There’s a reason US Department of State recommends taking travel protection every time, and we urge you not to take the risk of traveling unprotected.”

According to Brown, “Vantage Travel customers paid on average 12 percent of Vantage’s now useless Trip Protection. How could anyone expect them to understand that ‘administered’ doesn’t actually mean the insurance company is financially responsible?”

Beyond that, Allianz recently terminated its relationship with Vantage Travel, currently Trip Mate severed its relationship with the company in December 2020, noting “extremely late payment of Part A claims by Vantage.”

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