Avantair airline closes, employees want answers - WFLA News Channel 8

Avantair airline closes, employees want answers

Posted: Updated:
CLEARWATER, FL (WFLA) - It was a high-end private airline called Avantair, popular with the rich and famous.

Headquartered in Clearwater, it abruptly closed down June 26, 2013. That
left hundreds of employees without jobs or health insurance.

Some of the big names who flew on Avantair's private Italian planes included Kurt Russell,  Goldie Hawn, Evan Longoria, Reggie Jackson and former Vice President Dan Quayle.
   

Avantair also allowed wealthy people to buy into the Piaggio aircraft in what it called a fractional ownership, a kind of timeshare arrangement. They could then book trips at a moments notice.

Julie Roberts worked behind the scenes at Avantair. "I loved that job! I loved working at Avantair." She was in charge of talking to the owners and celebrities when they called to book trips.

At one point, Avantair was flying high. At its peak, it employed nearly a thousand people and had more than fifty aircraft in its fleet.

But suddenly, on June 26, Avantair employees were called into a meeting and told they were all being furloughed until further notice. Not only did the employees not get paid for their final weeks of work, they say, but Avantair terminated their health insurance plan at the end of June.

Julie Roberts says: "we were all under the assumption we were eligible for

COBRA and then we started hearing the horror stories. The health care plan was terminated that there isn't going to be any COBRA."

For Roberts, who is battling thyroid cancer, losing her health insurance was devastating.

Clearwater attorney Ryan Barack has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of some former Avantair employees seeking potentially millions Barack says they are owed. "They weren't given the advance notice they're supposed to be given before they were laid off. They were all just thrown out into the marketplace without jobs without any warning."

Barack says Avantair had missed payroll previously and had trouble paying creditors. The company also was the subject of an Federal Aviation Administration investigation, court papers show. Perhaps the final straw was when Avantair grounded its entire fleet of aircraft in June for inspection.

The owners of some of the airplanes then forced a chapter seven bankruptcy filing and the private boutique airline would never re-open. A trustee is now in charge of selling off Avantair's assets and liquidating the company.

Roberts has come to grips with losing her job and her health insurance but she still needs money to survive and continue her cancer treatment. "My prognosis is great but I do still need to have another radioactive iodine uptake. I was supposed to have that in July and I've put it off. I can't put it off forever. I need to get that done."

That is why Roberts, and a few other former Avantair employees, turned to 8 On Your Side. They want to access their 401k retirement accounts but can't seem to get any answers.

"It's my money. What I want to do with it is nobody's business but it's my money and I want it," says Roberts.

A third party called CPI runs the 401k plan but can't act without bankruptcy court permission.

Roberts says they have been trying for months to get answers on when they will be able to access their funds but to no avail.

Attorney Ryan Barack says "It shouldn't be taking as long as it is. These employees, who need this money, should be able to get access to those funds."

After Eight on Your Side contacted the bankruptcy attorney in the case, Lynn Sherman, the ball started rolling. Within a few days a motion was filed in court to terminate the 401k plan.

That court approval is needed in order for employees to have access to their retirement funds. But when it comes to the back pay the employees are seeking, that's another story.

"It could take years," according to Barack.


Don’t miss out on the day’s top Facebook conversations http://on.fb.me/18y81Cl

 
  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • TPD claims training stories fell short

    TPD claims training stories fell short

    Thursday, August 21 2014 5:12 PM EDT2014-08-21 21:12:02 GMT
    The Tampa police department is responding to an 8 On Your Side investigation into a January shooting.The police contend the reports were incomplete and contained errors.The stories focused on a January 9th police shooting in Tampa and the lack of crisis intervention team training at T.P.D.
    The Tampa police department is responding to an 8 On Your Side investigation into a January shooting.The police contend the reports were incomplete and contained errors.The stories focused on a January 9th police shooting in Tampa and the lack of crisis intervention team training at T.P.D.
  • TPD responds to story controversy surrounding police shooting

    TPD responds to story controversy surrounding police shooting

    Thursday, August 21 2014 12:48 PM EDT2014-08-21 16:48:17 GMT
    Jason TurkJason Turk
    An 8 On Your Side investigation into police shooting and the lack of Crisis Intervention Team training at the Tampa police department is not sitting well with T.P.D.Police spokesperson Laura McElroy sent an email to News Channel 8 management with the subject line labeled, "The Rest of the Story
    An 8 On Your Side investigation into police shooting and the lack of Crisis Intervention Team training at the Tampa police department is not sitting well with T.P.D.Police spokesperson Laura McElroy sent an email to News Channel 8 management with the subject line labeled, "The Rest of the Story
  • Verizon insists on seeing Town N' Country man's birth certificate for credit report error

    Verizon insists on seeing Town N' Country man's birth certificate for credit report error

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 5:26 PM EDT2014-08-20 21:26:13 GMT
    James Woolever was shocked to find a bad mark on his credit report. Especially since it was for an "outstanding balance" from a Verizon account opened in 1979. He knew that couldn't be right, because he was just 6 years old then.
    James Woolever was shocked to find a bad mark on his credit report. Especially since it was for an "outstanding balance" from a Verizon account opened in 1979. He knew that couldn't be right, because he was just 6 years old then.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Dover families concerned about a chemical they say causes illness

    Dover families concerned about a chemical they say causes illness

    Thursday, August 21 2014 11:18 PM EDT2014-08-22 03:18:52 GMT
    Concerned families met with representatives from Arkema who sell the chemical Palacin that Zentkovich is concerned about Concerned families met with representatives from Arkema who sell the chemical Palacin that Zentkovich is concerned about
    After two years of illness, Mary Zentkovich wants answers about what is making her family sick.“ Zentkovich thinks the fumigant Paladin being used in nearby strawberry fields is the reason for her family's and other neighbor's illnesses.
    After two years of illness, Mary Zentkovich wants answers about what is making her family sick.“ Zentkovich thinks the fumigant Paladin being used in nearby strawberry fields is the reason for her family's and other neighbor's illnesses.
  • Teen's death could cause change to state fair

    Teen's death could cause change to state fair

    Thursday, August 21 2014 10:49 PM EDT2014-08-22 02:49:31 GMT
    Andrew JosephAndrew Joseph
    The parents of Andrew Joseph spoke at the monthly Hillsborough NAACP meeting Thursday night.
    The parents of Andrew Joseph spoke at the monthly Hillsborough NAACP meeting Thursday night.

  • Funeral home removal service employee charged with stealing from dead woman

    Funeral home removal service employee charged with stealing from dead woman

    Thursday, August 21 2014 9:02 PM EDT2014-08-22 01:02:13 GMT
    Pinellas County Sheriff Deputies arrested a funeral home removal service employee after they claim he stole jewelry from deceased woman while he was in her home to remove her body.
    Pinellas County Sheriff Deputies arrested a funeral home removal service employee after they claim he stole jewelry from deceased woman while he was in her home to remove her body.
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Haircuts for the Homeless

    Haircuts for the Homeless

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 11:38 AM EDT2014-08-20 15:38:55 GMT
    On his days off, stylist Mark Bustos gives free haircuts to the homeless of New York City. Here are some of the transformations.
    On his days off, stylist Mark Bustos gives free haircuts to the homeless of New York City. Here are some of the transformations.
  • 59 Arrested By Greenville Police In Latest Prostitution Sting

    59 Arrested By Greenville Police In Latest Prostitution Sting

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 9:30 PM EDT2014-08-20 01:30:28 GMT
    Greenville Police released information Tuesday that 59 people were arrested in a four day long prostitution sting.
    Greenville Police released information Tuesday that 59 people were arrested in a four day long prostitution sting.
  • VIDEO: Grouper snatches shark in one bite

    VIDEO: Grouper snatches shark in one bite

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 2:44 PM EDT2014-08-20 18:44:27 GMT
    Clip of video from YouTubeClip of video from YouTube
    One bite: that's all it apparently took for a grouper to eat a 4-foot shark in a video posted to YouTube, according to user Gimbb14.
    One bite: that's all it apparently took for a grouper to eat a 4-foot shark in a video posted to YouTube, according to user Gimbb14.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.