Pinellas Park travel company delays bankruptcy filing, some customers waiting to receive refund

Better Call Behnken

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Some customers of a now-closed travel company in Pinellas Park are fighting for thousands of dollars in refunds.

Some are having success, while others haven’t received a dime.

When Advantage Cruises and Travel announced it would be filing bankruptcy in June, customers who already paid for canceled trips received emails from the company’s attorney. In short, he wasn’t issuing refunds and they would have to go through the bankruptcy court.

Dozens of customers turned to Better Call Behnken, and Investigative Reporter Shannon Behnken confirmed that some vendors had already issued refunds to customers, but the money went to the travel company, not the customers.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office began looking into complaints. Now, a new email from the travel company’s attorney shows that it has changed course. The bankruptcy has not yet been filed, the email says, and “the owners are working diligently to retrieve whatever refunds they can from suppliers and are disbursing them to customers.”

Some customers tell Better Call Behnken that they have since received half – and in some cases all – of their money back.

Others have received money back from their credit cards, after disputing the charges. Some, however, did not have success with their credit card companies or paid with a check.

Still, others haven’t received any money or any information.

Elizabeth Bowman and her friend, Barbara Thomas, are out $2,164 each for a bus tour to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

“I was so looking forward to this trip,” Bowman said. “Now, I have nothing to show for it.”

Both Bowman and Thomas say they have toured with Advantage before and were surprised when they didn’t receive refunds.

The Attorney General’s Office confirms 32 complaints have been filed with its consumer division. Calls and emails to Better Call Behnken indicate that is only a fraction of the customers who could potentially still be waiting on refunds.

Advantage Cruises and Tours was popular among senior citizens and regularly sold trips through travel clubs at senior living developments. The company also partnered with several local governments to sell trips through community groups.

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