CUSTOMERS and staff of a popular coach company are in shock after the firm closed down.
Workers were told that Portsmouth firm Aqua Travel has closed its doors after suffering financial problems.
Bookings have been thrown out and no refunds are being made available to customers who have booked trips.
Employees are owed thousands of pounds. The firm’s owner, Brian Bucknell, has filed for bankruptcy at Portsmouth County Court. He was not available for comment.
Staff at the firm’s base on the Walton Road Industrial Estate, Farlington, were initially told the company would be taken over by coach firm Wheelers Travel.
But Wheelers Travel pulled out of the move, leaving nine former Aqua Travel coach drivers out of work.
Wayne Turner, 35, from Milton, Eastern Road, had booked coaches with Aqua Travel to Heathrow Airport for his wedding abroad this summer.
He said: ‘I literally feel sick inside because now I’ve got to find alternative transport.
It could ruin everything and I don’t know what to do about the money I’ve lost. This is meant to be the happiest stage in my life.’
Coach firm Vision Travel contacted Aqua Travel customers to cancel their bookings after obtaining the defunct company’s booking diary. Vision Travel was not able to take up Aqua’s bookings because its own diary was full.
Ian Jones, from George Street, Portsmouth, paid £500 for children from the Nautical Training Corps youth charity to get to Heathrow before their exchange trip to America.
He said: ‘I’m absolutely gutted about it all. I’ve been trying to ring the coach’s office’s all day but the phone goes dead.
I just have to come to terms that I’ve lost my money and I have to find another way for the kids to get there.’
Vision Travel has taken over Aqua’s school run contracts at Cliffdale Primary and Highcombe Edge School.
But former Aqua coach drivers are devastated they will be losing their jobs.
Anthony Evans, 40, had been working at Aqua Travel for nine months.
Mr Evans, from Gosport, said: ‘I’m absolutely devastated and I’m owed over £1,000 in wages.
‘I’m living right on the wire because of it and I don’t know what to do.
‘We were given no warning that this would happen.’
Workers are also doubtful of promises given to them that unpaid wages will cleared within a month.
Former employee Ian Davison, 51 said: ‘I’m owed £600 but I doubt I’m going to get my money back at all.’
Nathan Roberts, 35, said: ‘I’m appalled at how we’ve been treated. I’m owed two weeks’ wages.’