Out-of-pocket Bestjet customers are demanding answers at a creditors meeting in Brisbane today – including why the husband of the company’s former boss is first in line to be paid off.
It comes as the corporate watchdog revealed it is closely monitoring the administration of the failed online travel agency.
Creditors will meet at 12pm (local time) at the offices of Pilot Partners, the chartered accounting firm appointed as the Bestjet administrator on December 18.
Kate Ryder, who said she is more than $3000 in the red after booking two return flights to Europe through Bestjet, will attend the meeting.
The New South Wales nurse, who created the ‘Bestjet Fiasco Action Group’ on Facebook, said she will act as the proxy holder for multiple unsecured creditors.
“We have a lot of questions. What was the catalyst for Bestjet going into administration? How many people are involved? How much money is involved?” Ms Ryder told nine.com.au today.
“What experience does Pilot Partners have in investigating online travel companies? How were they appointed?”
Ms Ryder also wants to know why Michael James, the husband of Bestjet founder Rachel James, has been named by Pilot Partners in its preliminary report to creditors as the first of three priority creditors.
“What role did Michael James play in the day-to-day running of the company?” Ms Ryder will ask.
“What was Michael James’ title and position within Bestjet at the time his wife owned Bestjet?”
Who is Michael James?
Bestjet Travel was founded by Rachel James, the wife of disgraced former Air Australia boss Mr James, just weeks after the airline’s collapse in 2012.
Air Australia was $97 million in debt when it went into voluntary administration, with Mr James disqualified by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) from managing corporations for three years.
But according to the Pilot Partners report, Mr James was involved in the management of Bestjet.
“Our investigations have revealed that Mr James (husband to the former director, Ms Rachel James) was involved in the day to day operations of the business,” the report stated.
Nine.com.au could not reach the James’ for comment.
Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Jayson Westbury also said AFTA believed Mr James was actively involved in the management of Bestjet.
AFTA stripped Bestjet of its industry accreditation more than 18 months ago.
Bestjet took legal action against the AFTA, but the Supreme Court ruled in the industry body’s favour, Mr Westbury told nine.com.au.
“We believed Michael James had an active involvement in the management of Bestjet and that hadn’t been disclosed and he was bankrupt at the time,” he said.
On November 2, just six weeks before Bestjet went under, McVicker Investment Group took over the running of the company.
Industry insiders estimate about 10,000 people have been affected by Bestjet’s collapse.
Dozens of angry Bestjet customers have come forward with serious allegations about their experiences with Bestjet.
They have accused the company of not paying refunds, failing to issue tickets, sending invalid ticket confirmations, and not returning calls or emails.
As ASIC spokeswoman told nine.com.au the corporate watchdog has been monitoring the administration of Bestjet.
“The administrators’ role, amongst other things, is to administer the affairs of the company,” she said in a statement.
“The administrators will report to ASIC possible offences by people involved with the company and we will assess these reports to consider possible investigation or other regulatory action.
“We are required under the law to keep any reports from administrators confidential, meaning that we cannot comment in relation to the receipt or contents of such reports.
“ASIC will continue to monitor the administration and may provide updates if it has further information, but at this stage is not able to comment publicly.”
Pilot Partners has ignored multiple requests for comment.