Wiltshire-based specialist coach and holiday tour operator Hatts Coaches has gone into administration with the loss of nearly 90 jobs.
Up to 1,000 customers who booked trips with companies in the Hatts group now face an anxious wait to see if they will get refunds or if another firm will take on the bookings.
Long-established Hatts, based at Foxham, near Chippenham, with bases in Devizes and Salisbury, went into administration last Friday afternoon. The group, which operated around 90 vehicles and included the Bodmans Coaches and HQT firms, has been trading since 1928 and is owned by the fourth generation of the founding Hillier family.
A statement from administrators FRP said the group had been struggling with “unsustainable cashflow pressures” for several months.
Attempts to obtain investment to safeguard a long-term future for the businesses in the group as going concerns had failed to materialise.
The firm's park-and-ride services in Salisbury and a bus service in Pewsey Vale are being operated by the administrators. Salisbury Reds, Beeline, Frome Minibuses, Stagecoach, AD Paines, Damory Coaches, Thamesdown and Leszan Travel have taken over routes operated on behalf of Wiltshire County Council.
All coach tours, day trips and other bookings including for Bath Rugby made with Hatts Coaches have been cancelled. Bodmans Coaches employed 13 staff at Worton, near Devizes, operating contract coach services to local schools including Dauntsey’s, the independent school, and some bus routes in and around Marlborough for Wiltshire County Council.
Andrew Sheridan, partner at the Bristol office of FRP Advisory and joint administrator, said: “It is deeply regrettable and sad for all concerned that the majority of Hatts operations should have to stop trading. The businesses simply ran out of cash.
“We are acutely aware of the distress and hardship many holidaymakers and day-trippers will be suffering right now particularly as so many of these are of an older generation.
“Our priority right now is to contact and provide dedicated helpline support for those members of the general public who have paid for holidays, day trips and other private hire with Hatts.
“We will ensure that they are advised of their statutory rights under the Consumer Credit Act where, in the first instance, if they have paid by credit or debit card they should make contact with their card providers.
“At the same time we will be ensuring that the 89 employees who have lost their jobs are provided with the necessary support to make timely claims from the Redundancy Payments Service for any entitlements they have for unpaid wages, holiday pay, notice pay and redundancy.”
FRP said it fears Hatts was not a member of ABTA or an equivalent travel agent association and that bookings made through its businesses were not covered any travel security bond.
Weston-super-Mare-based coach holiday specialist Bakers Dolphin is offering 50% off holidays to anyone who can show they lost out from the collapse of Hatts.
Sales and marketing director Amanda Harrington said: “We are members of the Bonded Coach Holidays (BCH) and have protection in place so that customers are never at risk. When this sort of thing happens it undermines the industry’s good reputation.
“We have been in touch with FRP Advisory to offer whatever help we can as we pick up throughout Wiltshire and offer similar holidays. Our sympathy is with the customers, who have paid and are looking forward to their holidays and to the staff, who must be devastated.”