BookIt.com Fires 80 Employees in Panama City Beach - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

BookIt.com Fires 80 Employees in Panama City Beach

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For 12 years, BookIt.com has been a positive for Bay County, employing hundreds of people at the Panama City Beach-based travel company.

However, the most recent news out of the company isn't good.  Eighty people lost their jobs on Thursday.

It's the largest layoff in the company's history.

Many said the news of their firing came without warning, and it left them with many unanswered questions and strong words for bookit.com CEO, Bud Finlaw.

"Bud Finlaw, I'm just really disappointed in you. You sold out all of Bay County. You really did," said ex-employee James Thomaston.

The former marketing division employee said he learned the news through a prepared script; something that seemed cold in comparison to the way things are usually run.

"For all the years I was there, it was always a very family like atmosphere. They always referred to us as a family...the BookIt family...and they just really let us down," said an emotional Thomaston.

But CEO, Bud Finlaw, doesn't see it that way. Friday, he said the company is moving forward and called this a necessary consolidation.

"So, [Thursday] was a day where we were able to consolidate two departments into one. A call center and a service center into a contact center. [We're] very excited about this," said Finlaw.

Very excited. In fact, in a press release from BookIt.com on Friday, they highlighted a new "phone free pricing" initiative to provide lower priced trips to guests.

Only in the last paragraph did they touch on the layoffs. Saying quote:

"The company, which has created more than 500 jobs locally, has completed its staffing consolidation and expects to begin hiring again late this year."

"And, um, we certainly...they're eligible to rehire," said Finlaw, speaking about the 80 persons laid off.

One former employee, Brandon Walker, isn't so sure.

"He said that we are all re-hirable. But as good as that may sound, you know, what are the chances of that happening," asked Walker.

Walker found out he'd lost his job over the phone.

"It's just shocking because you know, you wake up and you go to work and the next day you don't have a job," said Walker.

There's many questions still left unanswered for these employees. Those laid off get a two week's pay as a severance package and were offered unemployment.