All UK companies that sell package holidays must have an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL).
This means they pay into a fund that prevents holidaymakers losing out financially if the company goes bust before or during their trip.
The financial protection offered by this fund is what is known as ATOL protection.
What is ATOL?
ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, which is a financial protection scheme run by the Civil Aviation Authority. ATOL membership is a legal requirement for all UK companies selling package holidays, but it does not cover companies based overseas.
Holidays that are covered by ATOL include flights booked with accommodation and/or car hire as part of a package as well as some, but not all, flight-only deals.
However, your trip may not be ATOL protected if it’s classed as a Linked Travel Arrangement (LTA), which is when a company “facilitates” the purchases of two or more linked services – such as a flight and a hotel – without classing them as a package. Flights bought directly from airlines are also excluded.
What does ATOL protected mean?
The ATOL scheme works by charging member companies £2.50 for each traveller who books through them. This money is then held in a fund that is managed by the Air Travel Trust and can be used to refund, repatriate, or reimburse holidaymakers whose plans are affected by their package holiday provider going bust.
Free to consumers, ATOL protection means:
- You’ll be able to finish your holiday and get home as planned if your package holiday provider goes bust while you’re away
- You’ll get a full refund if the company collapses before your holiday begins
Do I need travel insurance if my holiday is ATOL or ABTA protected?
You should still take out a travel insurance policy for your holiday, as it can offer cover in other areas where your ATOL or ABTA certificate won’t. For example, a travel insurance policy can help in case you need medical treatment while you are away, you have to cancel your plans, or your trip is affected by delays or lost luggage.
Can I get travel insurance if my holiday is not ATOL or ABTA protected?
You’ll still be able to get cover if your holiday isn’t ATOL protected, though you may want to consider scheduled airline/end supplier failure insurance as part of your policy to bolster your protection.
What’s the difference between ATOL and ABTA?
ABTA stands for the Association of British Travel Agents. Like ATOL, ABTA membership protects those booking holidays through agents from losing money if the company collapses.
ATOL protection covers holidays that include air travel, while ABTA protection covers you if you’re travelling by rail or going on a self-drive package holiday.
Is my holiday ATOL protected?
Ways to check whether or not a holiday you are considering booking is ATOL protected include:
- Check for the ATOL logo on the company website, as well as in its brochures and advertisements (and make sure the logo features a unique licence number, which you can check with the CAA)
- Ask your tour operator or travel agent to tell you if it offers ATOL protection
Once you book, you should also be automatically issued an ATOL certificate.
Do I need an ATOL certificate?
Yes, your ATOL certificate is your proof that your trip or flight is protected by ATOL. It also explains the protection you have and what you should do if your holiday provider goes out of business – so keep it safe and take it with you when you travel. The certificate should be issued automatically, as soon as you book or pay a deposit towards your holiday.
If you don’t have a certificate and you need to make a claim, ATOL will only consider it on a case-by-case basis. That’s why it’s important to check you’ll get a certificate before you book.
How can I make a claim under ATOL protection?
If you need to make an ATOL claim, the first step is to find your ATOL certificate and follow the instructions laid out on it. If you’re yet to go on holiday, the next step is to fill out an ATOL claim form and provide evidence of your booking. Once this has been received, your claim should be processed within 28 working days.
If you’re already on holiday when your provider goes bust, you can check the CAA website’s latest failures page for more information about what to do. If you’re having difficulties, you can also call the CAA on +44 (0) 333 103 6350. You will then need to complete an ATOL claim form, providing evidence of your booking and any extra costs incurred.
How else can I protect my holiday?
You can receive similar protection to that offered by the ATOL scheme by booking a package holiday via an ABTA member.
If you book your holiday using a credit card, you can also claim your money back under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 should the provider go bust.
However, the best way to protect your holiday is to take out comprehensive travel insurance that also pays out if you fall ill or are targeted by thieves while you are overseas, for example.
Compare travel insurance
It’s best to buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your holiday – in case your holiday is cancelled, or if you need to cancel because you’re ill to go or the government decides it’s no longer safe to travel to your destination.
You can compare travel insurance policies quickly and easily with MoneySuperMarket. Just enter your personal details, and tell us where you’re travelling to, and what level of cover you’d like.