All About ATOL
Is your holiday protected?
ATOL bonding was a hot topic in January 2017 when All Leisure Holidays Ltd ceased trading, and around 13 000 people found their cruise bookings cancelled.
Fortunately, ATOL protection was created for just such a situation, and covered many of those losses, although some travellers were not covered and relied on ABTA or their travel insurance.
Here’s a quick guide to ATOL protection, so you can book and plan with confidence.
What is ATOL?
An ATOL is an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence.
When we talk about “an ATOL” we mean the licence issued to a travel company
It’s issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
- An ATOL is issued to UK travel companies1 (generally tour operators, not travel agents2)
- Companies based in Europe will not have ATOL protection, however they are governed by EU package travel legislation.3
- Companies based in the rest of the world, e.g. Africa or the USA, must have an ATOL in order to sell flights in the UK.
ATOL protection (also called ATOL bonding) specifically protects you if the travel company collapses (stops trading) before you leave the UK, or while you ’re on holiday. If you’re on holiday, it will get you home safely and possibly also enable you to complete your holiday.
Types of bookings covered by ATOL protection are:
- flights and accommodation (including a cruise)
- flights and car hire
- flights, accommodation and car hire
The above applies as long as these were booked with a single travel company and at the same time, or within one day.
It applies to online bookings, where the company has ATOL protection.
If you book flights but don’t immediately get a ticket, ATOL can also apply (check before you pay!)
In some cases, booking a flight only (through a travel agent) can be protected . You will receive an ATOL certificate when you make the booking if this is the case.
However, if your flight booking is not ATOL protected, the CAA advises making sure your travel insurance covers losses if any of the providers ceases trading.
What isn’t covered
Please note, ATOL protection would cover flight and accommodation reimbursement if a supplier ceases trading; it doesn’t cover expenses such as medical care when you travel – you still need comprehensive travel insurance!
ATOL protection does not apply:
- If you book flights (and holidays/car hire) directly with an airline.
- If you book a package (e.g. flight and accommodation) but the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against travel to your destination after you make the booking. In this case, your travel company would be required to provide a refund or alternative according to EU package travel legislation. Read more about FCO advice here>>
- If a package holiday was booked with a company that doesn’t have ATOL protection.
All UK travel companies must have an ATOL – look for the ATOL Protection logo on their website and brochures, and you can check on the CAA website. The CAA notes that certain companies use a fake ATOL logo that does not have a unique registration number, so it’s worth doing a quick check to be sure.
What if there’s an act of terrorism?
The ATOL scheme protects you specifically from losing money or being stranded abroad when a travel firm goes out of business.
A specialist terrorism travel insurance policy is recommended in case you’re affected directly or indirectly by an act of terrorism. It costs as little as £4.96 per person for up to 8 days, and covers cancellation if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your route or accommodation, up to 6 weeks before you depart.4
How do I make sure I’m protected?
When you make a booking for a combination of flights and/or accommodation and/or car hire, you should receive an ATOL certificate right away.
Keep the certificate with you when you travel, along with your travel insurance policy. Scan and save a copy too.
Before you make any payments, it’s a good idea to check that the company you’re booking with is ATOL protected, and confirm whether or not your booking will have ATOL protection. There is usually a charge of £2.50
If you book a holiday without ATOL protection, make sure your travel insurance covers any potential losses due to the travel company, airline, etc. collapsing.
1 If a UK travel company doesn’t have an ATOL, we’d be wary. The prices may be amazing but is it worth the risk?
2 Difference between travel agents and tour operators:
A tour operator generally puts together travel packages of various types, e.g. flights and accommodation, or flights, transfers, resorts and day trips. These companies will have an ATOL.
A travel agent makes bookings with suppliers (i.e. acting as their agent), including tour operators who have ATOL protection.
When you book an air holiday with an agent it must tell you which ATOL travel company is protecting your travel arrangements, and provide an ATOL Certificate when you pay. If you book a flight only, the agent must either issue you with a ticket straight away or confirm your ATOL protection and give you the certificate.
3 Travel firms selling package holidays within the EU must provide financial protection to consumers. In these circumstances, the consumer must go to the protection authority of the country in which the business is based for that protection .
The CAA cautions though that not all countries operate comprehensive protection schemes and in some cases financial protection will be more limited than ATOL.
4 Information on Safe Journey cancellation cover is a summary only. For full details of the cover provided, as well as terms, conditions and exclusions, read the full policy wording, which can be found on our safe-journey.com website.
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