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ATOL protection for your holiday

Why it pays to book a holiday that's ATOL protected

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We're all told to look out for the ATOL logo when we’re booking our holiday. But just what is ATOL protection and why do you need it?

ATOL - the background

Back in the 1970s, before travel insurance took off, but when package holidays really started to get popular, British holidaymakers were finding themselves stranded abroad or out of pocket if their travel company went bust before or during their holiday.

In response, the Civil Aviation Authority set up the ATOL scheme. ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser's Licence.

Today, every UK travel company that sells flights and holidays that involve a flight is required by law to hold a Licence. But if you book directly with a scheduled airline, you won’t be covered.

If you book directly with a scheduled airline, you won’t be covered

What does ATOL protection mean?

ATOL protection means that:

  • If you’re overseas and your tour operator or airline fails, you will be able to finish your holiday and get home
  • If you have yet to take your holiday, you’ll get your money back

ATOL protection can work well in tandem with travel insurance to make sure that you’re completely protected against any part of your holiday being ruined by a provider going bust.

This is because ATOL protection covers the failure of the tour operator that organised the travel for you whereas travel insurance can cover the failure of the end supplier, such as the ferry company or a firm running excursions. So if you have ATOL protection and travel insurance, you should be covered regardless of whether the tour operator or the end supplier go bust.

What types of holiday are protected?

As long as you book a holiday with a single UK travel company, your holiday will be protected if you book:

  • Flights and accommodation, including cruises
  • Flights and car hire
  • Flights, accommodation and car hire.

ATOL protection does not apply to flights booked directly with scheduled airlines or flights booked with airline ticket agents. However, it can apply to flights booked with chartered airlines, where you don’t receive your ticket immediately after booking the flight.

LV= travel insurance can cover you if you need to cancel a flight or if a flight you’ve booked directly with a scheduled airline is no longer available because the provider goes bankrupt and you can’t get your money back.

How do I know if an operator is covered by ATOL?

Most travel company websites will display the ATOL Protected logo and their unique licence number that is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.

You can use this licence number to check the travel company is legitimately ATOL Protected.

Bogus travel companies sometimes use the ATOL logo to reassure customers that their money is safe when in fact it isn't. So always check the unique licence number before you part with your cash.

When you've booked your holiday you’ll be provided with an ATOL certificate. This certificate shows which parts of your holiday are covered by ATOL protection. And if you need to make a claim you can refer to the details on the certificate.

What if an operator isn’t covered by ATOL?

Unless you have a fairly comprehensive travel insurance policy in place when you book your holiday, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get any money back if your operator goes bust before you travel.

However, if you've bought your holiday from an ABTA Member in the UK, then you’ll be covered by their financial protection scheme. ABTA offer similar protection to ATOL, but instead of covering just flight-based holidays, they cover rail, coach and sea-based packages.

If you've paid for your holiday on credit card, debit card or PayPal, you may also be able to claim some of the cost back. Speak to your provider about what they can do to help. Credit card protection is particularly useful if your travel operator has gone bust, as the credit card provider is jointly liable for any breach of contract. Therefore you can often reclaim the cost of the service you were expecting, but didn't receive, from the credit card company.

Holidays booked with companies based outside of the UK won't be covered by ATOL or ABTA protection. Ask the travel company you’ve booked the holiday with about what safeguards are in place.

What if I need to make a claim?

Be sure to take your ATOL certificate on holiday with you as this document details what you need to do when making a claim.

The ATOL website lists the companies that have recently gone out of business. You can look for the company named on your certificate in this list and it will detail what you need to do to make a claim.

If you're still on holiday when you find out your tour operator has gone bust, you can usually finish your holiday and then check the ATOL website to see what the arrangements are to get you home.

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