If you are booking a holiday in the near future, or already have a trip planned, it is a good idea to check how you’re protected if the worst should happen to the airline or tour operator you have booked with.
What is ATOL protection?
The Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL) offers you protection when you’re booking holiday travel via air with UK companies. All UK tour operators and travel agents selling flights are vetted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), to ensure that businesses providing travel are not at risk of failure.
These companies are also required to pay into the CAA financial guarantee scheme. This means that money is provided to cover customers, should an airline or tour operator go under. Though this might mean that the cost of your holiday is higher when booked with a travel agent, you are ensuring that you have additional holiday protection should things go awry.
What does ATOL protection cover?
If your holiday is affected by airline or tour operator insolvency, ATOL protection may be able to help.
ATOL protection covers flights booked within a package holiday offered by a travel agent. There is also ATOL protection for individual flights booked through most tour operators; you can check the status of the tour operator by looking for the ATOL logo on their website and checking the CAA database.
Check the ATOL details of your travel company using CAA’s ATOL Holder Search facility.
If the airline you have booked a flight with fails, the travel operator you have booked a flight through must arrange for you to get home via another flight. They must also cover any costs of extra accommodation needed as a result.
If you have a flight booked for a holiday that has not yet occurred, your tour operator should offer you a full refund on your holiday or offer you the chance to rebook.
If the tour operator fails, the CAA will refund you for your planned trip, or book you a flight home if you’re already on your holiday.
It is worth speaking to the tour operator you are booking with about their particular policy.
What if I’ve booked with the airline directly?
If you book a flight only directly with an airline, you are not covered by ATOL. You will also not get ATOL protection if you only book accommodation with a travel company.
Many airlines are now operating sister companies, such as British Airways Holidays or EasyJet Holidays, that sell package holidays including flights and hotels. The finer details will differ from company to company but generally speaking, they are package holidays so will therefore be covered, and you will receive an ATOL certificate at the point of payment. There are some quirks to this, such as if you book a flight or hotel in separate transactions, so it’s worth enquiring with the holiday company to know the protection afforded to your booking.
How can I check if my holiday booking has ATOL protection?
When booking a holiday, you should check any brochures or websites for the ATOL logo and corresponding licence number.
When booking through a travel agent, you should ask if your entire holiday is covered by ATOL, and to see the ATOL number.
You should also be provided with an ATOL Certificate by the travel company you’ve booked with. This is the case even if you have only paid for a deposit.
You can also check the names of any travel firms you’re using on the CAA website.
Check if your travel company is covered by ATOL protection
What else can I do to protect my holiday when booking flights?
Whether you decide to make your own independent holiday without booking flights through an agent, or would just like to know there is further protection for any money spent, there are ways to protect your holiday investment.
- If you paid over £100 for a flight with a credit card
You are protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you have paid over £100 for a flight on a credit card, as this ensures the card company is liable if your flight is cancelled because the airline goes under. You can claim your money back under this rule, but only if you booked directly with the airline.
- If you paid less than £100 for a flight, or didn’t use a credit card
You may still be able to claim money back if you spent less than £100 on a flight or paid by debit card. Your card provider may offer you a repayment through the chargeback scheme, though this is provider-specific and not a legal requirement.
- Book through an organisation with other protections in place
Travel associations, such as ABTA or the Travel Trust Association, provide financial protection for any bookings made through their member companies. This includes holiday bookings that do not include flights. You can verify members of their organisations on their websites.
- Take out travel insurance
It is sensible to take out travel insurance to cover any holiday expenditures that may be at risk. However, it would be prudent to check the small print, as some insurance providers do not cover any costs associated with airline insolvency.
Find out more about how to book your holiday and keep your money safe with Money Saving Expert