Over 60 million people travel from the UK each year for holidays or business reasons. The vast majority of them enjoy smooth, trouble-free journeys. However, just occasionally things go wrong, people don’t receive the service they expected or travel companies unexpectedly run into financial problems. In those rare cases, travellers need urgent support and that’s where ABTA comes in. However, few people understand what ABTA is or the protection ABTA offers.
What is ABTA?
ABTA is the operating name of what was formerly known as the Association of British Travel Agents. Founded over 60 years ago, ABTA is the UK’s largest travel association, representing travel agents and tour operators. ABTA protection is designed to enforce standards and provide insurance for holidaymakers in the event of financial problems for travel companies.
What does ABTA do?
The name ABTA means that holidaymakers are afforded protection. It is specifically designed to cover holidays bought in the UK that don’t include flights. So, if you buy a land or sea based package holiday, such as a coach, rail or cruise holiday from an ABTA member, your money and holiday will be protected by ABTA’s financial protection scheme.
What does ABTA protected mean?
ABTA protection means that if your travel company goes out of business, you will be entitled to a refund which includes hotel costs. If you are abroad, your transport home will be covered. It provides a quick, clear and simple process to follow, so you are able to continue your holiday as planned, or get your money back.
How else can ABTA offer protection?
ABTA also has a Code of Conduct which governs areas such as accurate advertising, fair terms of trading, changes to bookings and managing customer complaints, plus guidance on providing travellers with the right paperwork and handling complaints. An ABTA member cannot cancel your booking after the date for payment of the full price unless it is necessary to do so for reasons outside its control. If this happens, it must offer you the choice of getting all your money back or choosing alternative travel arrangements. Moreover, if there is a significant change to your travel arrangements they must offer you the choice of accepting the changed travel arrangements or getting your money back.
All ABTA members have to abide by its code and those that breach it can face sanctions from the organisation.
What is the difference between ABTA and ATOL?
ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing) sits alongside ABTA but is specifically designed to cover people who fly. Whereas ABTA covers rail, road, or sea travel holidays. Many ABTA tour operators also provide bonds to the Civil Aviation Authority under the ATOL scheme.
How do I know if I’m covered by ABTA?
You should always check your travel company is ATOL and ABTA protected. Check your receipt shows the name of the company that's providing the holiday service - for example, the tour operator. Where your holiday services are being provided by more than one company, you should receive a separate receipt for each service. Ensure that the name that appears on the receipt is the name of the company to which the payment is made.
This information should also be clearly listed on company websites and covered on the certificates that are legally provided. Be sure to take your protection certificate in case of an emergency while you’re away.
How to make a complaint to ABTA
If you’ve been unable to resolve your issues with your tour operator or received no reply from them within 28 days you can appeal to ABTA. It provides an arbitration scheme and will apply its strict guidelines.
You will need to provide all documentation and copies of all relevant correspondence. ABTA will reply within seven days and attempt to resolve your dispute.
Do I still need travel insurance if a company is covered by ABTA?
Even if a company is an ABTA member you still need to take out personal holiday insurance covering personal effects, delays and medical issues.