The loss of Monarch Airlines in October, 2017 was a reminder that, sadly, companies can and do go bust. The company’s insolvency hit many people with booked holidays but also caused concern to those already abroad and booked onto return flights. In the end over 100,000 people were repatriated thanks to ATOL. It was a perfect example of just why you need to ensure you’re ATOL protected when you travel.
What is ATOL?
ATOL stands for Air Travel Organisers' Licensing. It was first introduced in 1973 and updated in 2012. After a number of travel company failures left people stranded, the government took steps to ensure consumers were covered, should firms fall into financial difficulties. The scheme is funded by contributions from the travel companies.
What does ATOL protected mean?
ATOL is a scheme run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which offers protection for holidays booked through a travel agent or tour company where a flight is involved. Every UK travel company which sells overseas holidays and flights is required to hold a license in case an operator ceases trading.
What does it cover?
An ATOL license ensures that the customers will be looked after in case a company lets its customers down cancelling its holidays or leaves them stranded overseas. It can provide full refunds or ensure people are able to finish their holidays confident they will be able to return.
ATOL cover means you are protected if you book a holiday with a single travel firm that includes: flights and accommodation (including on a cruise), or flights and car hire, or flights, accommodation and car hire.
The ATOL scheme also applies when you book a package that includes UK domestic flights, your holiday involves at least one flight to or from the UK (eg, a fly/cruise break where you travel out by ship and fly home) or you book flights (including UK domestic flights) but do not receive your tickets immediately. This is most common with charter flights and can also apply to discounted scheduled flights, but does not apply to holidays or flights booked direct with scheduled airlines or with airline ticket agents.
How do I know if my holiday is ATOL protected?
Check. Look for the ATOL logo on travel company websites, brochures and advertisements. If you are not sure, ask your travel company or agent for clarification. Also, make sure you receive an ATOL certificate. ATOL also has its own online check facility.
What is an ATOL certificate?
It is a legal requirement that the agency that you book with for travel will supply an ATOL certificate with the booking confirmation.
When you book an ATOL protected holiday, you should be given an ATOL Certificate by your travel company as soon as you pay over any money for the holiday - even if it’s only a deposit. The Certificate is proof that the holiday you have booked is protected by the ATOL scheme, it also has details of the scheme and information telling you what to do if your travel company stops operating so it’s important to take it with you and keep it safe.
How to claim?
Check your certificate to see the specific circumstances (e.g. if it is for a future trip) and complete a claim form. If you are already away, consult the certificate, check the Civil Aviation Agency’s website Latest ATOL Holder Failures page for more details about your current circumstances or call +44 (0) 333 103 6350.
What happens if I book with a company that’s not ATOL protected?
If your travel company cannot provide an ATOL certificate, ask why. Remember every UK company must provide one. If it cannot you will be booking at your own risk.