• ATOL - Protecting holidaymakers since 1973

    By law, every UK travel company which sells air holidays and flights is required to hold an ATOL, which stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence.

    If a travel company with an ATOL ceases trading, the ATOL scheme protects customers who had booked holidays with the firm. It ensures they do not get stranded abroad or lose money.

    The scheme is designed to reassure consumers that their money is safe, and will provide assistance in the event of a travel company failure.

    History

    ATOL was first introduced in 1973, as the popularity of overseas holidays grew. After a number of travel company failures left people stranded, the UK Government realised consumers required protection should firms in the unregulated travel sector fall into difficulties.

    The scheme was designed to cover charter flights and package holidays, and functioned well for years. However, the holiday market has changed considerably and a rise in online booking means many people now book the components of their holidays separately.

    As a result, changes were made to the ATOL scheme in April 2012. It now covers all overseas air holidays where a flight and accommodation have been booked together. It also covers some flights booked separately, and applies in some other circumstances too.

    Funding and administration

    ATOL is run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It is funded by contributions from the travel companies, who must pay £2.50 into the scheme for each person they book on a holiday.

    This money creates a fund that is used by the CAA to ensure consumers either complete their holiday or – if they cannot get away – receive a full refund.

    What does ATOL cover?

    Frequently asked questions

  • ATOL protects you when you book a holiday with a UK travel company. It ensures you do not lose money or become stranded abroad if your travel company collapses.

    ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser's Licence and is backed by the UK Government.

    ATOL stops you losing money or becoming stranded abroad if your travel company collapses:

    • If the company collapses while you are on holiday, the scheme will make sure you can finish your holiday and return home.
    • If the company collapses before you leave the UK, the scheme will provide a full refund for the holiday.

    What situations does ATOL cover?

    ATOL protection applies to virtually any overseas air holiday booked with a UK travel company. The law says your holiday must be protected if you book a holiday with a single travel firm that includes:

    • flights and accommodation (including a cruise), or
    • flights and car hire, or
    • flights, accommodation and car hire.

     The scheme also applies when: 

    • You book flights (including UK domestic flights) but do not receive your tickets immediately. This is most common with charter flights, but can also apply to discounted scheduled flights. Please note that ATOL does not apply to holidays or flights booked direct with scheduled airlines.
    • Your holiday involves at least one flight to or from the UK. For instance, a fly/cruise break where you travel out by ship and fly home, or a holiday in France where you travel out by Eurostar but fly home.
    • You book a package that includes UK domestic flights

    Most overseas air holidays booked with UK travel companies must be protected. There are several ways to check:

    • Look before you book. Check for the ATOL logo on travel company websites, brochures and advertisements. If you are not sure, ask your travel company or agent to tell you about ATOL protection.
    • Use our Check an ATOL facility. This allows you to check that the travel company you are booking with is part of ATOL.
    • Make sure you are given an ATOL Certificate. The law says you should be given a certificate to show you are covered as soon as you have booked and paid any money towards a holiday or flight.

    It is important that you book your holidays with a reputable travel company. If you book with a company that is not a member of ATOL then you will not be covered by ATOL protection. 

    Your ATOL Certificate is proof the holiday you have booked is protected by ATOL. It explains what protection you have and what to do if your travel company collapses. Keep it somewhere safe and take it on holiday so you know how to make an ATOL claim if you need to.

    We are confident the travel industry has implemented procedures and systems to issue ATOL Certificates as required by law.

    However, if you do not receive a certificate and believe you should have done, first contact your travel company. If you are unhappy with their response, please email ATOL Certificates .

    UK travel companies are legally required to provide an ATOL Certificate before money is taken for a booking. The vast majority of travel companies do this.

    However, always check you will be given an ATOL Certificate before you book. It's your guarantee of protection. If your travel company says they cannot provide one, ask why and consider your options carefully before proceeding, because you will be booking at your own risk. 

    Travel companies have been legally required to issue ATOL Certificates since 1 October 2012. If you booked your holiday after that date, it's your best guarantee of protection. Having said that, we consider all claims on a case-by-case basis.

    A Flight-Plus holiday is one where you have booked your flights and accommodation with the same travel company, but not as a package holiday. For instance, your travel agent might have purchased flights and booked a hotel for you.

    You still have the same ATOL protection if the travel company you booked with fails. If one of the suppliers they have used fails, the travel company must make alternative arrangements for you. 

    ATOL is funded by travel companies, which are required to pay £2.50 per traveller into a central ATOL fund. This money is used allow holidaymakers to complete their holidays or issue refunds should a travel company collapse.

    This charge is not a tax on individuals or an insurance premium - the law requires travel companies to pay it, not holidaymakers. However, some travel companies choose to highlight the ATOL scheme cost by showing it separately on receipts and invoices.