About ATOL

Learn about the ATOL scheme for consumers: who runs it, how it’s funded, and why it was created


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 consumsers either complete their holiday or – if they cannot get away –  receive a full refund.