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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
The scheme also applies when:
An airline ticket agent is appointed by an airline to sell tickets for travel on that airline's flights. It issues confirmed tickets directly to consumers in exchange for the consumers' payments for the tickets, which the airline will accept for travel without the consumers having to make any additional payment. Flights booked with airline ticket agents are not covered by ATOL.
Most overseas air holidays booked with UK travel companies must be protected. There are several ways to check:
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 as soon as any 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.
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