The ATOL scheme exists to protect consumers if their travel organiser should fail. It ensures consumers are not stranded abroad or do not lose money paid to the travel organiser for holidays and flights.
The first ATOL Regulations requiring businesses to hold a licence were introduced in the 1970’s. Since then they have been replaced with new regulations in 1995 and again in 2012 (amended 1 July 2018 and 1 January 2020).
The ATOL Regulations set out who can advertise and sell flight accommodation in the UK.
Basically, these are:
- the operator of the aircraft;
- an ATOL holder; or
- a person who is exempt.
A business selling a Flight-Only or a flight-inclusive package (Single-contract or Multi-contract package) must fall into one of the above categories, which means that, if you are not the operator of the aircraft or you are not exempt, you must hold an ATOL to provide financial protection for your customers.
The full list of exempted persons is in Regulation 10 of the ATOL Regulations and these include the following:
- an agent for an ATOL holder;
- a member of an accredited body;
- an airline ticket agent and
- a business established in an EEA member state, other than the UK
The CAA may additionally exempt other persons (a Specific Exemption) or exempt a description of persons (a Class Exemption). The current exemptions are published in Official Record Series 3.