Teachers and parents across Wales are today being advised to check that any school trips involving air travel, booked for the coming academic year, are fully protected by the ATOL scheme. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which runs ATOL, is making the call as schools start organising class trips for the coming months.
The new advice aims to prevent parents being left substantially out of pocket if the tour operator organising their children's trip collapses. Parents of children at one school were left with bills of £750 per head earlier this year after the school's chosen tour operator collapsed. The company concerned did not have ATOL protection.
Andy Cohen, Head of ATOL, said: “We have seen cases in the past where parents have been left to bear the brunt after a tour company has collapsed - and we're investigating a number of other live situations.
“Whoever is responsible for booking a school trip, that involves a flight, should do a simple check that travel companies being used are fully ATOL protected. Parents can help by double-checking the details of any bookings.”
The CAA has set up a dedicated ATOL webpage for the education sector, which gives targeted advice for anyone responsible for booking a school trip. ATOL does not protect holidays where surface travel is used to reach a destination, for example.
The CAA pointed out that many school trips, such as skiing holidays, can be quite complex, involving several different providers of flights, accommodation and activities. If a tour operator organising the overall trip is ATOL protected then all individual components of the holiday are fully covered.
Andy Cohen added: “As parents we know how expensive and time-consuming school trips can be to organise. To avoid landing parents with additional large travel expenses to get their children home, not to mention the stress and anxiety involved, we urge school trip organisers to spend time researching travel providers. It will be time well spent.”
The Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) scheme provides financial protection in the event of an ATOL protected travel company ceasing to trade. The scheme also ensures that youngsters can return home and their parents or carers do not lose money.
Anyone can check to see if an operator has an ATOL licence online at http://www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk/ where they can also find more information about how the scheme works.