ATOL - Protecting holidaymakers since 1973
The law says your holiday must be protected if it is a package holiday. ATOL (which stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) is a UK financial protection scheme and it protects most air package holidays sold by travel businesses. The scheme also applies to some flight bookings, usually those where you book flights (including UK domestic flights) but do not receive your tickets immediately.
ATOL was first introduced in 1973, as the popularity of overseas holidays grew. After a number of high profile travel business failures left people stranded overseas the UK Government realised consumers required protection when their travel providers fell into difficulties. ATOL currently protects around 20 million holidaymakers and travellers each year.
If a travel business with an ATOL ceases trading, the ATOL scheme protects consumers who had booked ATOL protected holidays with the business. It will support consumers currently abroad and provide financial reimbursement for the cost of replacing parts of an ATOL protected package.
The scheme is designed to reassure consumers that their money is safe, and will provide assistance in the event of a travel business failure.
Funding and administration
ATOL is run by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It is able to provide assistance by requiring ATOL holders to pay a fee of £2.50 for each traveller, which is held in a fund managed by the Air Travel Trust. This fund is used to refund, repatriate or reimburse travellers for the cost of repaying for the affected parts of their trip.
This money creates a fund that will support consumers to minimise disruption to their holiday or, if they are no longer able to travel, provide a full refund for the holiday.
Frequently asked questions
ATOL is the UK's financial protection scheme and protects you when you book an ATOL protected holiday with an ATOL holder. It will provide support so that you are not at a financial loss or without assistance abroad if your ATOL holder ceases trading.
ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser's Licence and is backed by the UK Government.
ATOL was first introduced in 1973, as the popularity of overseas holidays grew. After a number of travel business failures left people stranded, the UK Government realised consumers required protection when their travel providers fell into difficulties.
The scheme was designed to cover charter flights and package holidays, and functioned well for years. However, the holiday market changed considerably and the scheme was overhauled in 2012 and again in 2018 to keep pace with these changes.
ATOL stops you losing money or becoming stranded abroad if the travel business you booked with collapses:
- If the business ceases trading while you are on holiday, the scheme will provide support to minimise disruption to your holiday.
- If the business collapses before you travel, the scheme will provide a refund or replacement holiday.
UK law says your holiday must be protected if you book a package. ATOL is a UK financial protection scheme and protection applies to most air package holidays sold by UK travel businesses. 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 to some flight only bookings - usually those where 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 or where you pay for flights in instalments. Please note that ATOL does not apply to flights booked directly with scheduled airlines or to flights booked with airline ticket agents.
If you purchase an airline ticket from an airline or travel business and you receive a valid ticket in exchange for payment, ATOL does not cover this flight sale.
LTA's are formed when a business “facilitates” the sale of two or more travel services (e.g. a flight and hotel booking) but does so in a way that it is not classed as a package.
As an LTA does not constitute a package it does not, need to be protected under ATOL. However, an LTA may include an ATOL protected element within it, such as an ATOL protected Flight-Only or an ATOL protected flight inclusive package.
If a travel business sells an LTA, it must inform you that this is the case and what protection you may have.
UK law requires travel businesses to financially protect their package holidays. Package holidays that are sold to consumers in the UK must be protected by the ATOL scheme.
You can check to see if your booking is ATOL protected by:
- Making sure you check for the ATOL logo on travel websites, brochures and advertisements. If you are not sure, ask your tour operator or agent to tell if they offer ATOL protection.
- Use our Check an ATOL facility. This allows you to check that the travel business you are booking with is an ATOL holder.
- Make sure you are given an ATOL Certificate. The law says you should be given an ATOL Certificate to show that if you are protected by ATOL as soon as you have booked and paid any money towards a holiday or flight.
Your ATOL Certificate is proof the holiday or flight you have booked is protected by ATOL. It explains what protection you have and what to do if your travel business 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 tour operator or travel agent. Some holiday and travel arrangements purchased may not be ATOL protected, since travel firms may also sell travel arrangements that are not protected by the scheme.
If you are covered by the ATOL scheme, when you buy an ATOL protected air holiday or flights, you should receive an ATOL Certificate from the travel firm confirming all the arrangements you have booked, the price and your protection under the ATOL scheme. This will either be handed to you or immediately e-mailed or sent in the post.
If you are unsure whether you are covered, you should check with the firm before you book. ATOL does not apply to flights booked directly with scheduled airlines or to flights booked with airline ticket agents. More information can be found on Checking for ATOL protection.
UK law requires travel businesses to financially protect their air packages holidays under the ATOL scheme.
Most air holidays booked in the UK 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 tour operator or agent to tell you about ATOL protection.
- Always check you will be given an ATOL Certificate before you book. It's your guarantee of protection. If your travel business 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 are legally required to issue ATOL Certificates, this is your guarantee of protection. However we consider all claims on a case-by-case basis.
Multi-contract Packages are those where the you have more than one contract for all the travel services that together are part of the package.
You still have the same ATOL protection if the travel business you booked with fails. If one of the suppliers they have used fails, the travel business must make alternative arrangements for you. You also benefit from the same rights with the package organiser if something goes wrong.
ATOL is funded by travel businesses, which are required to pay a fee of £2.50 for each traveller. This is held in a fund managed by the Air Travel Trust which is used to refund, repatriate or reimburse travellers for the cost of repaying for the affected parts of their trip.
This charge is not a tax on individuals or an insurance premium - the law requires travel businesses to pay it, not consumers. However, some travel companies choose to highlight the ATOL scheme cost by showing it separately on receipts and invoices.
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