If you’ve booked a holiday abroad for which you will be flying to your destination, you will no doubt be excited and looking ahead. However, as thoughts focus on enjoying delicious foreign delicacies and relaxing at your hotel pool, it’s unlikely you’ll give much thought to a disaster spoiling your trip.
Thankfully, this is a rare instance, but on the off chance that it does, unfortunately, happen to you, it is best to protect yourself. ATOL protection enables you to get all of the help you’ll need in this scenario with minimal fuss, so let us explain it to you and outline the key points.
What is ATOL protection?
ATOL is short for Air Travel Organiser’s License, which is a financial protection scheme covering most air package holidays and also some flight-only bookings.
If a holidaymaker books travel with a provider who has an ATOL protection certificate, then they are covered in the event that the travel company goes bust. They will be entitled to a refund for the money they have paid for the holiday as well as their travel home if they are already there.
This means that should they be informed of the travel company’s problems during their trip, they will be provided with full assistance in order to get them back home safely.
In this respect, it is exactly like how ABTA protection covers any holidays that involve travel by sea, rail or car travel.
However, it is still advised that travellers take out travel insurance as well as they are not protected by ATOL cover alone – for example, travel insurance will protect them from medical expenses and cancellations.
How does ATOL protection work?
If you are going away on holiday, you need complete peace of mind, which is provided to you when you book travel with an ATOL protected provider.
If anything happens that is out of your control affecting your travel company, then having ATOL cover will enable you to put your worries to one side.
It means that you will have all of the money you paid protected by ATOL cover and you won’t become stranded in a foreign country.
As mentioned, however, it is important to reiterate that you should still take out an adequate travel insurance policy.
What are the benefits of ATOL protection?
ATOL is run by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is funded by payments from travel agents who pay £2.50 into the scheme for each person they book travel for. This then creates a fund that goes towards helping holidaymakers complete their holiday or receive a full refund, in the event that their travel agent goes out of business.
Otherwise, they will make your travel arrangements for you so that you can get home from your destination, even though the company you booked with is no longer in action.
The main benefit of ATOL protection is that you are covered by the scheme simply by having booked in the first place with a company who obtained an ATOL certificate. Therefore, they will make all necessary arrangements on your behalf and take care of the financial and legal implications.
Are flights only covered by ATOL?
ATOL protection mainly covers package holidays that include flights. There are some flights which may be covered by the scheme, but not all will be, so it is best to double check this information.
The scheme changed its policy in 2012 in recognition of the growth of online travel bookings. Therefore, you should technically be covered now for ‘flights plus accommodation’ through the same company but by different suppliers.
However, not all companies will have signed up to be ATOL protected, which is why it is important to do your research before you book, if you can. Then, you will be able to cross reference your travel company details and check whether or not they are ATOL protected.
You will normally receive an ATOL certificate after you have made a payment, so keep an eye out for this too.
Is ATOL protection free?
ATOL protection is completely free to holidaymakers, as it is only the travel agents themselves who must contribute to the scheme and then it is simply included within the cost of your holiday.
It is basically the benefit of booking with an ATOL protected company, that you know you will be guided through the process if anything happens – without any extra costs to you.
Travel companies do have to pay a contribution, as previously discussed, but this is a minimal amount which goes towards a fund that pays out should a refund or travel home be required.
What is the difference between ABTA and ATOL protection?
ABTA and ATOL protection both protect travellers in the event that their travel agent suffers a business failure. They will ensure they don’t lose the money they paid for the holiday and that they don’t end up stranded, by providing them with arrangements and travel to get them back home.
ABTA simply does this for cruise, rail and driving-based holidays, whereas ATOL cover package holidays that include flights – and some flight-only bookings too (though it is worth checking the small print to make sure).
If the company you have booked with ceases trading, then depending on how you are travelling, this will determine whether you should have ABTA or ATOL protection.
Be sure to review your travel documents and double check before you book your holiday whether your travel company is ABTA or ATOL protected. You will usually receive an ATOL certificate soon after you book, so you can cross reference all of the details for your travel company – this is particularly important if you have booked flights and accommodation with two separate companies.