What Is ATOL?

An insight into the Civil Aviation ATOL scheme

The ATOL scheme is ran and managed by the Civil Aviation Authority.  It is designed to give customers who purchased package holidays or what is known as ‘flight plus’ holidays a level of protection incase their tour operator or travel agent ceases to trade and cannot fulfil the holidays it has sold.  Here we give an overview of what ATOL is, why it is in place, its restrictions and more.

An Overview of ATOL

What does ATOL stand for?

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organisers License.

What is ATOL?

ATOL provides a level of protection to customers who have booked a specific type of holiday.    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.  See our financial protection page for more information on how customers money is protected.

Does The Adventure People have an ATOL?

No because we don’t sell flights but some of the tour operators we work with do and we do protect your money in other ways, see our financial protection page for more details.

Why Does ATOL Exist?

ATOL exists to give customer some reassurance that their money is protected.  Over the past few decades every now and again a tour operator goes bankrupt.  This causes problems because some holiday makers are stranded overseas and some people who have already paid can no longer go on holiday.  The Civil Aviation Authority recognised this problem and so, ATOL started.  If a travel agent or tour  operator who has sold ATOL protected holidays goes bankrupt then ATOL provides financial protection allowing customers to get their money back or get customers home via a repatriation scheme.

It is worth remembering that although bankruptcy does happen, it is very rare and the risk is very low.

Who Is Included and Who Isn’t In ATOL?

We can’t give full lists for each as there are too many companies but as a quick over view:

IN – any company which sells a flight plus accommodation / car hire together.  So, some examples may be Thomson, Thomas Cook, On The Beach and Jet2 Holidays.  Typically these are beach holiday companies.

OUT – any company which doesn’t sell flights and accommodation / car hire together as part of a booking such as booking.comAirBnB, HomeAway, Easyjet, Ryanair, whilst Trek America, Intrepid, G Adventures also don’t have ATOL unless you also book your flights at the same.

What Situations Does ATOL cover?

ATOL protection applies to virtually any overseas air (when you book your flight and accommodation) 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:

  • flights and accommodation (including a cruise), or
  • flights and car hire, or
  • flights, accommodation and car hire.

The scheme also applies when:

  • 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. Please note that ATOL does not apply to holidays or flights booked direct with scheduled airlines or to flights booked with airline ticket agents.
  • Your holiday involves at least one flight to or from the UK. For instance, a fly/cruise break where you travel out by ship and fly home, or a holiday in France where you travel out by Eurostar but fly home.
  • You book a package that includes UK domestic flights

ATOL does not cover any holiday in which the flight is not included.  So, if you’ve booked your flights separately then ATOL will not apply.

How Do I Know If I am ATOL protected?

If you are ATOL protected you will receive an ATOL certificate upon booking.

What If A Company Doesn’t Have ATOL?

There are many travel industry companies which do not have an ATOL. This just means the company won’t sell flights and accommodation / car hire together as a package or flight plus holiday and so isn’t bound by the ATOL scheme.  However, this doesn’t mean you’re not protected, there are many ways in which customers are protected and each company will have it’s own policy.

Is It Safe to book with a company that doesn’t have ATOL?

It is as safe to book with a company which has ATOL as without.  For example, Booking.com, one the of the worlds largest accommodation companies doesn’t have an ATOL as they do not sell flights but we think they’re pretty safe as they have millions of bookings per year.  We could say the same about Easyjet who only sell flights and not holidays (although Easyjet holidays is ATOL protected!) .  An easyjet flight only booking is not ATOL protected but again we think they’re pretty safe.

Are ABTA and ATOL the same thing?

No.  ABTA is a travel trade membership group which travel agents and tour operators can chose to apply to become members.  ATOL is a legally bound regulatory compliance item managed by the Civil Aviation Authority, the two are very separate.

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