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Guidance for the education sector

The ATOL scheme provides financial protection to consumers if their travel company ceases to trade. Under the scheme, consumers that are already abroad on an ATOL-protected trip will be assisted to get home and those yet to travel can claim a refund for the trip.

The information on this page applies to educational trips which include air travel. For trips that do not involve a flight, the Department for Business and Trade has published guidance for businesses.

When is ATOL protection required?

If a school, college or university uses an external tour operator to organise a package trip that includes a flight for its students, the trip is required to be ATOL protected.

However, if an educational facility puts together the trip itself and takes payment from parents or guardians (essentially creating a package holiday for its students), it is likely to be exempt from the ATOL regulations.

That is because organisers of packages that are arranged only occasionally, on a not-for-profit basis, and for a limited group of consumers, are legally not required to hold ATOLs.

Providing they meet all three of these conditions, a school or college would also be exempt from the UK Package Travel Regulations (more information on this can be found in the guidance link above).

However, it is advisable that if an educational facility organises package trips for students, they should ensure they have the necessary insurance to protect themselves against unforeseen and extraordinary circumstances.

How can I check that the travel company is an ATOL holder?

It is important that school, college or university staff, parents and school Governors check the ATOL status of any tour operator they plan to use.

This ensures pupils are protected by the scheme, but can also safeguard against booking with a fraudulent company. Before arranging and booking your trip, you should check whether the tour operator holds an ATOL on our website.

Parents or guardians are at risk of losing money when booking trips with businesses who fraudulently claim to hold an ATOL or offer ATOL protection when they do not. We have put together some additional advice to help reduce the risk of this happening.

Check your ATOL Certificate

As soon as you make a payment for your ATOL-protected trip, whether it’s a deposit or balance payment, you will receive an ATOL Certificate.

This gives details of the trip including what’s protected, who’s providing the protection and who you should contact if the firm stops trading while you are away on your trip.