What is ATOL protection?
The ATOL scheme (which stands for Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) is financial protection that protects you when you book a package trip that includes a flight. It is separate to travel insurance.
It also includes some Flight-Only bookings sold by UK travel companies when they stop trading as an ATOL holder.
It was introduced in 1973, as the popularity of overseas trips grew and it is run by us at the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
If your travel company stops trading when you are abroad, we’ll help you to continue your trip by:
- Assisting you to stay in your holiday accommodation, if possible
- Reimbursing you for any money you spent to replace ATOL protected parts of your trip, e.g car hire, transfers
- Arranging flights home, depending on the circumstances.
ATOL protection covers you before and during your trip. When you purchase a trip that is ATOL protected, you will receive an ATOL Certificate.
It will show you who and what is covered, as well as provide guidance on what to do if your travel company stops trading as an ATOL holder.
We recommend that you always keep a paper or digital copy of this certificate saved with you.
The scheme is designed to reassure you that your money is safe, and will provide assistance in the event of an ATOL holder failure.
How is the ATOL scheme paid for?
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 you for the cost of repaying for affected parts of your trip.
This money creates a fund that will support you in minimising disruption to your trip in the event of an ATOL holder failure or if you are no longer able to travel, provide a full refund of what has been paid so far.
Your travel company should make it clear if your flight-only booking is ATOL protected before you book.
If you book an ATOL protected flight, you will be sent an ATOL Certificate after making a payment. However, you will not receive a valid e-ticket in exchange for payment.
If you purchase an airline ticket from an airline or travel company and you receive a valid e-ticket in exchange for payment, the ATOL scheme does not cover this.
Accommodation-only bookings are not ATOL protected as these do not include a flight.
However, the travel company you are booking with may be a member of other organisations, meaning you may be entitled to other forms of protection.
Take a look at the travel company’s website to see which organisations they are members of before booking.
Booking with a travel agent
Travel agents often sell trips on behalf of other companies.
You may need to check which travel company originally created your package trip to see whether they are an ATOL holder.
Exceptions to ATOL protection
Not usually, unless your trip is sold as a package and you receive an ATOL Certificate confirming this. If you purchased the flight element of your trip with an ATOL holder, this part may be protected.
Travel agents often act on behalf for a number of companies, including ATOL holders. When you book an ATOL protected trip with an agent, it must tell you which ATOL holder is protecting your travel plans, and provide an ATOL Certificate when you pay.
If you book just a flight, they must either issue you with a ticket straightaway or confirm your ATOL protection.
Yes. Your travel company must find you alternative flights or refund your money.
If your return flight is cancelled while you are on your trip, they must book you onto an alternative flight.
LTA’s are formed when a business sells two or more travel services (e.g. a flight and hotel booking) as separate items.
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 offers LTAs, it must inform you that this is the case and what protection you may have.