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What is the difference between ATOL protection and travel insurance?

Date posted: 14.06.2024

With travel numbers starting to get back to pre-pandemic levels, we are seeing an increased number of consumers booking package holidays.

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Several of our biggest travel companies are reporting package holidays remain popular with UK holidaymakers looking to book their 2024 getaways.

In fact, in a recent consumer survey conducted by ATOL, around four in ten of us said they would book a package holiday for their next big holiday.

Through our social media we have also noticed an increased number of queries asking the difference between ATOL financial protection and travel insurance and we hope this blog will help clear this up.

While travel insurance is optional (although highly recommended by us and many travel experts), ATOL financial protection is a legal obligation.

If you are booking an air package, your travel firm must by law provide you with an ATOL Certificate.

What is ATOL financial protection?

The ATOL scheme (which stands for Air Travel Organisers License) is financial protection that protects you when you book a package trip that includes a flight.

This is usually a flight plus a hotel or a car, but it can include other things such as transfers, a cruise or theme park or concert tickets, for example.

In a nutshell, it is a flight + at least one other element that have been bought together to make up a package.

You will also get an ATOL Certificate if you have booked a flight but are yet to receive your ticket (for example if you are paying for the flight in instalments.)

If you get an aeroplane ticket after paying, sometimes referred to as an e-ticket, your booking will not have ATOL protection.

What does it cover?

If your holiday is financially protected by ATOL, you will be protected if your holiday firm goes out of business.

This will mean being able to claim for a refund if you are yet to travel and also being given assistance if you are already abroad.

What does travel insurance cover?

The ATOL scheme only offers financial protection if your travel firm stops trading. Travel insurance will protect you against many other unforeseen circumstances that could impact your trip such as:

  • cancelling or cutting short your trip for reasons beyond your control such as illness, a bereavement or other emergencies
  • missed transport or delayed departure for reasons beyond your control
  • medical costs while abroad
  • lost, stolen or damaged items, including baggage, passports and money
  • personal liability – accidental damage or injury caused by you.

This list isn’t exhaustive and it’s important to get the right type of cover for your needs.

You should think about not just where you are travelling to, but how often you travel and what you’ll be doing while you are away.

For example, you may need to organise specialist travel insurance if you are planning sporting activities such as skiing.

Is one better than the other?

We always advise that you take out travel insurance for your holiday in addition to making sure your trip is financially protected by ATOL, as this can offer you increased protection.

Several consumer experts always recommend you book travel insurance as soon as you book, rather than just before you fly – this will cover you if anything happens in the meantime that stops you from travelling such as an injury or other medical emergency.

How to check the travel company you booked with holds a current ATOL?

We always urge you to check the your travel company holds a current ATOL before booking, by using our handy online tool.


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