What is ATOL protection?

Find out more about ATOL protection, what’s covered and how to claim if you need to.

Amanda Bathory-Griffiths
Amanda Bathory-Griffiths
Updated 14 October 2019  | 4 min read

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What’s ATOL?

You’ll often hear the term ‘ATOL protection’ when booking your holiday - ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence. Every UK travel company selling holiday packages is legally required to hold an ATOL.

Key points

  • ATOL protects you from losing money if the company you booked your holiday with stops trading
  • You’ll be protected for packages, so flights with accommodation or car hire. It’s rare for ATOL to cover flights only or when you book flights and accommodation separately
  • It’s not a substitute for travel insurance. Delays, cancellations or medical expenses will not be covered by ATOL
  • If you book with a foreign company, your holiday won’t be ATOL protected

What’s covered by ATOL protection?

ATOL protection protects package holidays sold by UK companies.

It includes:

  • Bookings of flights with accommodation (including cruises)
  • Flights with car hire
  • Flights and accommodation with car hire
  • Some flight-only bookings

Always check before you book as not all flight-only deals are ATOL protected.

ATOL protection makes sure you don’t lose any money if the holiday company you book with stops trading while you’re away and will help you get home if you’re left stranded. It also means you’ll receive a full refund if the holiday company goes out of business in the run up to your holiday.

You’ll receive ATOL protection automatically when booking a package holiday. It’s free - companies have to pay £2.50 per person booked to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

What’s not covered

ATOL protection doesn’t apply if you buy your flights directly from an airline or from a holiday company based outside of the UK.

How do I know if my holiday is ATOL protected?

Before you book a package holiday, check for the ATOL logo on the travel insurance company’s website and brochures. If you’re unsure, ask your travel company or agent to tell you about their ATOL protection.

Alternatively, you can check that the company you’re booking with is an ATOL holder on the Civil Aviation Authority website.

ATOL protection doesn’t cover things like medical expenses, delays/cancellations or lost luggage, so travel insurance is still a must.

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Make sure you get your ATOL certificate

An ATOL certificate is your proof that your trip or flight is protected by ATOL.

Whoever you book your holiday with must give you one as soon as any payment is received - that includes deposits.

Keep your certificate safe. It explains what protection you have and what to do if the ATOL holder or supplier goes out of business.

How to claim on an ATOL holiday

1. Look at the ATOL certificate you got when you booked and follow the instructions

2. If you’re on holiday, check what arrangements can be made to complete your trip on CAA’s latest ATOL holder failures

3. You’ll need to complete a claim form and provide evidence of your booking

4. Call +44 (0) 333 103 6350 if you need any further information

How long does a claim take?

The CAA aims to process ATOL protected claims within 28 working days.

Bookings made via an agent of an ATOL holder can take longer to process due to the information they require from the agent.

Booking with travel firms that don’t offer ATOL protection

European travel agencies aren’t legally required to be part of the ATOL scheme, so you won’t get the same protection that ATOL provides if you book with them.

EU travel firms must provide some level of protection to their customers though. What you’ll get depends on the individual country’s regulations.

If you choose to book with a foreign company, ask to see what protection you’ll get as a UK consumer. Check you’re comfortable with the level of protection in place and find out what the steps are for submitting a claim.

Beware of fake websites

Unfortunately, there are websites out there that claim to offer ATOL protection with their bookings who aren’t legitimate ATOL holders.

Be careful when you’re booking your holiday. Websites normally have an ATOL logo. If it’s genuine, the logo should contain a unique licence number - enter this into the ATOL database to see if it’s legitimate.

The CAA has a list of things to watch out for when booking your holiday too.

Is there an alternative to ATOL protection?

Credit card companies sometimes offer an alternative to ATOL protection, allowing you to reclaim the money if the travel provider goes out of business. Always check before you book.

What’s the difference between ATOL and ABTA?

While ATOL covers flight-based holidays, ABTA protection covers rail, cruise and self-drive holidays.

ABTA stands for the Association of British Travel Agents.