ATOL protection means you’ll be covered if your holiday company goes bust. Find out how it works and how to make sure you’re protected.
ATOL, which stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, is a financial protection scheme for package holidays booked in the UK.
It’s designed to make sure you’ll get a refund and won’t be left stranded overseas if your travel company goes out of business.
When you buy an ATOL-protected trip, you’ll receive an ATOL certificate. This tells you how the cover works and what you should do if your travel company stops trading.
If you book an ATOL protected trip or package holiday with a single travel firm, everything you’ve booked will be covered, including:
Before you make your booking, do your research and make sure the company has an ATOL licence.
ATOL protection means that if your travel firm collapses, you won’t lose any money and there’ll be minimal disruption to your holiday:
You’ll receive this protection automatically when you book a package holiday.
ATOL registered companies pay £2.50 for each traveller, which is held in a special fund that’s used to provide compensation for any affected parts of your trip.
Every travel company that sells holidays involving a flight should have an ATOL licence, but there are fake websites that pretend to have one.
So before you book, do your research by:
ATOL tends to just cover package holidays. However, if you’re only buying flights with a travel agent, check whether they’ll be ATOL protected before you book.
It’s rare for ATOL protection to apply to flight-only bookings, but if your flight is protected you should receive an ATOL certificate as soon as you’ve paid.
If you book your flight directly with the airline, it won’t be protected by ATOL. But if it’s cancelled or delayed, you may be entitled to compensation from your airline.
As soon as you pay any money or deposit for an ATOL protected holiday, you should receive an ATOL certificate.
The certificate explains:
Take a digital or paper copy with you on your trip, in case anything goes wrong while you’re abroad.
If there’s an emergency or if you need to make a claim, you’ll need to quote the unique reference number on the certificate.
There are two main situations when you might need to claim - if the travel company goes into administration before you’re due to travel, or if this happens during your trip.
To make a claim you’ll need to provide:
If your travel company stops trading before your trip, ATOL can advise on what to do next and how to claim a refund.
If the flight bookings are still available, you may be able to use these and book your own accommodation and replacement services, like transfers and car hire.
You should be able to claim for anything that was part of your original ATOL protected booking.
If you’re abroad when your travel company goes bust, ATOL can provide support to minimise the disruption to your holiday.
Wherever possible ATOL will arrange and pay for you to receive the transport, accommodation and other services you originally bought so you can continue with your trip.
But if you need to make new arrangements while you’re away and pay for these yourself, you can claim these costs back from ATOL. Make sure to keep all proof of purchases as these will be needed when sorting out any claim.
If you need more information while abroad, you can call ATOL on: +44 (0)333 103 6350.
ATOL aims to confirm receipt of your claim within five working days and it should take around 28 days to process. But this may take longer if you booked through a travel agent.
Any compensation you receive will primarily be funded by the Air Travel Trust Fund.
There are some situations where the Air Travel Trust (ATT) may refuse to make a payment for a claim, these include:
UK travel companies must be ATOL certified. But travel firms outside the UK aren’t legally required to do this, so you won’t be protected in the same way.
Wherever you book, travel companies should provide some level of protection to their customers. But what you’ll get depends on the individual country’s regulations.
If you choose to book with a foreign company, check that you're comfortable with the level of protection you’ll get and find out what the steps are for submitting a claim.
But if you’ve got any doubts, it’s best to think twice before booking.
No, if there are parts of your trip that are booked separately, these won’t be included under ATOL protection.
This includes when a travel company sells you two or more travel services separately - sometimes known as a linked travel arrangement - as this doesn’t qualify as a package holiday.
If you’re sold travel services this way, there should still be some protections in place. Your travel company should explain what these are before you book.
If your travel company is a member of ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) you’ll have a similar level of protection, except for flights.
ABTA is designed to cover holidays involving travel by rail, road and sea. If your travel company goes bust, it can refund the cost of your trip and help you to continue your holiday or get you back to the UK if you’re abroad.
And if you’ve paid for your holiday using a credit card, your credit card company may be able to provide protection if something goes wrong. But always check before you book.
Although ATOL protected holidays will cover you if your travel company goes into administration, it won’t help with other unexpected situations.
Travel insurance covers you for events like sudden illness and injuries, trip cancellation and lost, stolen, or damaged belongings.