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ATOL to the Rescue

If you’ve ever booked a trip and wondered what was covered in case the tour operator goes bust, worry no more. ATOL’s got your back.

As of 1 October, travel companies are required to issue an ATOL certificate to anyone booking an ATOL-protected trip. The certificate details in black and white what parts of the trip are covered, and by whom, so travellers can take out separate insurance if need be. It’s now law that travellers must be issued with this certificate at the point of purchase - - whether it’s in person at a travel agency or sent via email or post to those booking over the phone or online.   

Changes to the ATOL scheme were announced in April, but a 6-month grace period was given as smaller companies needed extra time to get ready. David Clover, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, was quoted by the BBC as saying that "smaller firms may have difficulty issuing the certificates straight away", but as long as customers know that their holidays are protected by the ATOL scheme, they should not be worried.  

Here’s the breakdown at a glance:

ATOL covers: Anyone who books a flight, as well as another travel service such as car hire or hotel through the same website, agent or tour operator on the same day or "within a day either side of each other". So if you book a flight to Mallorca on a Monday through Expedia and then decide to book a car for said trip through Expedia within 24 hours, you’re covered.

ATOL does not cover:

  • Anyone who books a flight, plus another travel service, directly through an airline. So if you book a hotel with easyJet after your flight, it’s not covered
  • Anyone who purchases a flight from an airline and then books a room directly with a hotel is not covered
  •  Flight-only bookings. (Travellers are advised to take out insurance that specifically covers airline failure or use a credit card to book a flight that costs more than £100.)

For more in-depth information, check out this link from the Civil Aviation Authority.

ATOL, which stands for Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing, began in the 1970s. Backed by the UK government, it’s the only scheme that protects travellers from losing money or becoming stranded abroad if the tour operator folds. Tour Operators are legally required to hold an ATOL.  

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Tips by

Deal Expert, Manchester
Friday, 5 October 2012
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Annemarie Kropf