ATOL is a protection scheme for certain holidays that include flights. It's important to find out whether your holiday is protected. Read our guide to find out more.
What is ATOL?
If you book a package holiday that includes a flight, then your money must be protected under the ATOL scheme.
The scheme is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
How ATOL protects you
ATOL protects your money if a company involved in your holiday goes bust before you depart, and guarantees you will be brought home if the company collapses while you're abroad.
All travel firms that sell air holidays and flights in the UK must hold an ATOL, which is only issued after the firm has met the CAA’s criteria.
The ATOL scheme applies if you book a package holiday that involves a flight, as long as it is not booked through an airline.
For instance, if you book your flight and then book hotel accommodation through an airline's website, this will not be covered.
When you make a holiday booking, make sure your travel company has a licence. Firms must display their ATOL licence number on websites and brochures.
ATOL also provides protection where you book flights and either or both accommodation and car hire.
This protection is referred to as Flight Plus and applies only where you book through the same travel company.
You can have a gap of up to one calendar day between booking two different elements of your holiday.
So, for example, you could book flights at 9am one day, and you would have until the end of the following day to book your accommodation.
However, don’t forget that your arrangements must be booked through the same travel company to be ATOL protected.
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How to get an ATOL certificate
When you book a holiday, the ATOL holder or their agent must give you an ATOL Certificate confirming you are ATOL protected the moment you pay any money (even a deposit), for a holiday or flight.
If a protection scheme is in place for your money, it’s important that you obtain and keep all relevant paperwork so that you can make a claim for your money if necessary.
ATOL protection exceptions
This protection doesn't apply if you buy your flights directly from your airline.
Flight-only arrangements bought through a travel agent are also not always protected under the ATOL scheme. You should always ask.
For more information on the exceptions, visit the ATOL website.
How to check ATOL claims
The CAA has warned that that some travel companies have been displaying the ATOL logo on their websites, even though they don’t offer the financial protection the scheme provides.
The ATOL logo displayed should include a number, which you can verify by typing it into the ‘Check an ATOL’ section of the CAA's website.
Be wary of the travel provider if:
- its logo has no ATOL number
- there is a number, but it doesn’t have four or five digits
- there are few, if any, contact details on the site
If you have any doubts about a travel website, don’t book through it.
Remember, any site that displays an ATOL logo should provide you with a certificate explaining your rights under the scheme as soon as you have paid any money – even if it’s just a deposit.