Which? Legal

Advice on holiday protection

Our legal team can explain more about what ATOL protection covers and give you advice on making a claim.

1 What is ATOL protection?

If you book a package holiday or flight, then your money must be protected under the ATOL scheme.

The scheme is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

2 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 flight or a package holiday under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018.

  • A package holiday is when you book more than one part of your holiday through the same travel agent or website.

You can read more about whether your holiday is a package in our guide.

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.

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3 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.

4 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.

Linked Travel Arrangements aren't included in the ATOL scheme but have other protections.

For more information on the exceptions, visit the ATOL website.

5 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.

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