Which? Legal

Advice on holiday protection

Which? Legal can give you affordable advice on what ATOL protection covers and give you advice on making a claim.

1 What is ATOL protection?

Every UK travel company that sells package holidays and flights is legally required to hold an Atol certificate, which stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence.

If a travel company with an Atol certificate goes bust, the scheme protects customers who have booked package holidays with the firm, making sure they don't get stranded abroad or lose their money

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 based in the UK that sell air holidays and flights 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.

Is your travel agent based in the UK?

If you've booked a package holiday with a flight from the UK you might assume you will get your money back through the Atol scheme if the travel company goes bust.

Since July 2018, under EU rules, companies outside the UK but in the European Economic Area haven’t been able to join the Atol scheme. Instead they are obliged to financially protect package holiday customers in accordance with the national law of where they are based.

Consumer protection groups in Spain and The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) have told us that the protection offered by other schemes around Europe, might not be sufficient.

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.

Gift cards issued by a travel company are not usually covered by ATOL protection. But if your holiday was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and you were refunded with travel credits, these credits will be covered by the ATOL scheme if your holiday company goes bust.

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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