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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 5 Mar 2021

What are my rights if an airline goes bust?

If an airline goes bust it's crucial that you find out if you had Atol protection or not. Read on to find out how.
Which?Editorial team

Do you have Atol protection?

Your rights depend on whether your booking has Atol protection, or not.

Atol protection means that you are guaranteed a refund if a company collapses, and you’d be found an alternative flight home if you’re stranded abroad.

But, you won't automatically have Atol protection if you’ve a flight booked - it will depend on how you booked it.

I booked with a travel agent  The Atol scheme applies if you book a package holiday that involves a flight.

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.

I booked flights directly with the airline  If you book your flight and then book hotel accommodation through an airline's website, this may not be covered, unless it's a linked travel arrangement.

For more information on Atol, read our guide find out whether your holiday is Atol protected?

If the airline has gone bust before you depart you need to contact your travel agent to make sure your booking is still in place.

If it is, then your travel arrangements should continue relatively unaffected, although your flight times could change. It’s important to keep all your booking information should there be any problems.

Key Information

If you’re abroad when the airline goes bust

If you have Atol protection You’re guaranteed a refund if an airline collapses, and must be found an alternative flight home if you’re stranded abroad at no further cost to you. 

You need to contact your travel agent immediately to arrange this.

If you are abroad without Atol Protection In most cases you’ll need to book flights back with another alternative airline and pay for it yourself. In some cases this can play out differently, for example the UK government footed this bill for the first two weeks when Monarch went bust.

Some airlines offer reduced ‘repatriation fares’ for stranded passengers. These are usually available by telephone only within a few hours of an airline going bust (but maybe not immediately) and last for around two weeks.

Make sure you discuss your options and potential reimbursement with other airlines or you insurance provider before booking flights home.

You can try to claim the cost of your original flight back, but it may be a few weeks before your claim goes through and you get the money back.

Was it a 'linked travel arrangement'?

If you have a Linked Travel Arrangement you will benefit from insolvency protection. That means if your airline goes bust, you'll get your money back, but you may not qualify for any assistance if you're already abroad.

The rules only apply to holiday packages sold or offered for sale in the UK since 1 July 2018.

A Linked Travel Arrangement is when you buy one service from a tour operator and are then prompted to buy another - but your information and payment details aren’t transferred.

For example if an email with your flight information has a link to a hotel site which you then book, but you have to re-enter your travel dates, location, personal information and payment details.

You must also buy these services within 24 hours of each other for them to be considered a Linked Travel Arrangement. These arrangements are sometimes also known as 'click-throughs'.

It's the responsibility of the first travel company to tell you that you’ve been sold a Linked Travel Arrangement.

  • A package holiday is when you book more than one part of your holiday through the same travel agent or website.
  • A Linked Travel Arrangement is when you buy one part of your holiday and then are prompted to buy another part via a click-through within 24 hours.

What do I do if I don’t have Atol protection

You could claim against your credit card company under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

To be eligible, you need to have paid more than £100 for your flights or holiday, and used your credit card to book direct with the tour operator or airline - usually this means it needs to be either the airline or holiday company listed on your credit card bill.

But, some credit card companies will give a refund even if you’ve paid via a travel agent and it’s the agent’s name listed on your credit card bill.

If you book a return flight, the total value must be at least £100 – if you book flights individually, each must be at least £100. See our section 75 guide for help.

Flights costing less than £100 booked on a credit card, or any flights booked with a debit card, may still get some protection via the chargeback scheme. See our chargeback guide for more.

If neither of these approaches works you’ll have to join the list of creditors, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get any money back.

Will my travel insurance cover airline failure?

Unfortunately, airline financial failure or insolvency is rarely included on most travel insurance policies.

There isn’t a single rule for this and you should talk to your travel insurance provider to check their approach to airline failure (it may be under ‘supplier failure’).