Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

Originally posted: 28th Jun 2023

In December 2019, there were more than 75,000 flight services scheduled in the UK.

That’s a lot of flights. And, if something should happen which meant your travel company couldn’t provide your holiday any longer, in some cases, they will be obliged to protect you from losing your money or even make sure you’re not stranded abroad.

That’s where ATOL protection comes into play. 

You can find out everything you need to know about ATOL protection in this handy guide - including the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions around the subject.

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What is ATOL?

ATOL, or Air Travel Organiser's Licence, is a financial protection scheme that provides coverage for package holidays that include air travel, as well as flight-only travel bookings in certain cases. This means that not only are you entitled to a refund for the money you paid, but you are also covered for your travel home if you happen to be stranded abroad.

The ATOL scheme was first introduced in 1973, a time when booking overseas holidays became increasingly popular and fashionable. With the rise in international travel, it became essential to protect the rights and interests of holidaymakers.

Today, the ATOL scheme continues to play a crucial role in safeguarding the interests of more than 20 million UK holidaymakers each year, providing them with peace of mind while enjoying their well-deserved holidays.

Who runs ATOL?

ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licence) is an important scheme regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It plays a crucial role in protecting consumers who book package holidays or flights that are covered by ATOL. But how does it work?

Under the ATOL scheme, travel providers who offer ATOL-protected travel services contribute to the funding of the CAA. Whenever a customer books travel through these providers, a fee of £2.50 is paid into the scheme. These fees collectively form a fund that is managed by the Air Travel Trust.

This fund acts as a safety net, ensuring that in the event of any disruption or insolvency of the travel provider, affected travellers are protected. Any necessary refunds or reimbursements for these travellers are directly sourced from this blanket fund, providing financial security and peace of mind.

ATOL, therefore, not only safeguards the rights of travellers but also promotes financial responsibility within the travel industry. Ensuring that travel providers are accountable and contributing to the ATOL scheme, reinforces consumer trust and confidence in the industry as a whole.

What does ATOL cover?

As mentioned above, ATOL protection is a common feature across package holidays and some flight-only bookings. It is a crucial safeguard that provides you with extra protection and peace of mind in case the company you booked your package holiday with ceases trading.

Essentially, ATOL protection ensures that if you have not yet embarked on your holiday, you are entitled to a full refund for any ATOL-protected parts of your holiday, including flights and accommodation costs. This means that even in the unfortunate event of your travel provider encountering financial trouble, you will not be left stranded and will have the necessary assistance to get back home safely.

By having ATOL protection, you can travel with confidence, knowing that your investment in your holiday is safeguarded, and any unexpected disruptions will be handled efficiently. It is an essential aspect to consider when planning your travel arrangements, providing you with the reassurance and support you need throughout your journey.

Am I ATOL protected?

If you've booked a package holiday

In the UK and Europe, it is actually a legal requirement for package holidays to be covered. This means that it is crucial for you to book your holiday through a reputable company that provides ATOL protection. When searching for a travel company, always keep an eye out for the ATOL logo, as it is usually displayed on their website.

ATOL protection cover is specifically designed for packages that include a combination of flights and accommodation (including cruises). It also applies to packages that include flights and car hire, as well as those that combine flights, accommodation, and car hire. This comprehensive protection ensures that you are safeguarded throughout your entire travel experience.

However, it is important to note that ATOL protection usually does not apply if you have booked your airline ticket directly from an airline or a travel company, and if you immediately receive your ticket directly from them after making the payment. To ensure your peace of mind, it is always advisable to book your holiday through a company that offers ATOL protection, ensuring that your trip is covered from start to finish.

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If you've booked your flights separately

You will be protected as long as the company has issued you with an ATOL certificate at the time of booking. The ATOL scheme is primarily designed to cover charter flights, ensuring that your travel arrangements are safeguarded. However, it's worth noting that the protection can also extend to discounted scheduled flights where the airfare cost has been divided into instalments.

It's important to keep in mind that ATOL does not provide protection for flights that are booked directly with the airline or through scheduled airline ticket agents. Rest assured, with an ATOL certificate, you can have peace of mind knowing that your travel plans are secure and protected.

How do I check if a travel company is ATOL registered?

When it comes to ensuring your travel plans are protected, there are 3 main things to check.

  1. ATOL logo - this is your first port of call as it serves as a reassuring indicator of a company's commitment to consumer protection. Make sure the logo is prominently displayed on their website or brochure.
  2. Ask the company directly - don't hesitate to ask the company directly about their ATOL protection status. They should be able to provide you with the necessary information and clarify any doubts you may have.
  3. Check with the CAA - if you still find yourself wanting more reassurance, you can always check with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). They offer a convenient search option that allows you to verify if a company is ATOL registered or not.

Taking these steps will help ensure that your travel plans are in safe hands.

Are there any exceptions?

Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs)

A Linked Travel Arrangement (LTA) is a type of travel booking where you purchase a minimum of two different types of services, such as accommodation and transportation. Unlike a standard holiday package, where all services come from the same provider, an LTA allows you to customize your travel experience by choosing different providers for each service.

It's important to note that LTAs do not necessarily have ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licence) protection, which is a financial protection scheme for air travel packages. However, some LTAs may include a single ATOL-protected component, such as flights.

When booking a package holiday, it's crucial to keep this in mind and take the following steps to ensure a safe and secure booking:

  1. Confirm that what you're booking is actually classified as a package, as defined by the regulatory authorities.
  2. If it's an LTA, check if there are any ATOL-protected areas within the arrangement to ensure your travel is financially protected.

By understanding the differences between LTAs and standard holiday packages and being aware of the protection schemes in place, you can make informed decisions when booking your next getaway.

Do I need travel insurance if I have ATOL protection?

Whilst ATOL protection does protect parts of your holiday should your travel supplier cease to trade, it should not be seen as a replacement for travel insurance cover. Travel insurance cover can protect you for many things outside of ATOL protection such as:

  • Cancellation - in case you need to cancel any of your trips. 
  • Personal Accident - in case you're liable for any damages resulting from an accident. 
  • Medical and Repatriation Expenses - to cover the costs of emergency medical care or repatriation back to the UK. 
  • Mobility Aids - to cover the things you rely on most. 
  • Baggage Loss - to cover your luggage for every trip. 
  • Theft - to cover any stolen belongings.

In addition, if you find that your holiday is not ATOL protected, many travel insurance policies can also provide cover for ‘Airline Failure’ (should your airline cease to trade) and ‘End Supplier Failure’ (should your travel or accommodation supplier cease to trade). This additional cover ensures you are protected against unforeseen circumstances and gives you peace of mind during your travels.

What is an ATOL certificate?

When booking your package holiday, it is crucial to ensure that your provider issues an ATOL certificate along with your booking confirmation. This certificate serves as legal proof that your holiday is protected by the ATOL scheme, offering you peace of mind.

In the unfortunate event that your travel company ceases operations, the certificate will also contain clear instructions on the necessary steps to take. Therefore, it is highly advisable to keep this certificate safely stored in case you ever need to refer to it.

Medical Travel Compared ATOL Certificate

I haven’t received an ATOL certificate. Should I have?

If’ve already paid for your trip, it's important that your travel company has issued you with the ATOL certificate by now. This certificate guarantees financial protection for your booking, ensuring that you are covered in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Even if you've only made a deposit, the same applies - you should still receive the ATOL certificate.

If, for some reason, you haven't received the certificate, it is advisable to get in touch with your travel company directly. It's always a good idea to double-check whether you have actually completed the payment for the package, as this could be a reason for the delay in receiving the certificate. Your peace of mind is crucial when it comes to your travel plans, and ensuring that you have the necessary documentation is an important step in that process.

Understanding your ATOL certificate

When it comes to understanding your ATOL certificate just be aware that there are three different types: 

  1. Package Single Contract - one contract with the organiser for all travel services part of the package.
  2. Package Multi Contract - more than one contract with the organiser for all travel services part of the package.
  3. ATOL Protected Flight-Only - only protects any flight(s) you’ve booked. Any other travel services are not protected under this certificate. 

Your certificate will tell you:

  • What’s protected
  • Who’s covered
  • Who’s providing this protection (including the name of the package provider and designated ATOL number for the business)

If you have any concerns about your certificate, or need further guidance should your travel provider cease operating - you can always refer to the Air Travel Trust Payment Policy.

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Single trip insurance is for one-off, individual trips and will cover your specified travel dates. This is usually up to 45 days, however, some insurance providers can cover up to 94 days. If you’re not a frequent traveller, single trip cover is a great option and will likely be cheaper than an annual multi-trip cover.
If you travel 2 or more times a year, annual trip cover may very well save you money. The maximum duration of any trip will always be specified and will vary by provider. But don't worry, when you get a quote we'll ask you what your maximum trip length is and only show you quotes which match!
If you don't travel much then a single trip cover is perfect as you can cover specific dates suited to your trip. If you have cancellation cover, you'll also benefit from this as soon as you buy your policy. If you travel 2 or more times a year, it may be cheaper for you to go for an annual trip cover. It's best to start your annual trip cover as soon as possible, as if you have cancellation cover, you'll only benefit from this from your policy start date.
A pre-existing is any medical condition for which medical advice, diagnosis, care or treatment was recommended or received before applying for a travel insurance policy. Some conditions we'll need to know if they have ever been present, whilst some within a certain time period.
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