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New ATOL certificate clarifies holiday protection

An aeroplane parked at airportAre you booking a holiday soon? New rules offer a little extra peace of mind.

All ATOL-protected holidays now come with a certificate that outlines your rights as a traveller and explains what to do if something goes wrong.

ATOL, which is run by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, ensures that tourists do not lose out when they book package holidays and their provider gets into financial difficulties.

Over the past few years, there have been a number of high-profile holiday company collapses which have left British travellers either stranded overseas, or unable to start their trips.

Thousands stranded abroad

In August last year, Brighton-based Holidays4U went under leaving almost 13,000 customers stuck in Turkey and 20,000 more facing the cancellation of their trips.

A year earlier, another Mediterranean tour operator, Goldtrail, collapsed leaving around 16,000 stuck overseas.

In these and many similar cases, the majority of the people affected were able to travel home and have payments refunded because their holidays were protected under the ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) scheme.

But at the time the companies went bust, there was a great deal of confusion and anxiety among customers over how they would get home, and whether they would be left out of pocket.

Clear up confusion

The new ATOL certificate scheme is designed to prevent this confusion.

As of October 2012, whenever anyone pays for an ATOL-protected holiday or flight, they will be given a certificate that confirms what parts of their trip are protected, and what they should do if anything goes wrong.

This includes a helpline number, and ATOL says that holidaymakers should take their certificates with them when they travel.

The introduction of the ATOL certificate is the latest change in traveller protection.

Flight Plus protection

Until this year, ATOL only covered package holidays where customers bought accommodation alongside flights or car hire from the same company at the same time.

Now, however, a wider range of trips are protected.

If you buy a flight and book car hire or accommodation from the same firm, you will be covered even if the trip is not an official package holiday.

You will also receive protection if you book the flight and another element within a day of each other, but this must be through the same travel company.

Both these situations are covered by ATOL's "Flight Plus" scheme.

If you buy a flight direct from an airline, however, you will not normally be covered by ATOL.

The same applies if you have booked the various elements of your trip through different companies.

How to protect yourself

If you have booked a holiday which doesn’t benefit from ATOL protection, you should buy travel insurance as soon as possible after booking.

If you leave it to the last minute, you will not be covered if your holiday provider goes bust in advance of your trip.

Even if you are ATOL-protected, buying travel cover sooner rather than later is a good idea as it will allow you to claim if you have to cancel your holiday for any reason.

Certainly, ATOL protection is no substitute for a good travel policy, which will insure you against illness or theft as well as problems with tour operators.




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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris


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