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What is ATOL protection, and why is it important?

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The Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) scheme protects you if your holiday provider goes bust before or during your holiday, focussing on helping you get home. In some circumstances you might even be able to carry on with your holiday if it’s ATOL protected.

If your holiday company goes bust before you travel, you should also be able to organise a refund through ATOL.

Here's what you need to know.

A woman carries a suitcase in an airport

ATOL protection usually covers you:

  • Package holidays that include flights, car hire and accommodation
  • Holidays that include flights and accommodation

Some flight-only holidays have ATOL protection, but not always. It's best to check with the provider before you commit to booking.

If your holiday booking doesn't include flights, these aren't covered by ATOL.

ATOL protection acts as a safety net for your holiday provider if they go out of business:

  • If the company goes bust before you travel, you can claim for a refund on the holiday
  • If the company goes bust while you're on holiday, the scheme ensures you can return to the UK.

It’s not a replacement for your travel insurance policy, though. ATOL only covers you if your holiday provider goes bust - travel insurance is there if you need medical attention abroad, or if you lose your luggage.

Before you book your holiday, use the ‘Check an ATOL’ tool on the UK Civil Aviation Authority Website. Here you can see which firms provide ATOL protection for flights or holidays. Be wary of companies that falsely claim they’re ATOL protected - use the tool to make sure they’re covered.

Also check your holiday provider’s website or brochure for the ATOL protection logo. It should contain the ATOL logo, sometimes combined with the provider’s unique number.

If in doubt, ask your tour operator or holiday provider whether your holiday is ATOL protected.

Most package holiday firms have ATOL protection. But if you’re booking different parts of your holiday with different firms, some of them might not be ATOL protected.

ATOL should cover flights that you pay for in advance and in full. With this type of flight, you don’t usually get your ticket straight away.

If you've booked your holiday and it's ATOL protected, you should have had an ATOL certificate.

An ATOL certificate provides proof that your holiday is protected. It should include a reference number and explain what you need to do if your holiday company goes bust before or during your trip.

You should get your ATOL certificate as soon as you book your holiday. If you can’t find it, contact your holiday company.

If you need to make an ATOL claim, or if you’re stranded, you should find who you need to contact on the ATOL certificate. It’s worth checking this before you travel.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority website has a list of ATOL failures or companies that have gone bust.

You can find up-to-date information on each travel provider’s situation, and who to contact to make a claim.

You should be able to submit your ATOL claim online.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABT) covers holidays where you travel by:

  • Rail
  • Road
  • Sea

ATOL protection covers package holidays with air travel and some flights.

Yes. ATOL and ABTA only provide cover if your holiday company goes bust. There are plenty of other things that can go wrong on holiday, for example:

Travel insurance policies are designed to help in these situations.

When you compare travel insurance policies, check the Defaqto star ratings to find out how comprehensive the cover is.

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