If you’re booking a holiday, look out for a new ATOL travel protection certificate

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If you book a holiday, the last thing you want to have to worry about is that the company will go bust. Look out for an ATOL protection certificate so you know you won’t lose out.

Q. Who will give me the certificate?

A. Whoever you book your holiday with will give you the certificate. If you are booking a holiday online or by phone, the certificate should be emailed or posted to you. If you book it face-to-face, you should be given a certificate.

However you book, you should be given the certificate at the time you hand over any money for your holiday — even if it’s only a deposit.

Q. Are all holidays protected?

A No. This protection only applies to package holidays, ATOL-protected flight only and what’s called ‘flight plus’ holidays. ATOL stands for Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing.

  • Flight-plus means a holiday where you book a flight and either accommodation or car hire through the same company or website either on the same day or within two days of each other.
  • ATOL-protected flight only is a flight booked with a travel company or agent, as opposed to directly with an airline. ATOL describes it as booking a flight where you don’t receive your tickets straight away. ATOL-protected flight only bookings can be made with an ATOL company for charter or scheduled flights.

SAVVY TIP: It’s not the same as booking a flight directly with an airline. In this case you wouldn’t be covered by the ATOL scheme and wouldn’t be given an ATOL certificate. You’re also not protected by these rules if you book a flight and accommodation directly with an airline.

Q What does the certificate look like?

A. It’s yellow, with the words ‘ATOL Certificate’ across the top. As well as telling you which parts of your holiday are protected by the ATOL scheme, it includes a reference number that you can use if you need to make a claim and the travel company’s name and ATOL number.
It will also tell you what to do if the travel company you’ve booked with goes bust.

There are different types of ATOL certificate, depending on whether you have booked a flight inclusive package, flight plus or ATOL protected flight-only.

Q. How am I protected if I book a flight?

A. The answer depends on who you book your flight with. If you book a flight from an ATOL member or agent, your flight is protected if the airline fails.

SAVVY TIP: Although you’re protected if you book your flight with an ATOL company, you may not be protected if you book a flight only via a travel agent. However, your travel agent should be able to arrange insurance for scheduled airline failure which normally only costs a few pounds.

If you book your flight directly with the airline, you’re not covered under the new rules if the airline fails.

SAVVY TIP: If you want to buy standalone protection for your holiday costs, there are a number of providers, such as Protectmyholiday.com. If you pay for your flight by credit card you are covered for the cost of the flight, as long as it costs more than £100 and less than £30,000, and any reasonable costs you incur in getting home (for example, if you have to book alternative flights).

Q. How am I protected if I book my own holiday?

A.If you put together your own holiday you aren’t protected under the rules and you wouldn’t be protected if you book through a company that arranges holidays on your behalf. The rules say you’re not protected if:

  • You buy through a ‘click through’ on a website. If you were to book your flight direct with an airline and then book hotel accommodation and/or car hire via the same website, you wouldn’t be protected because this part of the booking would be made with a different company (even though the original advert sits within the airline’s website).
  • You book through an ‘agent for the consumer’. These are companies that put together holidays but don’t sell holidays or flights they’ve bought. They do not have ATOL protection.

SAVVY TIP: This may apply to a specialist company that you approach to put together a bespoke holiday. In this case, even if you end up booking everything through the same company, you’re not protected.

Q. What protection do I have if I book a package holiday?

A. Package holidays have been covered for many years so if you book a package holiday with a travel agent or tour operator, it is protected by law.

SAVVY TIP: A package holiday has two or more elements. This could be transport (flight or coach travel, for example) and accommodation. If your holiday includes a flight it will be protected by the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL (air travel organiser’s licence) scheme as long as you book via a travel agent or tour operator (and they’re covered by ATOL).

SAVVY TIP: If you book a holiday that is ATOL protected, you should be told this at the time you book. The company you book with should either have an ATOL or be an agent of a travel company that does.

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