“Do I need an Air Travel Organisers’ Licence (ATOL)?” is a common question for many travel businesses. (Of course, many don’t know what ATOL stands for and ask for an ATOL licence…we, naturally, find this to be scandalous and refuse to say it!) Whether you are a start-up or just facing the possibility of expanding into flights, it can be a little confusing at first.

Since some travel businesses do need an ATOL and some don’t, knowing which category your business fits into is important. Whether or not you need an Air Travel Organisers’ Licence (ATOL) breaks down quite simply once you answer one question: do you sell flights? If your answer is ‘no’, then you simply do not need an ATOL.

If your answer is ‘yes’, then there are a few different options. These depend on the capacity of flights you sell, if you’re selling through someone else’s ATOL (such as the PTS Franchisee ATOL), and more.

What is the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence?

To cover the basics, the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence (ATOL) is a scheme created by the CAA in 1973. It was created to provide better financial protection for UK consumers booking holidays including flights.

You can visit the CAA website to learn more about the ATOL scheme, or to apply for a licence. There are also associated franchisees that offer ATOL, such as PTS.

Air Travel Organisers’ Licences are highly regulated, as they should be to protect consumers. The main function is to protect consumers if the holiday company collapses whilst they are on holiday. Then the traveller can complete the holiday and be repatriated.

ATOL protection also allows for all monies to be refunded if the travel company has failed before the departure date. The CAA is in a position to fund this as £2.50 per passenger is paid into the fund for each booking. The consumer doesn’t necessarily see this fee as many travel sellers include this fee within the package price.

Should I Sell Flights?

This is really dependent on your business and the target consumers. Many companies will have different reasons not to sell flights. This includes selling flights through a package created by another provider. Thus, they won’t need an Air Travel Organisers’ Licence.

There are many ways to sell great travel without flights as well. This could range from selling domestic packages to focusing on a niche rather than focusing on transport.

Even within the last decade, flights were a must-have to allow successful package sales. But the positive effects of the internet and holistays have quelled the need to fly to have fun (boats, however, will always be great fun AND you don’t need an ATOL).

Booking non-flight packages are becoming more popular and so many tour operators do follow this route and still become successful. This advantage means that selling flights is much more up to the preference of the business. In saying this, providing an entire holiday in one swift payment is a very attractive package. For many consumers, they want it to be as simple as possible. We would advise that you take a good look at your market.

Do I Need To Be Regulated if I Do Not Sell Flights?

ATOL is only one part of travel regulation. Even if you choose to omit flights you still have a responsibility to protect monies and comply with the PTRs.

Whether you trade through a trust account model, or you work with an insurance model, client monies must be protected. The protection and consumer confidence that comes with the PTRs is a vital part of selling good holidays.

Other forms of protection, such as payment methods and travel insurance, are in the consumers’ hands. Plus, whether or not they are aware of these forms will vary.

Working with a travel business that is PTR compliant and provides that security, whether you sell flights or not, is a simple but valuable thing to consumers. 

So, if you’d like to learn more about keeping your money safe with a PTS membership, please get in contact with one of Protected Trust Services’ (PTS) lovely staff members by calling 0207 190 9988. Or, you can visit our member support and travel trust account pages to learn more about how we protect you. 

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