“Do I need an ATOL?” is a common question for many travel businesses. Whether they are start-ups or just facing the possibility of needing an Air Travel Organisers’ Licence (ATOL) as they expand, 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 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 depending on the capacity of flights you sell, if you’re selling through someone else’s ATOL (such as the PTS Franchisee ATOL), and more (you can find out more about the different types of ATOL in our article).

What is the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence?

To cover the basics, the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence (ATOL) is a scheme created by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 1973 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 an ATOL. There are also associated franchisees that offer ATOL, such as PTS. ATOL is highly regulated, as it should be to protect consumers. Its main function is to protect consumers if the holiday company collapses whilst they are on holiday. Then the client can complete the holiday and be repatriated. ATOL protection also allows for all monies to be refunded to the consumer if the travel company has failed, or collapsed, before the departure date. The CAA is in a position to fund this as £2.50 per passenger is paid into the ATOL fund for each booking. The consumer doesn’t necessarily see this fee as many tour operators, travel agents 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, and thus won’t need an ATOL. This could range from selling domestic packages that don’t need air travel, to tour operators that specifically focus on their niche, thus not 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 globalisation have now empowered the consumer to take control of booking their own individual travel arrangements. Booking non-flight packages are becoming ever more popular and so many tour operators do follow the non-flight route and still become extremely 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 who 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 client monies and comply with the Package Travel Regulations. Whether you trade through a trust account model, as PTS offers, or you work with an insurance model client monies must be protected. The protection and consumer confidence that comes with the Package Travel Regulations and ATOL is a vital part of successfully selling good holidays. Other forms of protection, such as payment methods and travel insurance, are in the consumers’ hands, and whether or not they are aware of these forms, 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. If you’d like any further assistance with the Air Travel Organiser’ Licence, 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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