The Ultimate ATOL Consumer Guide

What is ATOL? The Ultimate Consumer Guide

If you’ve looked into any consumer protection in travel, I’m sure you’ve come across the term ‘ATOL’. An important part of consumer protection for travellers since 1973, ATOL is at the core of air travel for businesses selling, and consumers buying, package holidays with flights, and even in some flight-only cases too.

But with all we talk about it and the great work the CAA has done in creating this scheme, you may be wondering, what is ATOL? As travel experts, it’s easy to throw around the term and forget that not all our consumers will know what it means. In this same vein of thought, the CAA has recently delved into making the scheme more accessible for consumers on Pack Peace of Mind, and we’re thrilled to see such an important organisation to travel extending guidance towards consumers.

So, here is all you need to know about the ATOL Scheme as a consumer, and how it will protect your next getaway to give you complete peace of mind.

What is ATOL?

The Air Travel Organisers’ License (ATOL) is a financial protection scheme created by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 1973 as a response to the number of consumers losing money or getting stuck abroad after travel businesses stopped selling after they booked. In accordance with the Package Travel Regulations (you can find out more about the PTRs on our Ultimate Guide), ATOL protects most package holidays that include flights.

ATOL comes in a few different forms depending on the business holding it, but in short, any travel business that wants to sell flights must have an ATOL and is also obliged to provide ATOL certificates as evidence of this to all consumers they sell a flight to.

The different forms ATOL can come in are as follows:

  • Standard
  • Small Business
  • Franchise
  • Accredited Bodies
  • Trade

This all means the same thing from the consumer’s perspective as all will provide the same protection for your holiday, no matter the type of business you’re dealing with. If you would like to learn more about the different types of ATOL, you can check out our blog.

How Does ATOL Protect My Holiday?

The ATOL protection scheme will protect you in the circumstance that your travel business stops trading after you’ve booked a package holiday that includes a flight. This could be resolved in a few different ways depending on if you are on holiday already, or you have booked but not travelled. Rebooking, refunding, reimbursing, and repatriations are what the Air Travel Trust puts the ATOL funds towards in these situations.

Generally, your holiday will only be protected by ATOL if it is a package holiday that includes a flight or multiple flights. A package holiday is a holiday booked under one price that includes more than one element, such as flights, transport, car hire, and accommodation (you can find out more about package holidays on the our blog). There are a few rare situations in which a flight-only booking will be protected by ATOL, these generally include:

  • A booking where you pay for your ticket in instalments; or
  • A booking where you do not receive your ticket immediately after paying

However, in all cases where you are covered by ATOL, this should be made evident, as the travel business must inform you that you are protected by ATOL and provide an ATOL certificate as evidence when you book.

The certificate will be your proof of protection, and the CAA highly advises that consumers keep this on hand when you go on holiday, whether in digital or physical form so that if something goes wrong abroad, you can make a claim and sort the situation out immediately (If you want to know how to make an ATOL claim, then you can visit the claims page on the ATOL consumer site).

If you would like to check that your travel business is an ATOL holder before you book your holiday, you can also use the ATOL holder search on the CAA website to ensure they are an official ATOL holder. You will also be able to find the ATOL logo and a unique 4-5-digit ATOL number on the company’s website or in-store.

Am I Protected by ATOL When I Book with A PTS Member?

When you book with a PTS tour operator member that does not sell flights, they will not need to hold an ATOL. However, all ground-based elements will still be completely protected under the PTS trust account and Package Travel Regulations. So, you need not worry.

However, if you are booking flights with a PTS member, this can fall under one of two situations:

  1. If you are booking with a PTS member that builds the package, then this member will trade under either the PTS franchise ATOL or an independent ATOL of their own.
  2. If you are booking with a PTS travel agent member that is not the package curator, this is called selling through a third party ATOL. Simply, this means that because the travel agent is not the organiser of the package, they do not have to hold an ATOL but will be selling through the ATOL of the package organiser.

In both cases you will still be provided with an ATOL certificate, this difference simply means that it may not be the PTS member that holds the license.

In the case that something does go wrong with your booking, whether it is flight-related or otherwise, getting in contact with your PTS member is the top priority as very often they can resolve the issue without any claims needing to be made from the ATOL Scheme.

So, when you’re looking to book your next holiday, don’t forget to find your PTS member for complete protection of your booking. And if you need assistance choosing which of our fabulous members to book with, you can call PTS directly at 0207 190 9988.

Or, if you’d like to find out more about how you’re protected as a consumer, and what the PTS trust account system does to protect you, don’t forget to check out our pages.