How ATOL Protection Works To Repatriate Stranded Tourists

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You never want to start your holiday thinking about what could go wrong, but it’s always good to be prepared. ATOL protection is a financial protection scheme that helps out when you book flights and accommodation and, in some cases, car hire. But some 80% of UK travelers go abroad without it. Here’s what you need to know about ATOL protection.

ATOL is a holiday essential. Photo: PublicDomainPictures.net

What is ATOL protection?

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser’s License and is a scheme run by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. It’s a must by law for travel companies selling package holidays, if the company is registered in the UK and within Europe.

Because it’s standard for these agencies, many passengers might not be fully aware of how it works and whether or not they even have it.

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How does it work?

Each ATOL holder is required to pay a £2.50 fee for each passenger who makes a booking. This money is then put into a fund owned by the Air Travel Trust, which is used when passengers are stranded and need a refund and repatriation.

Refunds and repatriation for ATOL holders. Photo: The Photographer via Wikimedia

The Civil Aviation Authority website states that ATOL protection will prevent you from being stranded if the company you booked with collapses before or during your holiday. If the collapse happens before your holiday, you will be eligible for a full refund or a replacement holiday. If the collapse happens during your holiday, then “the scheme will provide support to minimise disruption to your holiday.”

That’s great if you’ve booked a package holiday. Why? Because according to the Civil Aviation Authority:

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“The law says your holiday must be protected if you book a holiday with a single travel firm that includes:
flights and accommodation (including a cruise), or
flights and car hire, or
flights, accommodation and car hire.”

If you’ve booked a package holiday, you likely to be covered by ATOL. Photo: Tom Page via Flickr

What isn’t covered?

So what if you only decide to book flights? We’ve seen a number of airlines declare bankruptcy in recent years, so how can passengers be sure that they will have some protection for their travel?

Well, if you book your flights and do not immediately receive your ticket, then you could also be covered by ATOL. But if you receive a ticket from an airline or travel agency directly in exchange for payment, then it’s unlikely that you will be covered.

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However, it’s always good to check. The Civil Aviation Authority recommends looking for the ATOL badge on the travel company’s website before you book, or checking for an ATOL certificate after you’ve made the purchase. The Civil Aviation Authority also has a service where you can check the validity of your ATOL protection.

How do you make a claim?

There are various ways to get your money back when you’re faced with issues on your holiday. You can contact your booking agency directly or contact the CAA who will ask for receipts and tickets as well as require you to fill in a claims form.

But if your holiday isn’t covered by ATOL, you can check your travel insurance to see whether it offers a similar level of protection. Credit card purchases and some debit card payments could also be protected; talk to your bank to find out more.

Have you ever needed to use your ATOL protection? Do you think ATOL should also cover independently booked flights? Let us know in the comments!

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