With the recent recession causing companies to fall in to administration and companies ceasing to exist with little protection for the consumer... as well as having adequate travel insurance, it is essential to make sure that your package holiday is Air Travel Organizer's Licensed (ATOL) protected with the new ATOL Certificate.
What is the ATOL and How Does it Work?
As part of the CAA, the scheme was first introduced in 1973. The new certificate is issued from all licensed travel agent sales made from October 1st 2012. ATOL is short for Air Travel Organizer's License and all travel operators are required by law to abide by the issuing ATOL Certificates. It is a criminal offence not to provide one. The Certificate acts as a protection bubble and ensures that if your travel operator ceases to exist or goes in to administration, your money is protected and you won't be stranded on holiday.
Where Can I Get an ATOL Certificate?
Book and pay (either in full or just a deposit) for a holiday with a registered travel agent and you will receive your certificate. If your travel operator cannot provide you will one, ask them what their reason for this is. Remember that if you decide to book your holiday knowing that you will not receive an ATOL Certificate, you risk losing your money if the unfortunate should happen. You can check that your travel company is a registered ATOL holder at the CAA website here.
What Does it Look Like?
All certificates are yellow; be warned if you receive a different coloured document.
It is not essential to bring the certificate with you on holiday, but if you do, we recommend that you keep the certificate safe with your other travel documents. Remember that the ATOL Certificate costs £2.50 but this is payable by the travel operators, not the customer.
What is and isn't Covered?
The ATOL certificate can take three different forms depending on what you book:
The ATOL only provides cover for those packages booked with a tour organiser that involves a flight - if you dynamic package (i.e. buy flights and accommodation separately) then there is no protection.
Under the Package Travel Regulations, an organiser is classed as someone who puts together two out of three components of a package; transport, accommodation and ancillary such as car hire) - an organiser must have financial failure cover in place either by a bond with the CAA and/or ABTA, a recognised trust account (or via the Travel Trust Association) or have an insurance policy in place to cover the customer.
If you buy a flight only ticket from a travel agent or flight consolidator, then that agent is responsible for providing you with a replacement ticket or refund if the scheduled airline goes bust - they will usually have Scheduled Airline Failure (SAFC of SAFI) in place (or this will be covered under a the relevant section of a travel insurance policy)
If you buy direct from the airline - there is no cover!
If you book your holiday in parts or add on any extras, they all have to be booked within 24 hours of each other otherwise you won't be protected. You also won't get the ATOL Certificate cover when booking your holiday by yourself outside of a travel operator package. Remember that even if your travel operator is ATOL registered, they are still able to sell non ATOL covered packages. Check first that the holiday package you intend on purchasing is covered by the ATOL.
Be aware that airlines currently do not have to provide customers with ATOL protection, even if booking a package holiday. Coach trips and rail lines are not covered either, so always check (and double check!) before purchasing your holiday.
So How Can I Protect Myself if I Don't Book a Package Deal?
Simple - by having a good level of travel insurance for your individual holiday requirements! Things such as delayed flights and purchasing additional accommodation can be a nightmare if you do not have the correct level of cover; our Single and Multi Trip policies can help you if you're faced with a disaster abroad! Credit cards can also give you some protection if you've paid £100 or more for your holiday, as the credit card provider can be jointly liable for any occurring problems. However, having a travel insurance policy is always the best option. Full terms can be found in the 1974 Consumer Credit Act.
Alpha Travel Insurance and alphatravelinsurance.co.uk are trading names of Infinity Insurance Solutions Ltd which is authorised and regulated by Financial Conduct Authority: FRN 528912 © Infinity Insurance Solutions. 1 Tower View, Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent. ME19 4UY. All rights reserved