Find out more about Cathy Toogood
ATOL certificates make holiday protection clearer
In October 2012, changes to the ATOL scheme were made meaning that, now, whenever you book an ATOL-protected holiday, you will receive a certificate confirming the level of cover that applies to your break.
The introduction of certificates was good news for holidaymakers and should remove a lot of the confusion around holiday protection. It was the second change to the ATOL scheme in 2012 as back in April a new level of Flight-Plus cover was introduced to protect millions more people each year.
But why were these changes made and how do they affect you?
What is ATOL?
ATOL is a financial protection scheme run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Every travel company in the UK who sells flight-inclusive holidays is required to hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) which is granted by the CAA.
If you book an ATOL-protected holiday and the company who sold it to you was to collapse – either before you were due to travel or while you were away – you would be covered by the scheme and wouldn’t lose any money or be left stranded.
What changed on October 1?
Now, if you book an ATOL-protected holiday, you will be given a certificate to confirm you are covered. The certificate will also detail what to do should your travel company collapse – either before you travel or while you are away – and each certificate will have a unique reference number.
Why was this change made?
The way we book holidays has changed significantly since the ATOL scheme was introduced in 1973 with many holidaymakers now opting to put their own breaks together or booking different elements of their break from different companies. This has resulted in the number of holidays that are protected by the ATOL scheme falling.
Consequently, holidaymakers are often confused about whether their break is protected. Many assume that, if the company they book with has an ATOL logo on their site or in their shop window, they will be protected but this isn’t always the case.
This has been shown when big companies such as XL, Sun4U, Libra, Goldtrail and Kiss have collapsed leaving holidaymakers who presumed they were covered losing their money or stranded abroad and having to stump up extra money to get home.
The new certificates aim to end this confusion as holidaymakers will now have a standard and recognisable way of knowing whether their break is protected as well as advice on what to do should anything go wrong.
When will I get the certificate?
As soon as any payment (including deposits) has been made for a holiday, you should be issued with your certificate. If you are booking your holiday face-to-face, you should receive a printed copy of the certificate, while if you book online or over the phone, the certificate will be emailed or posted to you.
The certificate should look like the picture below and will have your own unique reference number which will speed up any claims.
Do I need to take my certificate away with me?
As there will be advice on your certificate on what to do in the event of a company collapse as well as a reference number, you should keep your certificate safe with your other travel documents and take it on holiday with you. If you don’t want to take a printed copy away with you, keep an electronic version on your smartphone/tablet.
What happens if I’m not issued with a certificate?
If you aren’t issued with a certificate following your payment for an ATOL-protected holiday, contact the company you booked with in the first instance to find out why. As this is a new process there may be a few teething problems during the certificates’ introduction.
If you have problems with the company you have booked with over the new certificates, get in touch with the CAA using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are all holidays covered by ATOL?
Only package holidays or Flight-Plus holidays are covered under the ATOL scheme.
Flight-Plus holidays refer to breaks when a flight plus accommodation or car hire are booked within 24 hours of each other from the same travel supplier. This new level of ATOL was introduced on April 30, 2012 to reflect the changes in the way we book holidays. You can read more about the change here.
Instances where holidays are not covered under ATOL include: self-build DIY trips where all of the elements are booked through different providers, holidays within the UK only, holidays booked through airlines’ websites, business trips booked through a corporate agents and holidays where the different elements are booked through the same company outside of the one-day timeframe for Flight-Plus holidays.
What should I do if my holiday is not covered by ATOL?
When booking any holiday, TravelSupermarket offers three golden rules to minimise the chance of any loss:
- Wherever possible, book an ATOL or ATOL Flight-Plus protected holiday. If you are unsure whether your holiday is covered by the ATOL scheme, ask before you book. This should become even clearer from October 1 when certificates are issued.
- Always pay by credit card to receive protection under the Consumer Credit Act for transactions of over £100 (and up to £30,000), or by VISA or MasterCard debit card for charge back protection. If you pay by cash, cheque or bank transfer you won’t be protected.
- If you can’t book an ATOL-protected holiday, make sure you take out a travel insurance policy with end supplier failure included. This will protect you from losing money should any part of your holiday collapse and, depending on your policy, will allow you to re-book the failed element without incurring an additional cost.
Speaking about the changes, TravelSupermarket’s travel expert, Bob Atkinson, said:
“This newly introduced ATOL certificate will go a long way in clarifying the matter of protection for consumers.
“The certificate will detail what to do in the event of a company collapse either before you travel or while you’re away. This will give great reassurance to the travelling public and really clarify what steps people affected need to take should something go wrong. People should ensure they keep their uniquely referenced certificate safe and to take it with them on holiday.”
Follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyToogood