Sep 27, 2012

Posted by in Features, Travel News, Trip Advice | 16 Comments

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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 logoATOL 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.

ATOL certificate

 

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 advice@caa.co.uk.

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

  1. Chris says:

    Surely issuing the certificate after the booking means its too late to choose a better option if you discover you haven’t got the cover you expected?

    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your question.

      If you are unsure whether the holiday you are booking is covered under the ATOL scheme, make sure you ask the company you are buying the holiday from before you book.

      If you can’t book an ATOL-protected holiday, follow our three golden rules above to reduce the chance of any loss should anything go wrong with your break.

      Cathy

  2. Robert Coley says:

    Hello………….

    I booked a Holiday through Thomas Cook on 27/09/2012, will I be covered by this new certificate?

    Many Thanks

    • Hi Robert,

      Thank you for your question.

      The first thing to do is to check with Thomas Cook whether all of the elements of your break are protected by the ATOL scheme. (As I’m not sure what type of holiday you have booked, it’s hard for me to advise on this.)

      Then, if your holiday is covered, you can ask for your certificate. Certificates were only mandatory as of today but many travel companies have already begun issuing them.

      Enjoy your holiday!
      Cathy

      • Robert Coley says:

        Hello Cathy……………..

        The holiday we booked with Thomas Cook was a full package holiday, (Flight,hotel,transfers etc)for departure in June 2012.

        Thanks

        Bob

        • Hi Bob,
          Thank you for letting me know.

          Your holiday will be protected by the ATOL scheme but, as Thomas Cook only started issuing certificates to customers yesterday, you will not receive a certificate retrospectively for this holiday. In the event of a company collapse, you will not be treated differently to anyone who booked a holiday after October 1, you just won’t receive a certificate.

          If you want to know more about what to do should something go wrong with your break, you could contact Thomas Cook for further details or take a look at the CAA’s consumer help pages (http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1080).

          Have a great holiday!
          Cathy

  3. will flight only bookings be covered by the new atol certificates

    • Hi Anthony,

      Thank you for your question.

      Certain flight-only bookings – most commonly chartered flights – will be covered by the ATOL scheme when you book through a travel supplier, but this will vary between holiday companies as it depends how they arrange your holiday. You can read about flight-only cover and some FAQs about this on the CAA website (http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1080&pagetype=70&gid=2506&faqid=1360).

      It is, however, important to remember that flights only sold through an airline will not be covered by ATOL.

      As flight-only cover is dependent on a number of factors, we would recommend that you ask the company you are looking to book with about the level of cover you will have before you buy your flights so you know where you stand. If you decide to buy flights that aren’t covered by ATOL, be sure to take out extra protection – such as travel insurance with end supplier failure – so you don’t lose any money.

      I hope this helps,
      Cathy

  4. angel raphael says:

    both answers are typical of a travel agent / politician absolutely no answer. The travel companies should have to make this stand out very clearly stating the customers position before they press the PAY NOW button because after that they are stuffed

    • Hi Ralph,

      Thank you for your comment.

      As there are so many ways to book a holiday, it is hard for me to offer advice without first knowing the type of holiday someone has booked. Travel agents/websites will be happy to explain the level of cover any holidaymaker does or doesn’t have before they book a break – all you need to do is ring them up to ask. A few minutes spent on the phone could be valuable to clarify things and to prevent you from booking a break without the level of cover you expect.

      I think that it is also important to point out that, while the ATOL scheme is a very important one that protects millions of holidaymakers every year, if a holidaymaker doesn’t book an ATOL-protected break – either by choice or mistakenly – there are still ways to protect their holiday money. This could be through buying a travel insurance policy with end supplier failure or paying for the elements of a break using a credit or VISA/MasterCard-backed debit card.

      Cathy

  5. Ken McLeod says:

    You failed to point out that certain flight only will be covered under ATOL, but almost certainly not those booked direct with an airline. Only those booked through an intermediary, although this may not always be the case. Therefore if booked direct with an airline, you are not covered, but cover may be available through a travel agent.

  6. william says:

    hi i have booked flights and carhire with british airways in september for next july will i be covered and should i recieve certificates

    • Hi William,

      Thank you for your question.

      If you booked flights and car hire with British Airways Holidays together (or within 24 hours of each other) you would be protected by the ATOL scheme in the unlikely event British Airways Holidays were to collapse. This is because your holiday would be classed as a Flight-Plus holiday.

      If, however, you booked your flight through British Airways (the airline which is a separate company) and then booked your car hire later, you would not be covered as airlines are not included in the ATOL scheme.

      As the certificates were only mandatory as of October 1, you won’t receive one retrospectively but you will have the same level of cover as any holidaymaker booking from October 1 onwards should BA fail.

      If you are still unsure whether your break is covered, give British Airways a call so you can be 100% sure.

      Enjoy your holiday!
      Cathy

  7. tracy says:

    i have booked a flight only on line with monarch airlines will i be protected by the atol scheme.

    • Hi Tracy,

      Thank you for your question.

      If you have booked a charter flight with Monarch (your flight number should start with MON), you should be covered by the ATOL scheme as you booking will have been made through Avro plc or another charter company who hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL). You can read more about bookings made with Avro here http://www.monarch.co.uk/faq/flights/booking/book-with-confidence.

      If, however, you have booked a scheduled flight through Monarch (your flight number should start with ZB) you won’t be covered as airlines aren’t included in the ATOL scheme.

      If you are unsure whether your flight is a scheduled or charter flight and whether it is covered, give Monarch a call so you can be 100% sure.

      Have a great holiday!
      Cathy

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