Holidays are precious, and it would be a nightmare for yours to be cancelled due to a travel company going out of business – not only losing a valuable break but maybe your cash too. We’ve all heard of ATOL and ABTA protection, but what does it mean?
The Civil Aviation Authority runs the ATOL protection scheme. Most overseas air holidays booked with UK travel companies are protected by law in the case of a travel company going out of business. You are protected if you have booked a flight-inclusive package; a flight-plus deal (flights and accommodation / car hire booked with the same travel company but not as a package); or an ATOL-protected flight-only.
ATOL protection ensures that if a travel company collapses while you are on holiday, you will be able to finish your holiday and return home as planned. If the company stops trading before you leave the UK, the ATOL scheme will refund you in full for the money you have lost.
Holidays or flights booked direct with scheduled airlines are not covered by ATOL.
Before you book, look for the ATOL logo and number on your travel company’s website and marketing materials; and double-check on the CAA website. When booking a flight-only deal with a travel company, confirm that it is ATOL-protected.
Since October 2012, you will receive an ATOL certificate from your travel company once you pay anything towards a holiday that is covered by the scheme. Keep it safe and take it away with you so you know what to do if anything goes wrong.
ABTA is the main trade association representing travel agents in the UK. Its focus is to help members develop successful businesses; improve standards in the industry; and to provide schemes of financial protection and a course of redress for travellers when things go wrong.
By booking with an ABTA member, you should receive a high level of service and feel reassured as your travel agent is bound by a strict code of conduct.
All package and ‘flight-plus’ holidays sold by ABTA members are protected so you’ll be able to either continue your holiday as planned if they cease trading during your trip, or get your money back if you haven’t set off yet.
Your holiday should not be affected if your travel agent goes out of business – but check with the tour operator or airline / accommodation to ensure they have your booking.
If your tour operator stops trading and you booked your trip through a travel agent, you will need to contact your agent, who will be able to help you.
When you have booked directly with a tour operator who has gone out of business, if they are an ABTA member then you may be able to make a claim. Visit the ABTA website as soon as you can to get the ball rolling.
Always keep copies / records of your correspondence, conversations and payments when planning your holiday, so if things go wrong you will have all the relevant details to make your case.
There is a three-step process to follow if you want to complain about an ABTA member, and the association will provide expert advice. If you have a complaint during your holiday, you should always raise this with your travel company rep in resort as a starting point.
Even if you’ve got the cash in your sweaty palm, pay for your holiday using a credit card since you should be covered under the Consumer Credit Act if you pay for a holiday that you never receive.
Many of us leave extras like travel insurance until closer to the time of travel, but it’s definitely worth buying your insurance at the time you book your holiday, as this will cover you for many unforeseen events. Check the small print for scheduled airline or tour operator failure cover, in particular, and think about taking out additional cover if necessary.
Do you have any more advice on how we can protect our precious holidays?