What is the difference between ATOL and ABTA?

ATOL and ABTA are schemes that offer financial protection for package holidays if the travel company you booked with goes bust

Travel companies and tour operators will often advertise their package holidays as being ATOL or ABTA protected. Both are schemes that offer support and financial protection for your package holiday if the travel company you booked with goes bust.

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser's Licence, while ABTA stands for Association of British Travel Agents.

In order to benefit from either scheme, you must have booked a package holiday with a travel company based in the UK.

ATOL is a legal requirement, whereas ABTA is voluntary. If your package holiday includes flights, the travel company you book with must offer ATOL protection by law. If your package holiday does not include flights, your travel company may offer ABTA protection but they are not legally required to do so.


ATOL protects you against losing money or becoming stranded abroad if the travel company you booked with goes bust. It is run by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Travel companies that offer flights as part of a package holiday are legally required to offer ATOL protection, and you should receive an ATOL certificate when you book your holiday.

ATOL does not cover flights that are booked directly with airlines or with airline ticket agents. Your flight must have been included as part of a package holiday in order to qualify.


ABTA offers financial protection and a range of other benefits for non-flight-based package holidays.

Unlike ATOL which is a legal requirement, ABTA is a voluntary scheme that travel companies can choose to sign up to.

If your travel company is an ABTA Member and they go bust, you will be entitled to a refund or replacement of your package holiday including hotel and transport costs as part of ABTA's financial protection scheme.

In addition, ABTA Members are governed by a Code of Conduct which sets out minimum standards for package holidays so you can travel with confidence. If your travel company does not follow the guidelines set out in the code, you have an opportunity to raise a dispute with ABTA who can hold the company to account.

You still need travel insurance

ATOL and ABTA are not substitutes for travel insurance because they only provide cover if your travel company goes bust.

They do not cover medical bills, holiday cancellations, travel delays, lost or stolen baggage or any out-of-pocket expenses unless they were directly caused by your travel company going bust.

For peace of mind, you should always make sure you have adequate travel insurance whenever you travel. Use our free comparison tool to compare travel insurance quotes from a wide range of the UK's biggest insurance providers.

Dan Morley

Dan is the Technical Director of Compare Holiday Money.

Published on 26 September 2016
Atol, Abta


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