*This article was updated October 2019
The rise of holidays abroad in recent years has further increased the need for insurance and security when Brits travel overseas. According to the Office for National Statistics there were 71.7 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2018, the second-highest figure recorded by the International Passenger Survey.
One of the most common excursions away from the UK is a package holiday. Many families take out these inclusive holidays that have transport, accommodation and food all catered for in one deal. But who will be there to guarantee the customer’s financial and personal safety if a travel company fails to do so? With high profile holiday and airline company failures in the last 2 years including the giant Thomas Cook it pays to know how you can be protected.
Licensing organisations exist to ensure that in case anything was to go wrong with your holiday or the company you have taken out a package with, there would be somebody available to sort any travelling problems and in extreme cases of company failure, get you home from your holiday or refund you your money.
The ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing scheme) exists to protect customers if their travel organiser should fail. It ensures you are not stranded abroad or do not lose money paid to the travel organiser for holidays and flights.
ATOL Regulations were first intoduced in the 1970’s as the rise in foreign holidays increased. Since then they have been replaced with new regulations in 1995 and again in 2012 (amended 1 July 2018).
ATOL certificates are issued by the Civil Aviation Authority. The CAA oversees the supplying of licenses so travel companies can trade. Every UK travel company which sells overseas holidays and flights is required to hold a license in case a company ceases trading for whatever reason.
The license ensures that the customers will be looked after in case the company lets its customers down, they’re stranded overseas or they get their money back if the holiday has to be cancelled. This ensures your protection from company failure by offering full refunds or ensuring that tourists are able to finish their holidays. It is a legal requirement that your travel agency that you book with for travel will supply an ATOL certificate with the booking confirmation.
Offering slightly different policies to those of the licenses mentioned above, ABTA is the Association of British Travel Agents. While ATOL is a compulsory licensing system run by government, ABTA is a voluntary scheme that Travel agents can sign up to and become a member.
ABTA has a specific code of conduct that its suppliers have to abide by in order to be certified and there is a lot of protection if things go wrong with your holiday. However, this is a voluntary scheme and Travel Agents are not required to become members. There are also lots of caveats, for example an ABTA registered travel agent may book you a holiday, quite legally, with a non-ABTA provider. In case anything went wrong you would not be protected under those circumstances.
Much more information can be found on the ABTA website.
To ensure safety when booking your next holiday, be sure to check what protection is in place before you part with any money. This information is clearly listed on their websites and covered on the certificates that are legally provided and it’s wise to ask the agent you are booking your holiday with. Be sure to take your protection certificate in case of an emergency whilst on your overseas trip. Even if the chances of this happening are slim, it will provide peace of mind in case something is to go wrong. It is better to be safe than sorry so ensure that you are protected on your vacations overseas.