Rebecca Goodman
By Rebecca Goodman
Finance Journalist
Updated 03 June 2024
|Read time: 4 mins

What is ATOL?

ATOL, which stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, is a scheme which protects people when they go on holiday if the travel company goes bust. 

It is run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and it lets them reclaim any money they’ve already spent on the trip and repatriation if they’re out of the country.

It was introduced in 1973, and all package holidays sold in the UK must legally have ATOL protection. These are holidays where you booked through the same provider and often include both flights and hotel in one go.  

We’ll go into more detail on how you can claim ATOL protection if your trip doesn’t go to plan.

What does ATOL protection cover?

You’ll receive ATOL protection if your travel company stops trading, but it won’t cover things like cancelled or delayed flights.

You will either be able to continue your trip as planned if you have already set off on your journey. But any money you’ve paid will be refunded to you if your holiday has not started yet.

All package holidays sold in the UK, either online or in person, are covered by ATOL. 

Any other issues to do with your holiday, such as if you’ve had bad service from your travel company or the hotel isn’t what you thought it would be, aren’t covered under ATOL.

Package holidays are also covered by the package holiday regulations, which you can use to claim for things like cancelled flights. 

You may also be covered under ATOL if you have just booked a flight, although this is usually just if you have booked a flight and are paying in instalments.

How to check if you have ATOL protection

You’ll be told when you book whether a trip is protected under ATOL. There will also be the scheme’s logo on the travel company’s website and any documents they send.

You’ll be sent an ATOL certificate when you make your first payment. While you probably won’t need to use it, it’s important to keep this certificate safe as it is your proof in case you do need to make a claim.

How to make an ATOL claim

If something has gone wrong and you need to make an ATOL claim, there are certain steps to follow.

1. Follow the instructions on your ATOL certificate, which was sent to you when you made your first payment towards the holiday.

2. If you are yet to start your holiday, you can make an ATOL claim online via their website. You will need to include details about your holiday booking, such as your receipt and booking reference number. The claim will then be processed within 28 working days.

3. If you are on your holiday, you should speak to your holiday rep or someone appointed by the holiday firm. If that’s not possible, you can speak to the CAA for advice. You will also need to make an ATOL claim with evidence of your booking and details of any expenses you make, such as if you have to pay for additional accommodation or travel.

The difference between ATOL and ABTA

ABTA, which stands for the Association of British Travel Agents, is another holiday protection scheme. 

It covers holidays bought in the UK which do not include flights, such as a cruise or a coach holiday. If you buy one of these holidays from a company which is a member of ABTA, you will be protected under the scheme if the company stops operating. 

It works in a very similar way to ATOL, apart from the fact it does not include flights. If you’re already on holiday, your costs will be covered to continue your holiday and to return home. For those who have not started their holidays yet, any costs made will be refunded.

Members of ABTA also have to abide by a code of conduct which governs things such as advertising, customer complaints, and if a company can make changes to bookings.

Alternative ways to protect your holiday

The majority of holidays go ahead without any problems, but it’s always wise to make sure you have cover.

Paying with a credit card is one way to add an extra layer of protection to your trip. That’s because you will be covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which means the credit card company becomes jointly liable for refunding you if something goes wrong. You’ll be automatically protected if the holiday is worth between £100 and £30,000. You also don’t have to pay the full amount on your credit card if you’ve only paid a deposit.

Travel money made easy

It’s always useful to have some local currency when jetting off abroad. For great rates and no commission, pop to one of the Bureau de Change in our John Lewis & Partners shops around the UK, or order online for click-and-collect or home delivery.

When you return from your holiday, you can always sell your leftover travel money back to us at any of our Bureau de Change locations.

Exchange rates in our shops may vary from those offered online.


This article is for promotional or information purposes only. You must not rely on it as advice. Please contact a financial adviser if you need advice before you buy a financial product or service.

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We answer “how much money can I take abroad?” as well as rules around bringing cash into the UK.

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