As the summer holiday booking period approaches, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is advising consumers to check that their 2008 holiday will be financially protected. The CAA’s ATOL scheme provides full financial protection for air holiday packages bought from tour operators.
If an operator goes bankrupt, the CAA will refund holidaymakers and repatriate those stranded abroad. However, this protection does not apply to all air holidays, such as ‘DIY’ packages put together by consumers, so holidaymakers should not assume they are covered.
The CAA has estimated that during 2007, up to 18 million British consumers travelled on DIY packages, booking their own flights and accommodation separately. DIY holidays are not ATOL-protected, however many consumers booking their own packages mistakenly believe that they would be protected should their airline, hotel or car hire company cease trading.
Richard Jackson, Director of the CAA’s Consumer Protection Group, said: “When you buy an air holiday package from an ATOL tour operator, you can be sure of a high level of financial protection. However, more and more people book and pay separate companies for their flights and accommodation but don’t realise they’re not getting the same level of protection as they do with ATOL. They could lose their money or even be stranded abroad.
Jackson added: “If you want to make sure your money is safe, check that an operator has an ATOL. Look for the ATOL logo and a tour operator’s licence number in brochures and on websites. If in doubt, check on the ATOL website at www.atol.org.uk.”
The CAA has the following tips for those looking to book an air holiday:
- Check that your travel firm has an ATOL by looking for the ATOL logo and licence number in brochures and on websites. You can check by visiting www.atol.org.uk.
- If buying online, do not book until you are sure you are covered - ask the travel firm whether you will get a full refund or be repatriated if they or a supplier stops trading - if not, think again.
- If you are not ATOL-protected, travel insurance can provide some cover, but as most policies do not cover insolvency, you need to check carefully that your insurance gives this cover. Remember also that it may only cover part of your holiday arrangements and not other travel services you have booked separately.
- Paying by credit card will give some cover, but remember it will only apply to the service lost, not other services you have booked separately.
- You will have no cover when paying by debit card.
- If you want to build your own holiday, online ATOL tour operators offer flexibility and protection, so you do not have to compromise. Check websites for the ATOL logo.