What is ATOL, and how do you know if you're protected?

You might have heard it mentioned in travel adverts, or perhaps seen the "ATOL PROTECTED" badge displayed on the homepages of internet travel companies, but what exactly is ATOL? How does it affect you and your travel plans?

What is ATOL?

ATOL is a scheme that's operated by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The protection scheme makes sure that if your tour operator goes out of business while you are abroad, you'll have returning flights arranged for you and paid for. It also means that any funds you have given to a company for services not yet redeemed – flights, tours, accommodation, etc. – will be refunded to you in the event that the company stops trading.

Am I protected?

All UK-based travel companies operating overseas should, by law, offer ATOL protection if the booking includes either flights and accommodation; flights and car hire; or flights, accommodation and car hire.

To check and see if your chosen company is protected, ask them directly, search to see the ATOL logo and unique licence number on their promotional materials, or click here to use the CAA's ATOL check tool. Not sure whether or not the company is being truthful? Use the CAA's check an ATOL tool, located here.

Once you have booked a holiday, the travel company should send you a copy of their ATOL certificate as soon as you've paid either a deposit, or the full total. Take the certificate with you on holiday and store it carefully – all of the instructions on what you must do in the event of a problem are printed on it.

If you buy a holiday through a number of individual companies, you might not be covered, which could cost money and time, in the event the company goes under. If the company is European though, you are granted financial protection by EU law, but not return travel.

ATOL protection makes sense, and could remove some major headaches for you, if issues arise.

Find out more about our travel money services here.