What is ATOL protection?

ATOL protection ensures your holiday is covered if the company you have booked it with goes bust. This helps to ensure that you aren’t stuck abroad if an issue happens while you’re away, for example. It’s important to stress, however, that ATOL protection is not a substitute for travel insurance… 

ATOL protection ensures your holiday is covered if the company you have booked it with goes bust. This helps to ensure that you aren’t stuck abroad if an issue happens while you’re away, for example. It’s important to stress, however, that ATOL protection is not a substitute for travel insurance… 

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
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Posted 21 OCTOBER 2020

What does it mean if my holiday is ATOL-protected?

ATOL protection safeguards your money if your travel company or airline goes out of business. If they go bust before your holiday starts, you’ll get a full refund. If your travel company goes out of business while you’re away, ATOL protection means you can finish your holiday and get home safely.

ATOL (which stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence), is a government-run financial protection scheme operated by the Civil Aviation Authority, and has been looking after passengers since 1973. It covers any overseas package holiday where you booked a flight and accommodation, flights and car hire, or everything together. It also protects the money you’ve paid for flights to or from the UK. If an airline fails and they’re ATOL protected, your travel company will have to find you alternative flights or give you your money back.


The travel traffic light system currently states that trips to green and amber listed countries are legally permitted if you live in England and Scotland. If you live in Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to follow the rules for your relevant government.

Please note: from 4am on 4 October 2021, the current traffic light system will be replaced by a single red list of countries.

Currently, if your destination of choice is on the green or amber list, you still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. This is to ensure you are aware of any specific requirements relating to entry and ensure travellers from the UK are permitted. Countries can have their traffic light status changed with short notice and you should take this into consideration when looking to travel. Please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to red list countries. Most insurance policies purchased to cover a trip to a destination where the FCDO has instructed citizens not to travel to won’t be valid, however, some insurance providers may offer reduced cover if you’re travelling for essential purposes. Should you have any queries, please check the policy wording, or contact your chosen provider before purchasing, to ensure the cover meets your needs.

Travel within England, Scotland and Wales is permitted under the current guidelines. However, public health rules and lockdown restrictions continue to vary, including entry restrictions for Northern Ireland. Check the latest guidance from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

Find out more here

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MoneyHelper has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.


Are all my trips ATOL protected?

All packaged holiday trips should be ATOL protected, in the UK at least. However, flights booked directly with airlines are not protected. Every travel company in the UK has to have ATOL protection, for which they pay £2.50 into the scheme per person booked on to a holiday. For a customer, there’s no additional cost.

However, that doesn’t mean that all companies that offer you a holiday have protection. Always look for the ATOL logo before you book and ask the company if you aren’t sure. If your travel arrangements are ATOL protected, you’ll receive an ATOL Certificate from your travel company after completing your purchase.

And if you’ve got used to creating your own package holiday by booking all the different elements online directly yourself, such as flights, accommodation and car hire, then you’re highly unlikely to be covered. 

It’s important to note that travel firms based outside of the UK are under no obligation to provide ATOL protection or ABTA insurance. 

EU legislation says that travel companies based in Europe have to provide protection for your money, but it’s down to the protection authority in that individual country. Check with the Civil Aviation Authority to see if the travel company you are using has ATOL protection.

If my holiday is ATOL protected, why do I need travel insurance as well?

ATOL may cover you if your holiday company goes out of business, but it won’t cover you for lots of other things that can go wrong – such as losing your bags, getting injured or ill abroad, medical costs relating to a pre-existing medical condition, or having to cancel your plans because of a family emergency or other unforeseen events.

So getting travel insurance for any trip, especially if you’re heading abroad, is highly recommended. ATOL doesn’t cover everything, so compare quotes today and save.


Coronavirus has completely changed the world as we know it. It’s left a lot of us uncertain about what the future might look like – and played havoc with our plans to get away for a nice summer break.

ATOL protection has become more important than ever during this turbulent period. But what does it mean for you? Let’s take a closer look at how COVID-19 might impact ATOL protection, and clear up any concerns you might have about your upcoming trips.

What happens to my money if my holiday is cancelled because of COVID-19?

It depends on the provider. By law, you're entitled to a full refund for flights within seven days and for package holidays within 14 days. However, due to the widespread disruption caused by the pandemic, in most instances you'll be given the choice of either a full financial refund or a refund credit note (RCN). ABTA, the association that represents travel agents, estimated as much as £4.5bn was needing to be claimed back when COVID-19 first hit.

If you choose a full refund, you’ll be given a rough date for when you can expect your money to be back in your account. Be prepared for this to take a few months as a lot of claims are being processed because of the pandemic. And don’t forget, you’re legally entitled to a refund and the firm can’t force you to take an alternative form of refund.

If you opt for the voucher, you’ll be able to put it towards another holiday further down the line. But with things changing every day, it might be best to hold off booking anything yet.

Is ATOL protection included in a refund credit note?

A lot of providers have offered refund credit notes as a means of repaying customers when they had to cancel their holidays. These give you the chance to get money off any future holiday you book through the same provider.

If you were entitled to ATOL cover as part of your initial package, this should be included as part of the RCN. That means if the provider goes bust between the time of the credit being issued and your next trip using the refund, you’ll still be covered for the money lost.

How can I check if my provider is ATOL protected before my holiday?

Most providers will have an ATOL logo or certificate and their unique licence number, which appears somewhere on their website. Usually in the footer of the site. If you can’t spot the logo, contact the provider directly and ask if they’re covered. You can double-check what they tell you by looking them up on the ATOL website tool. Some rogue companies will pretend they're ATOL covered but are not. See what to look for to avoid the frauds.

If you book an ATOL-protected holiday via a travel agent, you should be told which ATOL holder is protecting your travel arrangements and be given an ATOL Certificate when you pay.

Thousands of travel companies do have ATOL cover, so you should be easily able to find one that offers the kind of holiday you’re interested in. More than 5,500 TUI Group tours were covered in 2020, as well as over 4,800 provided by Jet2Holidays.

During these uncertain times, it’s important to be protected. You don’t want to fork out a tonne of money only to find out your provider goes out of business or can’t find the cash to refund you.

Making sure your money is safe is probably something you want to keep in mind before you book anything. It might even be the decider when it comes to which provider you choose to holiday with.

Is now a good time to rebook my holiday?

Sorry, even we can’t help you there. Nobody knows what the future has in store. And while there are currently still some travel corridors open, the ever-changing nature of COVID-19 makes it tough to predict what is and isn’t going to be feasible in a few months' time.

If you do choose to rebook, make sure to check all terms and conditions – especially around cancellation and curtailment in case your holiday gets cut short. You’ll want to guarantee you’re getting the same level of cancellation cover and ATOL protection you were entitled to for the previous trip – as well as any additional forms of COVID cover that have been introduced.

If you’re rebooking, remember some things may have changed at your package holiday destination because of the pandemic and to ensure the health of guests. For example, you may find that your food options are different, such as no buffet or fewer restaurants open. Some hotels may get you to check yourself in too. And if entertainment is usually on tap, then this may be more limited than usual in your resort.

What is coronavirus travel insurance?

Most travel insurance providers have had to adapt to the current state of affairs. That means creating a tailored form of cover that protects customers if their holiday is impacted by COVID-19.

Each provider will have their own specific set of terms and conditions as part of the cover. But there are a few hard-and-fast elements you’ll find in most policies. These include:

  • The ability to cancel your trip (within a certain number of days) if you test positive for COVID-19
  • Repatriation and cancellation cover if you’re denied boarding because of a positive test
  • A daily benefit if you need to self-isolate while you’re on your trip
  • Cancelling or shortening your trip as a result of a COVID-19 death in the family
  • Cover if anyone you’re travelling with is diagnosed with COVID-19 within a specific number of days before travel
  • No cover if you travel to a country that the foreign office advises you to avoid

It’s also important to remember you probably won’t be covered for any expenses you have to pay during your post-holiday quarantine period.

Make sure you fully understand what you are and aren’t covered for if your holiday is impacted by the pandemic.

How long can I expect to wait for my refund?

Package holiday providers are required to give you a full refund within 14 days of asking for it. With airlines, you should be refunded within seven days. However, owing to the high volumes of people asking for their money back, these dates are far less reliable than they once were. For example, just 5% of Ryanair customers were given a refund within the allotted two-week deadline.

Will I get a refund on all parts of my holiday?

While ATOL protection and coronavirus insurance might cover a lot, they won’t have an impact on third-party bookings like accommodation, car hire or any extra trips or activities you may have signed up for.

If these are still operational, there’s a chance that the provider could refuse to give you a refund, even if you’re not able to travel. This is something you’ll have to discuss directly with each business.

Useful COVID-19 links and resources

If you’re concerned about the impact of coronavirus in the long term, make sure you check out these helpful resources. It’s been a troubling time for everyone, so knowing where to turn to or what to do next could make a big difference.

  • WHO (The World Health Organization) has played a vital role in ensuring all members of the United Nations have implemented the right measures for their people. They regularly update their website with the latest news and regulations.
  • Age UK focuses on providing elderly people with the best travel advice possible. It’s staying regularly up-to-date with all the latest news and insights regarding COVID-19.
  • The FCDO is at the forefront of regulating travel in the UK. It informs travellers about all the current government restrictions and offers foreign travel advice on risks, safety and security plus additional coronavirus guidance and support.
  • The NHS has been at the front line of fighting the coronavirus pandemic from day one. It provides regular updates for anyone looking for the latest medical advice on symptoms, self-isolation and treatment.
  • Owing to the differing outbreak levels of COVID-19 across the UK, individual restrictions have been put in place on a city-by-city basis. This page on the government website highlights specific restrictions in your area. If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland you may have different local rules you need to follow.

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