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ABTA and ATOL: What you need to know

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ABTA represents more than 5,000 travel agents and more than 900 tour operators, and while it is not essential for firms to belong to ABTA, there are advantages for holidaymakers if your operator is a member.

Members of ABTA sign up to a code of conduct that sets out how they will deal with any complaint, and this dispute reconciliation service could serve as a useful fall-back should anything go wrong with your holiday.

As with ATOL, ABTA is there to help if your travel agent fails, or if the holiday goes wrong. However, it does not offer financial protection for holidays that involve travel by air.


ATOL is particularly relevant if you have booked a package holiday.

A package holiday is defined as a trip including flights, accommodation and other components sold for one price by one supplier; such as a travel agent or website.

The company selling the package holiday must guarantee total financial protection via the ATOL bond system, which pays out in the event of the supplier going bust.

If you’ve paid for the holiday in its entirety you should be entitled to a full refund through ATOL, and once you’ve received this, you can then book a new holiday.

Even if the company goes bust whilst you are away, you should be flown home at no cost to you.

It’s important to note that ATOL does not help with delayed or cancelled flights, and does not protect holidays where there is no air travel, such as a cruise or rail holiday.