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ATOL Protected Meaning: Ensuring Your Travel Investments are Secure

By Maria Hickey on February 2nd, 2024

Most travel agents understand that ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) protects customers’ pre-payments if a travel company goes bankrupt, but many of the details around how ATOL keeps travellers’ money safe are still confusing. This leaves customers wondering what exactly makes a holiday truly “ATOL-protected“.

We explain the real meaning of ATOL protection and how the claims process works.This information will help you answer client questions, highlight your diligence about safeguarding their trips, and show why booking through you makes trips more secure.

Demystifying ATOL Certificates

Travel companies who sell vacation packages including flights must be certified by ATOL, meaning  they agree to follow rules that keep customer payments protected. The ATOL certification proves they will hold all the money paid for trips in secure trust accounts. These payments stay safely set aside until after a trip is completed.

Travel companies give a unique reference number to each booking of an ATOL-protected package, showing the payment is stored safely. If the travel company later fails financially, ATOL steps in. It uses those protected trust accounts to refund travellers’ money or bring home stranded vacationers.

Why ATOL Coverage Matters to Travellers

While most clients skip the paperwork details, ATOL protection matters because it gives them key benefits:

  • Travel Booking Insurance – If a trip is cancelled due to a company going bust, ATOL pays back the money to avoid clients losing what they pre-paid.
  • Gets Stranded Travellers Home – If a customer is overseas and the company shuts down, ATOL arranges and pays to bring them back to the UK. They avoid figuring it out alone.
  • Less Stress – ATOL has skilled teams that take over handling the whole messy situation of rescuing disrupted holidays. Clients can carry on without sorting issues out themselves.

Common Misconceptions About ATOL Protections

There’s lots of confusion over what types of bookings ATOL actually protects. As an agent, you must be clear it does NOT cover:

  • Only packages with flights and overseas hotels/tours for 24+ hours are covered. Other package combinations are NOT.
  • Trips booked by overseas travellers, even from UK ATOL certified companies. ATOL only covers UK residents booking UK companies.
  • Standalone flight tickets without bundled hotels or tours. Those are NOT ATOL protected at all. Telling clients otherwise is misleading.

So it’s only overseas flight-inclusive package trips booked by UK consumers through UK travel companies that qualify for ATOL protection and its financial backup.

What Happens if an ATOL Travel Company Fails

If an ATOL-protected company still goes out of business, check clients’ ATOL certificate details like reference numbers, provide their certificates to the authorities managing reimbursements, and help clients submit requests to get refunded from protection money. 

It takes weeks to get payments, but ATOL eventually pays out for disrupted trips and expenses. Handling these messy situations builds useful experience for choosing future financially stable partners.

Brisco Business Protects Travel Agents Too

Programs like ATOL give key financial protection in case issues come up with travel companies. On top of ATOL protection, Brisco Business insurance adds extra assurances securing agencies themselves across many scenarios.


Our specialist travel agent insurance provides all-encompassing core policies, including:

Public Liability

Our policy provides strong financial protection in the event customers or other visitors suffer an injury or property damage while at your agency premises. Coverage applies to bodily injuries, property damage, and personal injury.

Professional Indemnity

This coverage protects your agency in scenarios such as claims made against inappropriate or inaccurate advice provided relating to travel products, services, destinations or failure to make adequate disclosures. 

Employers’ Liability

This cover safeguards your business in situations where employees suffer an injury, disability or illness caused or made worse as a result of their work or employment conditions. 

Get a tailored quote today for risks your agency faces. We craft tailored, iron-clad policies so you always stand out for secure, worry-free booking.

Maria Hickey

For more than 20 years, Maria has worked in the insurance sector and has extensive underwriting and customer service expertise. Maria is an experienced Senior Underwriter with a particular specialism for shop, office and surgery related insurance.

All articles by Maria Hickey

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