What do ABTA and ATOL Protection Schemes Provide?

When customers buy a holiday package via a travel agent, they expect a sense of quality assurance and customer service.

Things don't often go wrong - but when they do, the customer wants to know that their holiday has some level of insurance to ensure they get a refund and/or safe travel home.

GoCruise has both ABTA - Association of British Travel Agents - and ATOL - Air Travel Organisers' Licensing - protection schemes in place.

These have become vital features for British travellers travelling abroad via UK travel agents.

How exactly do ABTA and ATOL protect customers and what do they provide? This article provides a deeper understanding which can be relayed to your customers.

ABTA

What they Provide

The Association of British Travel Agents is a UK travel trade association for travel agents and tour operators providing package holidays. 

Founded in 1950 by 22 different travel companies, the scheme has been helping customers get the most out of their holiday for over 60 years. 

They have helped to raise the standards of the travel industry - providing guidance on passenger health and safety as well as looking into issues such as sustainability and animal welfare. 

They also provide schemes for financial protection and offer a course of redress if something does go wrong such as a travel company going bankrupt before travel. 

Ensuring they stay up to date with recent news and current affairs; they provide advice to travellers on matters such as Ebola and civil unrest. 

Politically active, they ensure that a united voice is presented to governments both in Westminster and at the EU parliament to ensure the public and the industry get a fair deal. 

Code of Conduct

ABTA's Code of Conduct is very strict to ensure customers can travel with confidence.

There are severe disciplinary measures in place to ensure travel agents do not fall below the very high standards.

The Code consists of the following rulings for travel agents:

- Ensuring all information is accurate with regards to all purchases and all advertisements 

- Providing assistance with passports, visas and health requirements

- The offer of an alternative in the case of major building works which may significantly impact a holiday

- Offer to refund the whole holiday cost in the case of a significant flight delay, should the passenger decide not to travel

- Assist with all complaints within 28 days - and ABTA guarantee assistance in finding low-cost arbitration to settle a case if it is not sufficiently resolved within a set period of time

ABTA do not provide compensation directly - but will strive to assist customers with find arbitration to resolve individual complaints. 

The Code is in place purely to prevent and correct poor practices within the industry. 

What Happens if a Travel Agent Breaches the Code of Conduct?

If a travel agent breaks the code, they are mentioned in the ABTA news section of their website. 

There are regular news updates on the latest code of conduct decisions - with each travel agent being named and shamed with their specific breach or breaches of the code and how much they were fined.  

In severe or repeated cases, ABTA reserves the right to terminate the ABTA membership of a travel agent. 

ATOL

What they Provide

Established in 1971 by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA); The Air Travel Organisers' Licensing scheme was set up to protect British consumers with regards to air travel packages.

Most UK tour operators are required to hold an ATOL licence as a legal requirement and must have their business practices inspected by the CAA.

The scheme will protect customers from being left stranded due to an airline either going out of business or a plane being unable to leave the airport. 

Refunds and assistance are provided to travellers; with flights and accommodation both offered to ensure passengers can return home from abroad. 

It also has government backing, with the Air Travel Trust fund in place as a primary source of funding when and if an ATOL member goes out of business.

How they Operate

ATOL membership provides financial protection to people who have booked package holidays including a flight, but will not protect passengers who have booked hotels or flights separately (this is where ABTA can assist).

The customer is entitled to receive an ATOL certificate and relevant documents on booking a certified package holiday and can report a travel agent to the CAA should they fail to provide it upon asking. 

Holiday-goers who have booked with ATOL will receive a full refund if the firm collapses before the date of planned travel either from the CAA or the ATOL holder depending on circumstances.

If the firm collapses during time abroad, passengers will be able to continue their holiday, with the CAA arranging to bring people home on departure day as planned.  

The CAA assesses all members regularly and can, therefore, evaluate the risk of failure before transferring this knowledge to the travel agent and the customer. 

What Happens if a Firm does not Provide ATOL Protection?

The ATOL website features a list of agents and websites which do not provide ATOL protection - mostly as a result of not offering holidays directly to the British market. 

It also features regular documents which state the ATOL holders to have had their membership terminated by the CAA as a result of failing to meet standards and obligations to customers. 

Many holidaymakers are unaware of the financial risk by booking elements of their holiday individually and so this is a major advantage for travel agents. 

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