The big story in the travel industry over the past few days has been the collapse of the budget airline Primera Air.
The airline, which started offering cheap flights to the USA earlier this year as part of a move into the long-haul market, filed for bankruptcy having failed to secure the long-term financing it needs to continue operating – with suggestions that it had simply tried to grow too quickly.
The main problem for some of those who had booked trips with Primera Air, attracted by low fares to travel to the USA, is that the Danish registered airline wasn’t part of the ATOL Protection scheme.
That’s because airlines themselves aren’t included within ATOL, which means anyone who booked flights direct with Primera now find themselves stranded overseas with the prospect of having to pay out for new tickets to return home with a different carrier.
That’s in contrast to last year when Monarch collapsed, and the Civil Aviation Authority stepped in to fly people home; mainly because many of those people flying on Monarch flights were doing so as part of a package deal.
Package holidays are invariably covered by ATOL Protection as long as the company involved is part of the scheme, although that isn’t always the case – LowCostHolidays being a prime example as many found to their cost when it collapsed back in 2016.
Of course anyone who used their credit card to book flights can hope to get their money back though Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 or the collapse of the airline might be covered by travel insurance should customers have a policy that includes Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance.
Only those who have booked flights or a holiday that includes flights with a travel firm that holds an ATOL, and received confirmation that they are ATOL protected, will have any kind of protection – with the travel firm involved being responsible for making new flight arrangements.
What the collapse of Primera Air once again shows is the importance of ensuring that you are protected when booking a trip overseas and making sure you use an ATOL-bonded agent – such as the team here at HotHolidays.co.uk – means you are covered in the unlikely event that something does go wrong.
By law, a travel company in the UK that sells air holidays and flights is required to hold an ATOL licence; introduced by the government in the early 1970s as the popularity of overseas holidays started to increase.
ATOL protection was originally created to cover package holidays, but now applies to all overseas air holidays where a flight and accommodation are booked together, whilst flights where you don’t receive your tickets immediately are also covered.
Every time a person books a holiday through a recognised travel company that has its own ATOL number, that company pays into a fund that is overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority which is then used to help customers in the event of a company collapsing.
If you are booking with a UK travel company, the ATOL logo and number should feature on the company website, whilst you can also use an online ATOL checker to double check if you are unsure. You should also be provided with an ATOL certificate when you make a booking and make a payment - thereby providing evidence that you have protection in place.
If you aren’t provided with an ATOL certificate then you should question why that is the case, as it means you are either booking with a company based outside the UK and thereby not covered by the ATOL scheme or the company is operating outside the law in not being regulated.
In both cases, the booking is being made at your own risk as you won’t be covered by the ATOL scheme in the event of a failure.
It’s also worth ensuring that your travel insurance covers all eventualities – as some cheaper policies will not include supplier failure – and that you sort it early just in case.
Online Travel Group Limited (trading as hotholidays.co.uk) is an Accredited Body Member of Hays Travel Limited, ATOL 5534. Full details on ATOL protection for bookings made can be found in our Booking Conditions.