Your rights if an airline or travel company goes bust

Find out what financial protection is available in the rare event of an airline or travel company going bust. Your level of protection will vary depending on whether you’ve booked a package holiday or made your own arrangements. Make sure you have asked the right questions before you book.

Air Travel Organisers' Licence (ATOL)

The Air Travel Organisers' Licence (ATOL) is a financial protection scheme, operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), for package holidays and charter flights sold by tour operators in the UK.

Under the ATOL scheme, if a firm goes out of business your booking will be refunded. If it happens when you are abroad you will be able to finish your holiday and fly home.

You can check if your tour operator has an ATOL.

Package holidays

All companies selling package holidays must offer protection, to prevent you losing money and to help you sort out any practical problems should they or the airline you’re flying with go bust.

Tour operators selling package holidays by air must hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL). Your invoice from the tour operator will show that you are ATOL-protected. This is an important document. Keep it safe and take it with you in case you need to prove that you’re covered.

Find out more about package holidays.

Flights Plus  

ATOL also protects flights sold with overseas accommodation or car hire. These are known as Flight Plus bookings. Similar to a package holiday you will receive an ATOL certificate. Remember to keep it safe and bring it with you in case you need it.

Find out more about Flights Plus holidays.

Your rights with ATOL

If you are abroad on a package holiday or flights plus holiday and your airline fails, your tour operator will take care of you at no extra expense.

If an airline fails before you travel, your tour operator must offer a replacement holiday or a refund.

If the tour operator fails, and it has an ATOL you will:

  • get home if you are already on holiday
  • get a full refund if you have not yet travelled

Usually you will be able to return home as planned, on the same date and to the same UK airport.

Occasionally you may need to extend your holiday by a few days or fly back to or from a different airport. You won’t be charged again for your return flight or for any extra transport you need because of a change of airport.

Making a claim with ATOL

You can find out more about making a claim with ATOL at the link below.

Independent travel

If you book a flight directly with the airline, you will not be covered by ATOL. If the airline you booked with goes bust, you will need a return flight with another airline. If there is a delay or no other airline flies the same route, you may need to book a hotel or do some extra travelling at one or both ends of your journey. You will have to make and pay for these arrangements yourself.

Some airlines offer reduced ‘repatriation fares’ for stranded passengers. These are usually available, by telephone only, within a few hours of an airline going bust (but maybe not immediately) and last about two weeks.

For ordinary fares, you can check with other airlines, online travel sites, local travel agents, or ask at airport information or ticket desks.

Claiming a refund

You may be entitled to a part or full refund if you booked your original flight:

  • with a company other than the airline itself - contact the company before buying a replacement flight
  • using a credit or Visa debit card – contact your card issuer

If you paid money to an airline that has gone into administration, you can try claiming from the appointed Administrator.

If you’re worried about something like this happening you can take out extra travel insurance if you think it is worthwhile. Find out more about travel insurance for independent travellers.

Travelling out of the Republic of Ireland

If you're flying out of an airport in the Republic of Ireland, you can visit the Commission for Aviation Regulation website and find out about the financial protection they may offer if things go wrong.

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