In recent years we’ve seen holiday institutions including Monarch Airlines and Thomas Cook collapse, leaving thousands of passengers without a holiday or stranded overseas. So it’s more important than ever to make sure your holiday is protected. You can do this by making sure you book your dream cruise holiday with a travel agent that possesses ABTA or ATOL protection – ideally, both. This applies to online travel agents and those on the high street. If protected, the logos will be clearly displayed, along with a unique reference number.

But what exactly are ABTA and ATOL and how do they protect your precious holiday booking? In this post, we’ll explain exactly what they are, the differences between them and just how they protect your luxury Nile river cruise or Red Sea resort booking.

What is ABTA?

ABTA is a travel brand that was formally known as the Association of British Travel Agents. The UK’s largest travel organisation, ABTA represents travel agents and tour operators that are responsible for selling some £38 million of holiday deals every year.

ABTA protection covers holidays that don’t include flights. So if your holiday booking is for a cruise, rail or coach holiday, then your money will be protected under the ABTA scheme. It offers two forms of protection, financial and legal. The legal protection includes being mis-sold a package holiday – for example, if the hotel pool is in fact a building site, then you can apply for compensation. The financial cover protects you if the holiday provider goes bust. Through this scheme, you’ll either receive a refund or if you’re already on holiday, be brought home.

Another important fact about ABTA is that it has a strict Code of Conduct, so members have to work to a high standard and provide excellent customer care.

What is ATOL?

ATOL is the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence. Funded by contributions from travel companies and run by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, ATOL is essentially a financial compensation scheme.

Essentially, the cover protects bookings made with a single travel firm that include flights and accommodation – including cruises – or flights and car hire. It doesn’t cover scheduled flights booked direct with airlines and travel agents, or holiday-only bookings, but does cover holidays that involve one-way flights (for example, when tourists fly to a cruise ship, but sail home) and UK domestic flight bookings. Under this protection scheme, if your package holiday includes air travel to the destination and the travel company goes into administration, you’ll either receive a full refund or – if already on holiday – be repatriated through ATOL.

How do they differ?

Whether you claim on ABTA or ATOL will depend on whether flights are included in your holiday booking, and what you’re claiming for.

ATOL protection covers package holidays that include flights – whether within the UK or overseas, one way or a return flight booking. A prime example of this in recent times was the demise of Thomas Cook. Travellers who had booked their package holidays including flights were protected by ATOL, those booking flight-only or accommodation-only breaks weren’t covered. Also, in 2017, Monarch Holidays passengers were protected because their bookings included flights.

ABTA covers holidays that include rail travel, cruises or are self-drive. Importantly, this scheme offers expert help to tourists, so if the travel company goes out of business while you’re away, you will safely and quickly be brought home, and can claim for a refund if you’ve not yet travelled. The strict code of conduct it’s members abide by means that holidays can’t be mis-sold, so any major disappointments with the hotel or cruise facilities can be claimed for, as well as claims in the event of food poisoning or personal injury.

How to make a claim

In order to make a claim with ATOL, you’ll need to fill out a claim form. Supporting documents will be required, including proof of the booking and evidence of the booking payment. ATOL aims to process claims as quickly as possible, usually within a 28-day timeframe.

In order to make a claim through ABTA, you need to register a complaint on their website. Beforehand, ABTA will expect you to have communicated with the member company, and given the company 28 days to respond. Supporting information will again be required including proof of booking and copies of all correspondence. Independent arbitrators will then study your claim. Bear in mind that it’s unusual to get a refund for the whole holiday booking, so claims should be for a reasonable and fair amount, depending on the circumstances. The scheme limits claims to £5,000 per person, or a total of £25,000, and caps personal injury (including illness) claims at £1,500 per person.

Do you still need travel insurance?

Yes, definitely! Although ABTA and ATOL will protect the cost of your holiday and organise repatriation, with ABTA ensuring the accommodation meets certain standards, you’ll still need to purchase travel insurance. This will ensure you’re covered for the unexpected things that can go wrong, including medical emergencies, lost baggage, delays and trip cancellation.

So make sure, before making that booking, indeed before even pricing up any holiday deals, that the travel agent you’re dealing with offers you the right protection. It’s easy to make a website look professional and above board, but unless you see the ABTA and ATOL logos, including their unique reference numbers, then your booking won’t be as secure as you think. If in doubt, you can request to see the policy certificates, for complete peace of mind. Here at Egypt Escapes, we’re proud members of both ABTA and ATOL, so you can book your dream vacation knowing that you’re financially protected and covered for every eventuality.

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