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The importance of ABTA and ATOL

Gibraltar

If you are currently planning a trip abroad then no doubt the word ‘insurance’ has lurked in the corner of your planning, waiting to creep out when you come to paying the final balance. And with holiday companies and tour operators closing shop left, right and centre it’s never been so important to take insurance into consideration, especially before parting with any money.

Unfortunately the chances are that if you book a holiday with a non-bonded company, or book a direct flight with an airline, if either company goes bust you will lose your money and be stranded on holiday. As well as this, normal travel insurance often doesn’t cover this situation, so it’s up to ABTA and ATOL bonding to give travellers and holidaymakers peace of mind. When approaching any holiday company or tour operator keep your eyes peeled for their ABTA or ATOL bonded statuses as these are crucial for ensuring your financial protection.

ABTA

ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) make it their role to ensure the customer receives consistently high standards from their members. Members are subject to the most stringent financial checks to ensure that customers can be confident they have the highest levels of financial protection and can be confident in booking. For over 60 years ABTA have made it their aim to help members grow successfully and sustainably and as such consumers can have ultimate faith in ABTA members. Such faith in fact that it’s estimated over £25 billion is spent on holiday arrangements with ABTA members every year. Customers can also go to ABTA to complain about the service of any of it’s members, giving more chance of a quick response from the company and a fair overview of the situation. If you are booking a holiday the advice is to be sure that you choose an ABTA affiliated company, if you want an extra layer of cover and protection.

ATOL

Bear in mind that when you book any ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected holiday you should be given a certificate by your travel agency as soon as you pay any money over. ATOL bonding applies to companies that sell flights and without it companies can’t legally sell air travel. The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) inspect the business practises of ATOL bonded firms, with the aim of providing refunds to any travellers who aren’t unable to travel due to certain events, and to arrange replacement flights and flights home. The ATOL scheme was introduced in the 1970’s following some huge tour operators failures, the biggest being Court Line. Thousands of holidaymakers were left stranded abroad, and to avoid a similar situation in the future the CAA started to issue a license to companies who were allowed to operate.

EHIC CARD

Make sure that if you’re travelling within Europe you take your EHIC (European Heath Insurance Card) with you. The EHIC card is totally free of charge and easy to apply for – just make sure you go through the NHS or Post Office as some other sites may add charges. Despite their benefits, if you’re relying solely on an EHIC card when travelling then you may want to think again – many firms warn of the limitations of only travelling with this form of protection.

This was especially highlighted not long ago when a British couple with a premature baby found themselves stranded in Spain after having an emergency caesarean while on holiday. They had no travel insurance and as such are currently trying to raise the £12,000 needed to fly them and their new baby home. Although they had their EHIC cards they had no further ABTA or ATOL bonding and as such couldn’t claim the added, unexpected costs.

Travel Checklist

Given the above information, the first thing on your travel checklist should be purchasing insurance or checking that your tour/ flight operator has adequate coverage. Comprehensive travel insurance should cover you through anything you want to do when you’re abroad, and remember that just an EHIC card alone is often not enough. Make sure you check whether you’ll need any vaccinations and be sure to get your documents in order before you travel. Research the destination beforehand so you’re aware of any potential difficulties (e.g. if a location has a high crime level you should be more alert for pick-pockets) and make sure you let others know of your itinerary before you go.

Further Information:

You can find out more about ABTA from their official site at http://www.abta.com.

Written by Paul Symonds.

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