ATOL & Refund Credit Notes

Travel Talk

The Civil Aviation Authority has announced that it is extending ATOL cover to Refund Credit Notes, offered by Tour Operators in response to holidays cancelled because of covid-19.

So what does this mean?

The Scheme

Civil Aviation Authority Whenever you book a holiday that is ATOL protected, you receive an ATOL certificate with a unique reference number. If you booked a holiday that was originally ATOL protected and which was subsequently cancelled because of Coronavirus, you will probably be offered a Refund Credit Note (RCN).

As a result of this new ruling, all RCNs issued between 10 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 will benefit from the same ATOL protection as the original booking. Should the supplier go out of business then your money will be refunded under the ATOL scheme.

When issuing an RCN, travel companies must offer you a cash refund at the same time. If you choose to accept an RCN you should have the option to convert it to a cash refund at any point and must do so before 30 September 2021.

It goes without saying that you should keep all the original booking documentation, including the original ATOL certificate, proof of payment and other documents.

What‘s excluded

The scheme covers only those bookings that were originally covered by ATOL. Direct stand-alone bookings, such as cruises, accommodation, flights and so on that did not come with an ATOL certificate will not be covered. The scheme merely extends the ATOL cover of the original booking to the related RCN.

ATOL cover and how to get it

ATOL Many people think that ATOL applies only to pre-packaged holidays offered by tour operators such as TUI, Tropical Skies and so on, but that is not so.

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organisers Licence, a scheme operated by the Civil Aviation Authority. It applies to all travel packages as long as a flight and one other item is part of the booking. The package may be a flight plus a cruise, flight plus villa, flight plus car hire and so on, all will qualify for ATOL. You can create your own bespoke trip and still get ATOL protection by booking the various elements through a UK travel agent who is part of the ATOL scheme, and almost all of them are.

Is it more expensive?

Travel Agents earn their money through commissions they receive from suppliers such as hotels, cruise lines, transfer companies, excursion organisers and so on. The only area in which they do not earn commission is low cost airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair. It’s a competitive market and travel agents may use some of their commission to offer you a discount. So, by booking your self-made package through a travel agent, not only do you benefit from ATOL protection, you may also save money over booking it yourself.


ABTA Don’t confuse ATOL with ABTA. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) is just that – a trade organisation that not all travel agents want to join. ABTA does offer an element of consumer protection for holidays that do not include flights and are therefore not covered by ATOL. Further, if a travel agent takes your money and then goes bust before they pass it on to a supplier, ABTA will make good the payment. However, travel agents that are not ABTA members, such as Travel Counsellors, offer similar protection by using third party trust organisations.

144 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Mike Pickup

Award-winning travel writer & photographer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.