Travel broadens the mind and nurtures the soul. It should be enjoyed with a carefree spirit and an open mind. Unfortunately, the reality is not always as straight-forward and there are many pitfalls and unfortunate circumstances that can face holiday-makers.
This month saw the sad collapse of Monarch, the fifth biggest airlines in the UK, has highlighted yet again the importance of protecting your holiday. The collapse led to the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation as the CAA created a ‘pop-up’ airline to bring 83,875 stranded travellers back home, costing around £60 million. However, another 300,000 future bookings have also been cancelled, creating turmoil in the travel industry and spoiling travel plans for so many families. So how can you stop your holiday from suffering similar events? And what are the different forms of travel protection that you can utilise to ensure your holiday and your money is protected?
There are three main forms of protection that you should be aware of and use if you can, the CAA’s ATOL protection, trade associations like ABTA & TTA, and travel insurance.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was established in 1971 and issues Air Travel Organisers' Licences (ATOL). It is a legal requirement for any provider offering a package holiday to have an ATOL. Should the holiday provider become insolvent then the CAA will organise repatriation for any travellers stranded abroad and refund the cost of the holiday for those yet to travel. When Monarch collapsed the CAA brought home over 80,000 passengers on 567 flights, quite a remarkable display of organisation.
There are a variety of trade organisations that travel organisers can become members of, and although there is no legal requirement to be a member of any, almost all travel agents are members of one or another. The largest and most well-known is of course the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), there is also Travel Trust Association (TTA), the Global Travel Group and others. Most provide some element of consumer protection as well as a code of conduct to ensure quality of service and arbitration is cases of dispute. Whilst the organisations represent their members they also have a focus on consumer confidence and offer voluntary regulation of their members.
Travel insurance products offer a range of protections for consumers, usually based around medical assistance whilst abroad. Other inclusions often revolve around lost luggage, delays and holiday cancellations. Each product is different and it is advisable to seek independent advice before taking out a policy. The policy should be appropriate for the destination and type of holiday you are taking, for example certain sports will require additional coverage.
So before you book your next trip, make sure you look at what protection your holiday comes with and that it meets your needs. A little preparation can help ensure your holiday is a relaxing one.