Practicalities Other Trade and Governing Bodies
Air Transport Users Council
5th Floor, Kingsway House, 103 Kingsway, London WC2B 6QX
tel: 020 7240 6061 Helpline for passengers 2-5pm weekdays.
Partly funded by the CAA, other funding currently (late 2000) under review. Represents the interests of air passengers, advises air travellers on their rights and publishes educational material. Also takes up individual cases and helps passengers obtain redress where there has been a problem. Promotes the wider interests of airline passengers with the regulatory authorities and service providers. Flight Planner, a passenger's guide to planning and using air travel, and gives access to the annual report.
Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)
68-71 Newman Street, London W1P 4AH
tel: 020 7637 2444
A self-regulating association of around two and half thousand travel agents plus around 600 tour operators. There are strict codes of conduct on bonding and accounting, largely designed to protect members of the public.
The ABTA code of conduct obliges agents and operators to acknowledge complaints within 14 days and to send a detailed response within 28 days. Only bonded companies may join, so membership indicates that consumer protection is offered.
Association of Bonded Travel Organisers' Trust Ltd (ABTOT)
23 St James' Square London SW1Y 4JH
tel: 020 7930 2388
A subsidiary of Travel and General, a major name in bonding and insurance services to the UK travel industry. It was formed in 1993 to enable travel organisers to comply with the requirements of the 1992 Package Tours Regulations produced in response to the EC Directive on Package Travel. Under the regulations a company is defined as a travel organiser if it offers a pre-arranged combination of travel services. The regulations require that clients' money is protected. against an operator's failure. In the event of failure any money outstanding would be returned and if the client were on the holiday the aim would be to allow this to continue and/or repatriate the client to the UK.
Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO)
133a St Margarets Road, Twickenham, Middx TW1 1RG
tel: 0870 7518080 or 020 8744 9280
A version of ABTA for smaller, generally specialist tour operators with strict entry criteria, including specialist expertise, and regular checks on members. All AITO holidays are guaranteed safe from financial loss. Like ABTA only bonded companies may join so membership indicates that consumer protection is offered. Produces a free holiday directory listing the holidays offered by the 150-plus member companies, listings also given on the web site.
Air Travel Organizer's Licence (ATOL)
55-59 Kingsway, London WC2B 6TE
tel: 020 7832 6600
The ATOL system is the largest travel protection scheme in the UK and the only one for flights and air holidays sold by tour operators. New guidelines for the travel industry require specific statements about ATOL to appear in travel firm brochures. The ATOL stamp will also appear on internet sites.
Managed by the CAA, the ATOL scheme is designed to protect members of the public from being stranded abroad or losing money if the company selling you a flight ticket goes out of business.
All firms selling air travel and holiday packages in the UK must by law hold an ATOL and to obtain that license each operator is checked to ensure it is properly managed and financially sound. The operator must then lodge a bond - ie a financial guarantee provided by a bank or insurance company. If in the event of the company going bankrupt or otherwise failing the bond is not enough, any shortfall is met by the Air Travel Trust Fund which is managed by the CAA.
Because of the cost and administrative requirements of obtaining an ATOL licence, some smaller operators will sell only a single element of a holiday - say a guided tour - but use a central agent to buy tickets on their behalf.
The ATOL web site includes a database covering all licence holders and includes a search facility to help visitors find information about particular firms. Increasingly it has links from travel firms' sites.
The CAA points out that if you buy over the internet from an unlicensed foreign firm your flight/holiday will not be protected to the same level as if buying from those holding an ATOL licence. Indeed, you may not be protected at all.
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
CAA House, 45-59 Kingsway, London WC2B 6TE
tel: 020 7379 7311
A regulatory authority which is responsible for the economic and safety regulation for the UK's aviation industry and gives advice to government on domestic and international civil aviation matters and operates the consumer protection group which administers the ATOL scheme and so responsible for organising refunds and rearranging travel for holidaymakers who have booked with ATOL holders who have gone out of business.
Federation of Tour Operators
170 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1YE
tel: 01273 477722
Deals with overseas government when there are industry-wide problems for example at airports, on behalf of tour operators.
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Head Office in Geneva. UK Office 2nd Floor, Central House, Lampton Road, Hounslow, Middx TW3 1HY
tel: 020 8607 6332
A membership organisation for most of the world's important airlines. Operators or agents which are IATA accredited can hold ticket stocks. This means that with advance warning, you can for example pay cash and walk away with your flight ticket in your hand. The organisation also promotes ‘safe, regular and economical' air transport.
It is now possible to lodge your complaints directly onto the web, and Passenger Rights
reports that it ensures that the complaint gets delivered to the appropriate person.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
The department's web site includes information on the package travel regulations are and basic guidelines about what companies need to do.
(updated 16 April, 2006)