If you’re off on holiday this summer, news of Goldtrail going bust will set alarm bells ringing. So what should you do if your tour operator goes bust? Which? Holiday’s Rochelle Turner answers your questions.
1. I thought that Goldtrail was ATOL bonded – shouldn’t people get their money back from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)?
Many of Goldtrail’s holidays were sold as charter flight-only sales, to which hotels, car hire and other holiday elements were then added. This meant the whole holiday was not considered as a ‘package’ for the purposes of ATOL bonding. So generally, only the charter flight is ATOL protected, not the additional elements.
If you’re affected by Goldtrail going bust and are overseas already, the CAA will arrange your flights home, but you may have to pay for your accommodation again and then claim it back from insurance or credit cards when you return. If you’re yet to travel you should set about cancelling your accommodation and other holiday elements, unless you can get another flight to your destination.
2. How can I make sure I don’t end up stranded if the company I use goes bust?
When you’re booking your holiday, ask your travel agent or tour operator how much of the holiday, if any, is ATOL bonded. If you book online, send an email to customer services or call their helpline.
If it’s not all protected, or you’re not buying through an agent or operator who will guarantee the protection of your money, you can look at getting special insurance to protect as much as possible. For example, you could get cover against scheduled airline failure (SAFI) or for end user supplier failure (such as if your hotel were to go bust). Many good insurance companies will either offer this as standard, or as an additional extra, but you should always check when booking. You can purchase stand alone SAFI from ProtectMyHoliday.com.
3. What if I don’t buy a holiday involving a flight?
At the moment, ATOL just covers flights. If your holiday doesn’t involve a flight, there are other bonding schemes that may protect you. A ferry or cruise company, for example, is likely to be bonded by the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA). The PSA would protect your deposit if the company failed before you were due to travel. If you had booked a ferry package, then the PSA would also ensure that you were repatriated.
4. What about if I paid on my credit card?
If you paid between £100 and £30,000 for your holiday on your credit card, and incur further expenses as a result of being inconvenienced or stranded abroad, you can also lodge a claim for losses with your credit card provider. This is law under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
If your claim is for less than £100 or you paid with your debit or prepaid card provider, you can lodge a claim with the provider under the Chargeback process. Make sure you keep your receipts as they will be required if you make a claim.
5. It’s all too confusing. Protected, not protected, part protected… What is being done to sort out this mess?
It is confusing, but moves are being made to improve the current situation. The government recognises that we buy fewer packages now than when the ATOL programme was first established. It also knows the majority of overseas holidays are not protected at all nowadays.
Consultations have begun to reform ATOL so that all flights sold together with another essential holiday element are included in the scheme. Further consultation will take place this autumn with the aim to change legislation in late 2011 or early 2012.
Although these moves won’t help holidaymakers this year they could hopefully ensure our trips abroad are better protected in the near future.