/ Travel & Leisure

Buying flights? Beware of ATOL fakers

When you’re shopping for holiday flights, always make sure to check the provider is ATOL protected. But be careful – we’ve found some websites that are displaying the ATOL logo despite not being protected.

Some travel companies have been displaying the all-important ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) logo, even though they don’t offer the financial protection the scheme provides.

An ATOL guarantees that you’ll be refunded or flown home if your holiday company goes bust. All travel firms based in the UK that sell flights must have one. They must also give you a certificate showing how your money is protected.

Don’t take their word for it

However, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which runs the scheme, has warned that some companies are falsely displaying the logos, or wrongly claiming that their sales are ATOL-protected.

We’ve learned that two of the companies making these claims are flightsolution.co.uk and falconflight.co.uk. The first displays the ATOL logo even though it doesn’t hold a license. The second states that its flights are ‘ATOL protected by the Civil Aviation Authority’ even though they’re not. Both sites are based outside of the UK.

We advise you steer clear of these sites, and check companies’ claims to have an ATOL.

How to check an ATOL

It’s easy to check on a company’s claims. The ATOL logo displayed should include a number, which you can verify by typing it into the ‘Check an ATOL’ section of the CAA’s website. Be wary of the travel provider if:

  • its logo has no ATOL number
  • there is a number, but it doesn’t have four or five digits
  • there are few, if any, contact details on the site.

If you have any doubts about a travel website, don’t book through it. If you book with a site displaying an ATOL logo, it should provide you with a certificate explaining your rights under the scheme as soon as you have paid any money – even if it’s just a deposit.

Cheap isn’t always cheerful

The CAA is urging people not to hurry into booking just because a price appears cheap. A spokesman said:

‘It is important that customers look beyond the price and check the travel company has Atol protection. Once you’ve confirmed this and paid for your holiday, make sure you get an Atol certificate.’

Do you always check for the ATOL logo before you purchase flights? Have you ever been stung by a provider falsely claiming to have an ATOL?


After consideration I think that this reinforces my view that Which? should be providing a safe harbour from where members may venture onto the Web. Essentially put the search term in here on site and the names of travel companies approved by ATOL will be flagged up as worthy of custom.

I am not suggesting at all that Which? be actively involved by taking money from click-throughs or entering into the industry!

It is a known fact that everything is now tending to be Web based , we also know that our population is aging, that as we get elderly our critical faculties can decline. Against this backdrop the idea that you can go to Which? to do searches for products, holidays or services and the names you find are all legal would be an immense comfort to me in my declining years.

Someone will eventually offer this service and I would much rather it was not my ISP but an ethical charity clean of financial inducements.

Ciaran O'Hare says:
4 July 2014

People are beginning to realise that ABTA Travel Agents are the safest option for booking; Expertise,Efficiency and Courtesy and above all SECURITY cannot be experienced online but are the norm in an ABTA Agency. Contrary to popular belief Agents can nearly always equal or beat the
prices online AND they do the searching for what suits the customer best.

It’s also high time it was made illegal for sites operating from outside the UK to have a dot co dot uk web address – it gives a false sense of authenticity, traceability, and legal liability. They can have a dot com address because people are more likely to be wise to the possibility that they will be off-shore operators and beyond our jurisdiction in the event of a problem.

Not forgetting adding charges after deposit paid