So far this year 24 airlines have gone bust, the latest being Silverjet and Zoom, leaving thousands either stranded or out of pocket. So what are your rights and remedies if your airline collapses?
Some consumers will be protected and eligible for refunds or alternative flights depending on how, where and from whom they booked their ticket. The CAA operate an protection scheme called ATOL (www.caa.co.uk) This is an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence and all tour operators and travel firms selling air holiday packages and flights in the UK are required by law to hold one. As we have already mentioned in the section on the Package Holiday regs, you will be protected by ATOL if your flight was booked as part of a package through a tour operator. This is also the case if the tour operator itself collapses. You will also be protected if you bought your ticket from a travel agent, but only if you DON’T receive the ticket within 24 hours. You should also ensure you are presented with an ATOL receipt which states that you are protected – best to check this with the travel agent before you buy.
Making a claim for those who are protected
If the airline collapses before your flight departure date, but you have already paid for the ticket, you should make a claim via the CAA (ATOL) website. If the airline collapses while you are at your destination, and cannot get home, the CAA will inform you as to whether they will put you on an alternative carrier, or whether you should purchase an alternative ticket and claim a refund once home.
For those who bought directly from the airline’s website
If you buy direct from the airline via their website (as many of us do), or are immediately issued with a ticket from an agent, then you will not be protected by ATOL should the airline collapse. So is there anything you can do? There may be several possibilities. Firstly you may be able to claim on your travel insurance provided you have airline insolvency cover. Currently very few policies do as a default, so you would need to read through the small print to see if you are covered. Secondly, if you paid via credit card and the cost was in excess of £100, you can look to your card provider to provide you with a refund under the Consumer Credit Act. There is a third option for those who paid on Visa debit card. Cardholders can request their banks carry out a chargeback procedure thus allowing them to claim back the amount paid in full.