As schools begin the academic year and consider organising trips for 2019/20, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has warned teachers to check any overseas trips for students are ATOL protected before booking.
The Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) scheme financially protects package trips and, without it, parents could be left substantially out of pocket or their children stranded abroad if their travel company was to cease trading.
The UK CAA has said it is aware of cases where parents have lost up to £750 each when their travel company ceased trading, all because the booking was not ATOL protected.
Specialist travel providers have made it easier than ever to book trips that are suited to the needs of the passengers, school trip bookings being no exception.
However, with such specialist travel companies, the CAA has said it is important to verify their legitimacy and ensure that any claims of being ATOL protected are verified.
Andy Cohen, head of ATOL at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “We are aware of some companies operating in niche markets to sell educational trips without providing ATOL protection. At worst, these companies use this to illegally sell packages with the intention of disappearing with the money, leaving schools, teachers and parents out of pocket.
“Without ATOL protection, even if the travel company does successfully organise a package trip, students could be left in vulnerable positions. It is vital that schools ensure they are booking an ATOL protected package and that all aspects of their booking are protected.”
The UK CAA has a dedicated webpage for schools considering booking overseas trips for their students, with helpful advice on how to be safe and responsible when considering travel companies.
The School Travel Forum is also an essential resource for teachers; its members hold the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) Quality Badge, administered by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) and are also ABTA members.
More about the ATOL scheme
The Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) scheme provides financial protection in the event of an ATOL protected travel company ceasing to trade. The scheme also ensures that children can return home and their parents or carers do not lose money.
Anyone can check to see if an operator has an ATOL licence online at www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk where they can also find more information about how the scheme works.