Just when we thought the skies were back on track after the cancellation of thousands of Ryanair flights, Monarch’s collapse on 2 October created an entirely new level of chaos. While the shut-down was not directly related to terrorism, many have said that decreased bookings due to terrorism are largely responsible for airlines losing money.
Most of the 110,000 Brits who were on holiday when the news broke have now been returned home, thanks to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) incredible repatriation plan – the largest ever undertaken during peacetime in the UK!
For those still abroad or who had booked flights or holidays that have not yet departed, ATOL protection is the most important factor in determining your rights and best course of action.
What is ATOL?
ATOL stands for Air Traffic Organiser’s Licence and is backed by the UK government – It’s designed to protect travellers in case of the collapse of a service provider. You can read more about the certification here >>
In the case of Monarch, all package holidays (flights + accommodation, sometimes also including other services such as transfers or activities) are ATOL-protected, meaning that all Monarch customers who purchased a package holiday will be covered.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said that ATOL will probably make payments for these claims within 28 days of the claim being made (each customer affected must make their own claim – claims would not have automatically been made when Monarch’s shutdown was announced). The BBC, however, indicated in an article shortly after this announcement that it can often take “weeks or even months” for package holiday claims to be settled.
Monarch flight-only bookings are a different story. Flights purchased on or before 14 December 2016 are thought to be ATOL-protected, because that’s when Monarch withdrew from flight protection. Any flight-only bookings made after that date are not going to be covered.
If you have ATOL protection, you would have received an ATOL certificate when you made the booking.
What about people who were already on holiday when Monarch went under?
The CAA didn’t worry about ATOL protection when it arranged its repatriation flights, and simply brought everyone back home. It also advised that people shouldn’t cut their holidays short - those still abroad who had a Monarch return flight booked on or before 15 October were brought back (free of charge) as part of that programme. However any “extras” such as seat reservations were not honoured or refunded.
Passengers with flights back to the UK on 16 October or later did not get those free flights though, and had to make their own arrangements. See below for details of refund possibilities.
If a future booking is ATOL-protected (a package holiday, or a flight-only booking made on or before 14 December 2016) you can make a claim with ATOL.
An estimated 85% of Monarch’s future flight bookings don’t have ATOL protection. As The Telegraph recently reported, “Customers may have recourse via their credit card company, debit card provider or travel agent but if none of those avenues is available, it is left up to your insurer.” If you booked through a travel agent, you should also speak to them about arranging a refund.
- Credit cards carry protection for just this sort of situation and cover flights costing over £100 (single flights must each be £100 or more, not the combined return fare) according to the Consumer Credit Act.
- Flights costing less than £100 can be claimed under Visa, Mastercard and American Express’s Chargeback scheme, but please note that this is a service offered by these companies and not a legal right.
- Chargeback can also apply to debit card purchases.
- If you apply for Chargeback, you must do so within 120 days of the flights being cancelled.
If you aren’t able to make a claim through your credit or debit card provider, your travel insurance may be able to help.
The failure/collapse of a travel provider is not automatically included in all travel insurance policies, but our parent company, International Travel and Healthcare Limited (ITHC) makes a point of including End Supplier Failure in all of its policies – including OneStop4, Fit-4-Travel, International Cruise, and Single and Annual Policies.
While end supplier failure isn't relevant to terrorism travel insurance, Safe Journey does include Curtailment, which would cover a flight back home if you were affected by terrorism, as well as cover for Withdrawal of Services if an end supplier such as a tour guide or pre-paid tickets to an attraction can't provide that service due to an act of terrorism - read our Policy Wording for the full details, terms and conditions.
ITHC's End Supplier Failure cover includes far more than airline failure, and it’s one more way to help you to book with greater peace of mind. It covers you for a variety of end suppliers in case they cease trading – Including airlines, accommodation, other forms of transport, and even bookings you may have made, such as tours and activities. For full details of the cover provided, visit www.onestop4.co.uk/ and download the Policy Wording for the policy of your choice.
If you purchased your travel insurance through another provider, remember that cover for airline or other supplier failure is not standard. Check your policy wording for “supplier failure” or “scheduled airline failure insurance” (SAFI) if you need to claim on a Monarch booking. It’s also a good idea to check this when making future bookings, to ensure that you have financial protection in case something like this happens again.
What can we learn?
There are almost certainly economic factors that were common to the problems of both Ryanair and Monarch and they may affect other suppliers in the future, but we don’t believe this is a reason to avoid travel or delay making a booking. It’s very difficult to predict an end supplier failure, and those Christmas flights are filling up fast!
The most important thing you can do is to know exactly what you’re buying and ensure that you have all the financial protection that you need.
Before you pay, check that your flights or holiday carry ATOL protection, and make sure you purchase the appropriate travel insurance as soon as you have made that booking. Assuming your policy includes cover for End Supplier Failure, this will mean that you’re protected from the minute you purchase that policy.
Whichever policy you choose, you’ll be able to top it up with Safe Journey’s comprehensive terrorism travel insurance from as little as £4.96 per person (for a single trip of up to 8 days) so you’ll be prepared for just about anything!
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