Advice: What can I do if my holiday airline goes bust?

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

By Pat Hutchinson, District Manager, Newtownabbey CAB

Q: I have booked a holiday for my family and the airline has gone bust, what can I do?

A: If you booked your flight as part of a package holiday with an Air Travel Organisers’ Licence member (ATOL), you have certain rights. If the airline you’re due to fly with stops operating, the package holiday organiser must offer you:

• alternative flight arrangements for your holiday, or

• a different holiday of a similar standard, or

• a refund

• a flight home, if the airline stops operating while you are abroad.

If the airline’s failure causes the package holiday organiser to go out of business contact your package holiday organiser for further help.

If you booked the flight through a travel agent:

If you booked a scheduled flight you may be entitled to alternative flight arrangements or to reclaim the cost of the flight. This depends on whether the travel agent is an ATOL holder or whether they offered you Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI).

If you are flying with a scheduled airline your confirmation invoice should say whether you are covered by SAFI. Depending on the type of policy you have, this may cover you for the cost of buying new tickets if you are yet to fly, or for the cost of buying new flights if you need to get back to the UK.

If the travel agent isn’t ATOL protected or doesn’t offer SAFI and you paid for the flights on a credit or debit card, you may be able to make a claim for compensation from the card provider.

If you’ve got travel insurance, check if the policy covers airlines going out of business.

You should also check whether the travel agent is a member of The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) or the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO). These organisations offer conciliation services to help sort out problems if you don’t agree with what the travel agent offers.

If you booked the flight direct with the airline or the airline’s agent:

Airlines are not required to hold ATOLs and if you book direct with the airline, you will not be covered by ATOL. This means you usually won’t be entitled to a refund or alternative flights although some airlines may offer reduced fares to help you get home. It’s always worth checking with the airline to see what help they may be able to give you.

Some travel insurance policies do provide cover for airlines going out of business. If you’ve already got travel insurance, check whether your policy includes it.

• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau, log on to or or call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (Lunch 1 - 1:30pm). Email advice is available at