The reason we are being told that the safest way to book holidays at the moment is through a travel agent, is down to insurance. All reputable travel agents have ABTA membership – (ABTA standing for Association of British Travel Agents) and it’s geared toward protecting people who have booked holidays leaving from the UK with a land or sea based package.
It means, that if someone gives their hard earned money to a travel agent, and that agent goes bust, but they had ABTA membership, the customer doesn’t lose out.
ATOL is the Air Travel Organisers Licence – it’s basically the same thing, but for tour operators who book their clients flights. It also means that if the travel company goes bust whilst their customers are on their holiday, those customer will still be able to get home, as they will be covered.
But did you know that companies such as Expedia and Opodo (known as Online Travel agents or OTA’s) also have ATOL protection and can often find prices for flights at much cheaper prices than booking direct with the airlines? This is because they are often given incentives by the airline to sell bag inclusive tickets for those flights.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it will be better to book direct with the airlines – apart from anything else you are guaranteed to get better customer service from BA than you are from Opodo (trust me, I’ve been there and tried to deal with them – will tell you that story one day) but I guess it depends on what’s important to you.
If you have pretty good travel insurance anyway, booking through an OTA and not being locked in to travel agents sometimes really terrible flight times & prices, might be a winner.
Just one more thing – only use them online, never call them – they will always try and up sell!