Whether it be a trip to climb Kilimanjaro, or flights to some of the poorest parts of the world to build schools and improve communities, charities commonly offer flights or flight-inclusive trips as part of fundraising activities.

The Civil Aviation Authority has recently produced new guidance for charities and fundraisers offering flights or trips and, given recent scrutiny surrounding fundraising practices, it is well worth being aware of the rules.

Anyone offering flights or flight-inclusive trips must comply with the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) regulations which aim to protect individuals if their travel organiser becomes insolvent or fails to meet its obligations. A charity doesn’t need to have its own ATOL if it offers flights or trips as the agent of another business or organisation that holds an ATOL.

The rules in brief

Charities should bear the following in mind:

  • If charities are acting as agent for an ATOL member, they must ensure that they have a full written agency agreement in place with the ATOL member.
  • All publicity material about an ATOL protected flight or trip must comply with the requirements set out in the ATOL Standard Terms. This extends to advertising information, brochures and websites, terms and conditions of booking and all other documentation which the charity uses to promote the trip.
  • All money required to be paid by a participant for a flight or trip must be disclosed in any promotional material, including any brochures, booking forms and application forms.
  • Charitable donations are not protected by the ATOL scheme. Consequently, it is important to distinguish in all documentation between the part of the payment which applies to an ATOL protected trip and the part which is a charitable donation.
  • Charities must ensure that they pass funds received from participants promptly so that they are protected by the ATOL bond. When money is passed to an ATOL holder and it is made clear that the money is specifically for payment towards an ATOL protected flight or trip then, at that point, the money is protected by ATOL. If the ATOL holder receives charitable donations as part of the arrangement, the agreement should require the ATOL holder to pass all charitable donations promptly to the charity.
  • Immediately when money is transferred to an ATOL holder (or its charity agent), an ATOL Certificate must be supplied to the participant. There must be a mechanism whereby the participant receives the ATOL Certificate immediately.

Anyone, including charities and fundraisers, advertising or offering flights or flight-inclusive trips and not complying with the regulations is committing an offence.

Where an ATOL holder is also a professional fundraiser, the rules on professional fundraising will of course need to be complied with and the fees of the professional fundraiser disclosed to the participants.

Furthermore, where an ATOL holder is offering package travel, it will also have to comply with the regulations on package travel, holidays and tours which operate to ensure that consumers receive the holiday or tour described by the operator.

The guidance is available at http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/ATOLcharityguidance.pdf