We have entered the business end of the ATOL renewal, and the deadline for travel firms to satisfy any final requirements, and renew their ATOL is just a frantic few weeks away.
From 2018, all ATOL renewal applications must be made through the CAA’s ‘ATOL Online’ system. By now, you should hopefully have completed the online application and be well on your way to renewing. If not then you had better get started!
Those who don’t renew on time face the very public humiliation of a period on the late renewal list- the CAA’s equivalent of the naughty step which is published on the CAA’s website for all to see.
At best, being on “The List” is an irritation you can do without. At worst, the resulting brand damage can knock the confidence of your suppliers and customers and really hurt your company.
Here, Travel Trade Consultancy Director and ATOL expert, Simon Brodie gives you 5 essential tips to help you renew on time and avoid finding yourself on The List.
1. Read and re-read your offer letter
If you’ve submitted your online application already, you should shortly receive a letter from your case officer setting out the terms you have to meet in order to renew your ATOL on time.
Make sure you read and re-read the offer letter and understand precisely what the CAA is asking you to do:
– Do you have to provide a bond?
– Do you have to inject fresh capital into your business?
– Do you need to pay fees or will they be collected by Direct Debit?
– Does your accountant need to submit Annual Returns?
– Are you being offered a 6 or 12-month licence?
Your ATOL will only be renewed when you have satisfied all of the conditions outlined in the offer letter.
2. Get Proof of delivery on everything
Whilst certain documents can be submitted by email, the CAA will want to see original versions of bonds, guarantees or other legal documents.
The postal service can be unreliable and the CAA’s own post room starts to resemble the baggage reclaim area at Stansted Airport during the renewal period.
At TTC, we always hand deliver all of our clients’ documents or send them by recorded delivery or courier so there is indisputable evidence when something has been delivered.
3. Don’t forget to pay your fees
Your renewal fees must be in the CAA’s pocket before they will renew your ATOL – unless you’re already signed up to pay by Direct Debit, in which case well done you! Your fees will be collected the week after renewal.
Paying by Direct Debit is undoubtedly the best way to go because it reduces the hassle factor and costs you less -the CAA charges a lower fee if you pay both your renewal fees and your ATOL Protection Contributions (APC) by Direct Debit. If you want to sign up, you can obtain the necessary forms from your usual contact at the CAA.
If you don’t fancy DD we always advise our clients to pay by bank transfer and obtain proof of payment. Whilst cheque payments are still accepted by the CAA they can and do go missing. Plus they’re a bit 1980s.
4. Don’t assume. Get confirmation
The CAA does not automatically confirm when you have satisfied all of their renewal conditions but if you ask politely, your case officer will be able to update you. You should also keep an eye on the status of your application on the portal and look for those magic words “Application Granted”.
This is particularly sensible if you are relying on third parties such as your insurers to provide bonds or your accountant to provide independent confirmations. If there is any delay in seeing this status change you should follow up with those third parties. Providing all documents remains your responsibility and many ATOL holders have come unstuck because they assumed documents that were sent would arrive on time. Remember the old saying about “mother assumption” and her children.
5. Check the list
The CAA publishes “The List” on its website on 1 October and 1 April so if you really want to go belt-and-braces, check your company name isn’t on it. There have been instances in the past where companies thought they had met the conditions only to find out they hadn’t when it was too late.
If you do find yourself on The List, you should speak to your case officer to understand what you need to do to get off it as quickly as possible.
Travel Trade Consultancy provides advice, services and support to businesses in the travel sector specialising in matters related to ATOL. Next time, why not join over 100 other ATOL holders and let Travel Trade Consultancy handle your renewal for you? For more information, contact us.