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 around the corner.
By now, you should hopefully have completed the online application form on the ATOL portal, submitted the ‘Additional Booking Information Form’ and be well on your way to renewing. If not, then you had better get started!
The CAA has received just over 50% of the expected renewal applications at this stage, leaving a lot of ground to cover for everyone to renew on time. Those who don’t renew on time face the 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 shares five 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 six or 12-month licence?
Your ATOL will only be renewed when you have satisfied all of the conditions outlined in the offer letter.
2. Don’t bury your head in the sand.
Receiving an email from the CAA highlighting that you need to strengthen your balance sheet in order to meet its financial criteria is about as welcome as being allocated a middle seat, especially in the current climate. However, you can not ignore that there is an issue, and you should engage with the CAA on this point as soon as possible to understand what needs to be done before your licence expires.
In some cases, the request can be dealt with through the subordination of existing creditor balances, but in other cases, you may need to turn to shareholders and lenders for support. If it becomes apparent that you are unable to meet the demands of the CAA then you may need to work on alternative proposals that would give the CAA comfort instead.
3. Don’t forget to pay your fees.
Your renewal fees must be in the CAA’s pocket before it 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 Direct Debit, 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 always have the capacity to advise on which specific renewal conditions are outstanding 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 for automated emails arriving from the ‘ATOL Online’ with 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.
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