The Civil Aviation Authority has rejected claims it changed its criteria for assessing firms renewing ATOLs at the end of March.
However, the CAA has demanded some ATOL holders find fresh capital – in some cases totalling millions of pounds.
CAA consumer protection group deputy director David Moesli said: “It has been said we have been letting people off and we refute that. This is not the time to slacken off. Others have said we are cracking down, but we are being consistent.
“We have financial requirements and are consistent in the way we apply these.”
Few firms are now required to hold ATOL bonds and that number fell at the latest renewal, with just a single company – “a very small bond holder” – asked to increase the size of its bond.
But Moesli said: “We are most concerned about working capital and have asked companies that have had a rougher ride in trading to put additional finance into the business. This can be tens of thousands of pounds.
“There are larger companies where it can be more than £1 million and in two cases we have looked for cash injections of millions.”
He added: “We need to have confidence businesses will reach November. But I would not say this is significantly different to previous years.”
Industry accountant Chris Photi of White Hart Associates last week described the CAA as “more pragmatic” towards companies with “a big exposure to the Air Travel Trust fund” (Travel Weekly, April 3).
Some in the industry had predicted “a bloodbath” during the March renewal process. In fact, there was a small fall in firms no longer requiring an ATOL to 100 from 108 a year ago, and 108 holders failed to renew on time compared with 144 last year. The figures have been revised from those published a week ago and the number failing to renew fell to 81 by Monday.
The delay in paying refunds on bookings with the collapsed XL Leisure Group came in for criticism from the BBC’s Watchdog programme this week. The CAA has received 56,000 claims and processed 20,000 – paying out just over £20 million.
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