Travel firms have been advised to plan early for next March’s Atol renewals after some companies experienced problems with a new online system brought in by the CAA ahead of September’s renewals.

Karen Gill, senior audit manager at Elman Wall, told the accountancy firm’s annual directors summit, that while some firms found the new system easy to use others had a “really painful experience”.

“It will develop over time and it’s something we are really going to have to stick with. We are going to have to be patient with the online portal,” she said.

Renewals of Atol licences takes place each year in the spring and autumn with the end of March and end of September deadlines imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority that administers the consumer financial protection scheme.

Gill said the CAA “had not been lenient at all” with firms renewing their Atols this September even if missing the deadline was actually the fault of the regulator.

She added: “People doing it earlier on probably had a more painful experience than people [going through the process] closer to the deadline when the CAA was more experienced and able to turn round submissions more quickly, sometimes within the day.

“The online portal is not something that’s going to go away, it’s the future. We have to stay patient with it. We probably have to take the short-term pain. It’s a long-term investment.”

Gill added: “We recommend people with March renewals get their accounts sorted as soon as possible. “We do not know how the CAA are making their decisions now but they have some tools available to help you prepare. The sooner you can be prepared the better we can advise you.”