Holiday booked to Greece? Your rights amid Rhodes and Corfu fires

Holiday booked to Greece? Your rights amid Rhodes and Corfu fires

Wildfires on the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu are causing chaos for thousands of British holidaymakers.

Over the weekend, the Greek government said it had evacuated 19,000 people in the “largest-ever” wildfire evacuation in the country’s history.

EasyJet repatriated 421 people back to the UK on two flights from Rhodes on Monday, with a third on Tuesday. This is in addition to nine scheduled flights to the island that are also taking place.

Jet2 had four repatriation flights scheduled for Monday evening – to Manchester, Bradford and Birmingham – with a total of 787 seats.

Fifty scheduled flights are going to take holidaymakers back from Rhodes this week, but each aircraft will leave the UK empty after all outbound flights and holidays were cancelled until Sunday.

So: what should holidaymakers do if they have booked to travel to either of the islands – or they’re already there?

Largest-ever evacuation from Greece – latest on Rhodes wildfires

Holiday booked to Greece? Your rights amid Rhodes and Corfu fires

The situation in Rhodes

Jet2 cancelled all flights and holidays to Rhodes for this week, saying “we will be contacting affected customers with regards to their refund and rebooking options”.

TUI also cancelled all outbound flights to the island until the end of Friday – with holidays for customers travelling to affected hotels cancelled for the rest of this week. Customers who have booked flights will get a full refund, while package holiday customers can either amend their booking for free or get their money back.

EasyJet said the situation for many in Rhodes is “very difficult”. Flight-only customers who are booked before 29 July have been told that services are still operating, but they should check the flight’s status before travelling. Customers have the option of transferring their flight to another date, or receiving a voucher for the value of their air fare.

EasyJet’s package holidays have been cancelled until Tuesday 25 July, and customers will get a full refund. Those due to leave between now and Saturday are being “proactively contacted” to confirm their options.

British Airways is also operating flights as normal but “monitoring the situation in Rhodes very closely”. People meant to fly this week can choose to travel at a later date if they want to – and customers who want to return to the UK early can change their booking free of charge.

Ryanair says its flights are running normally and are unaffected by the forest fires – with a statement giving no indication of whether customers can change their booking. Passengers who have lost their travel documents have been told that temporary documentation from Greek police will be accepted.

Thomas Cook has cancelled all holidays to areas of Rhodes most affected by the wildfire – such as Kiotari and Lardos – until 31 July. Those due to travel before then can receive a full refund, amend their departure dates, or arrange to go to an alternative destination.

For customers booked to go to Kiotari and Lardos from 1 August onwards, Thomas Cook says it is working closely with partners on the ground to understand the impact of the wildfires – and will be in touch with holidaymakers over the coming days with information and updates.

When it comes to Rhodes as a whole, Thomas Cook is offering a full refund for departures until the end of Wednesday – with alternative destinations and travel dates also available. For holidays to Rhodes from Thursday onwards, decisions are going to be made on a daily basis.

“If customers do want to cancel or amend their holiday for departures after Wednesday 26 July they can do so at their cost and we will not charge a fee but airlines may do so,” it said.

Holiday booked to Greece? Your rights amid Rhodes and Corfu fires

Holiday booked to Greece? Your rights amid Rhodes and Corfu fires

How is Corfu being affected?

TUI has reassured customers due to travel to Corfu that its hotels and resorts are operating normally after a wildfire in a small area of the northeast was contained. However, people due to travel up to and including 30 July can amend their booking for free.

People already in Corfu and due to fly home with British Airways can “change their flight to come back earlier if they wish free of charge”. Anyone flying with BA until Saturday can change to a later date for free.

Jet2 flights to Corfu are flying as normal from 26 July and beyond, with easyJet also running its usual service.

Ryanair says its flights to and from Corfu are continuing as normal.

What if I’m travelling in August?

Holidaymakers booked to go to the Greek islands in August are not being advised to change their plans for now.

Simon Calder, travel editor at the Independent, told Sky News: “At the moment the presumption is you will be able to go.”

He added that with no official advice in place, cancelling means you will lose “all or some of your money”, so travellers should wait until the fires have calmed and there is more clarity in the “coming days”.

Can I get a refund or a cancellation?

If it’s a package, the Package Travel Regulations say holidaymakers can cancel and receive a full refund “if unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occur at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity which significantly affect the performance of the package or the carriage of passengers to the destination”.

“If you have been notified that your holiday which is due to depart in the next few days has been cancelled, then your travel company will be able to discuss your options with you – that could be offering a full refund or they might be able to discuss an alternative holiday,” said Emma Brennan, a spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

Those seeking refunds for independent travel could have less luck.

“If you booked everything independently, if you booked a flight and that flight has now been cancelled, then they will need to provide a refund for that, then you would need to go through and speak to every element of your travel provider to understand what the terms and conditions are – what’s the arrangement with the hotel or accommodation that you have booked, what’s the refund policy, the same for any transfer or car hire,” she said.

The fine print of holiday conditions will differ with each operator.

Anton Radchenko, the CEO of AirAdvisor, said travellers to Rhodes whose flights are cancelled less than two weeks before their departure date have the right to between £220 and £350 in cash compensation – unless the airline can book an alternative flight that arrives not too long afterwards. Package holiday travellers would be entitled to more.

However, compensation for delays does not apply if a passenger is on a free evacuation flight that they did not pay for.

Mr Radchenko had this advice for affected passengers eligible for a payout: “Airlines often initially try to offer compensation in the form of vouchers. We suggest to our clients that they refuse vouchers and avoid signing agreements accepting vouchers as a form of compensation, as airlines may later try to use this kind of documentation to reject your claim. Bear in mind that passenger regulations require airlines to pay compensation in cash.”

Holiday booked to Greece? Your rights amid Rhodes and Corfu fires

What is the Foreign Office saying?

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has urged British travellers affected by the wildfires to follow guidance from Greek emergency services. A crisis management unit and phone hotline has been set up by them to help people in Rhodes.

It advises holidaymakers on any affected Greek island to contact their airline or holiday company who will be able to help them get back to the UK.

“If you are planning to travel to Rhodes, please check with your travel operator or hotel prior to travel that the area you plan to visit is not impacted by the current wildfires,” it said.

It has stopped short of advising against travelling to Rhodes or Corfu – a move that would significantly help anyone seeking compensation.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove told Sky News on Tuesday that he is still planning to go on holiday to a Greek island experiencing wildfires next week – and official advice is that the region is “safe”.

Holiday booked to Greece? Your rights amid Rhodes and Corfu fires

Am I covered by my travel insurance?

Whether holidaymakers are guaranteed compensation under their travel insurance policies hinges on if the UK government advises against travel to the area.

“The primary purpose of travel insurance is to cover the costs of emergency medical treatments or repatriation should the worst happen, which can run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds,” a spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said.

“It can cover you if you need to cancel or cut short your holiday, but it’s likely this will only be under limited circumstances, for example if you or a close family member fall ill, not because of a disinclination to travel.

“Insurance can cover you if advice from the government changes since you’ve booked your trip, and it’s no longer considered safe to travel to the destination.”

Holiday booked to Greece? Your rights amid Rhodes and Corfu fires

Instead, anyone concerned about travelling to the area should check with their travel provider and air carrier, the spokesperson added.

Some travel insurance policies may cover affected holidays under certain circumstances, so people are advised to check the scope of cover provided by their travel insurance.


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