UK airlines are continuing to sell flights departing immediately from the UK to Rhodes despite bushfires that have forced thousands of holidaymakers to evacuate the island.
Travel agencies Jet2, the UK’s largest tour operator and Tui all announced on Sunday that they would be canceling all upcoming flights and holidays to Rhodes and offering refunds as fires raged on the Greek island for six days.
But other airlines are continuing to offer seats on flights to Rhodes, and travel agency Thomas Cook says most of its customers booked to travel on Sunday and Monday are still traveling as usual.
From London Gatwick, a Monday 7pm easyJet flight to Rhodes sells for £144 one way. But for those who no longer want to travel, the airline will allow the change for passengers who booked before July 29.
Two easyJet planes are also flying empty to pick up UK travelers looking to go home early.
British Airways is selling a single Monday afternoon departure from Gatwick for £496, although it also offers flexibility for travelers with existing reservations to the island.
But Ryanair said its operations to and from Rhodes were normal and normal conditions apply.
Jet2 and Tui are dispatching empty planes from UK airports to Rhodes to pick up tourists. Both sent teams to help customers.
Tui customers on the island are told: “We are aware that many of our guests are currently in evacuation centers or seeking temporary shelter at other hotels. We are working tirelessly to improve the situation for our guests and our teams are working closely with local authorities.
“Customers currently in Rhodes will return home on their intended flight.”
Rhodes Airport is located on the northwest coast of the Greek island, near the capital city of Rhodes Town. With no imminent danger in that area, airlines reserve the right to conduct a “business as usual” policy, with the usual terms applying.
But most are expected to offer some option to customers, with package travelers benefiting from additional protection.
It comes after holidaymakers were forced to leave resorts on Saturday, with some British holidaymakers describing scenes of “horrific” chaos as power cuts caused “chaos” on the island.
In previous days, the wildfire was confined to the mountainous center of the island, but aided by winds, very high temperatures and dry conditions, it spread on Saturday toward the coast in the east-central part of the island.
The Foreign Office updated its foreign travel advice on Saturday on heatwaves and bushfires in Europe, urging Britons affected by the Rhodes bushfires to follow the guidance of emergency services and that anyone preparing to travel should check with their travel operator or hotel.
FCDO has also sent a Rapid Deployment Team to Rhodes to assist British nationals and the Greek Foreign Office has set up a help desk at Rhodes airport.
I am in Rhodes and want to leave as soon as possible. What are my options?
Many tourists are in that location. The first airline to announce that it will operate special repatriation flights outside of its normal schedule is easyJet. Two planes will take off from Gatwick on Monday, with 421 additional seats for nine scheduled flights to the UK.
Another easyJet plane will be dispatched soon from Gatwick on Tuesday, with additional rescue flights if needed.
British Airways says passengers who have booked flights from Rhodes to London can switch to earlier flights without penalty – although there may be very little space left. The earliest BA departures with available seats are Wednesday evening.
Other carriers may have similar policies. But scarce, no seats on easyJet flights to the London area until late Tuesday night and not before Wednesday to Manchester.
Most airlines are operating their normal schedules and will likely continue to do so from Rhodes – although many outgoing flights may be empty, as Jet2 and Tui are doing.
Flights are full. Is there any other way out of the island?
Correct. Dodekanisos Seaways sails once or twice a day from Rhodes Town to Kos, which has fairly frequent flights to the UK. The 8 a.m. trip is usually the fastest and most reliable, taking around 2 hours and 30 minutes. A taxi will take you from the port to the airport in about 30 minutes, cheaper but much slower buses are available.
Flights on Tuesday 25 July including Ryanair’s departure to London Stansted are currently on sale for just £37.
The ferry ride to Marmaris in Turkey is shorter, about an hour, but the nearest airport, Dalaman, is a long way from town – it can take you a 90-minute taxi ride or two hours by bus. In addition, border procedures leaving Greece and arriving in Türkiye will take time.
I lost my passport while trying to leave the area. Can I leave the island?
Correct. To help travelers in a hurry to evacuate their accommodation and leave behind their passports, Greek authorities are issuing emergency and temporary identification to allow them to board their flights.
“Passengers departing from Rhodes should be informed that we will accept temporary travel documents issued by Greek Police,” Ryanair said.
If I get sent home early, will I get all or part of my money back?
Package travelers whose trips have been cut down due to inability to use their accommodation will receive a partial refund under the Package Travel Regulations. But it may not be as much as tourists might expect.
If a two-week holiday that costs £1,000 per person ends a week early, the refund will not simply be half of the cost of the trip, which is £500. The holiday company reserves the right to deduct the value of the flights, which can be £400 – meaning only half of the remainder will be refunded, which is £300.
If you make the decision to return ahead of time, you will not have to pay compensation. Travel insurance can help you pay extra costs if you can prove that you’ve spent properly.
I was booked for an upcoming trip to Rhodes. Can I cancel for a refund?
If the travel agency or airline cancels your trip, you can get a full refund within two weeks. If the flight continues, your rights depend on whether you are having a suitable package holiday or have booked separate flights and accommodation.
According to the Package Travel Regulations, travelers can cancel for a refund “if unusual and unavoidable circumstances occur at the destination or in the vicinity that significantly affect the performance of the package or the transportation of passengers to the destination”.
In the case of significant parts of Rhodes, this seems like a reasonable basis for cancellation.
This is the company’s policy for departures that are imminent as of 2 p.m. Sunday.
- British Airways: passengers who have booked tickets to Rhodes next week can rebook for another date until November 2023.
- easyJet: all easyJet Holiday packages up to Tuesday 25th July will be canceled and fully refunded. Only passengers who have booked flights to or from Rhodes until July 29 can transfer free of charge or can claim a flight coupon by calling easyJet Customer Service on 0330 551 5151.
- Jet2: all flights and holidays departing to Rhodes until July 30 have been canceled and full refunds have been issued.
- Ryanair: “Flights to/from Rhodes Airport are currently operating normally and have not been affected by the bushfires. Please check your Ryanair app where you will be notified of any changes to your Ryanair flight.”
- Thomas Cook: the online travel agency is allowing customers due to depart on holidays in the affected areas of Kiotari and Lardos through July 31 to cancel their holidays for a full refund. Customers who booked to travel elsewhere in Rhodes on Monday will receive a full refund. A spokesperson said: “For customers traveling on Tuesday, we will contact them before 6am on Monday to discuss their options.
- Tui: “We have canceled all flights to Rhodes up to and including Tuesday, July 25. Passengers due to travel on Wednesday will be offered a free modification fee for another holiday or the option to cancel for a full refund.
I have booked travel to Rhodes in August. Can I cancel?
Not at this stage. Depending on developments in the next few days, the travel agencies will make a decision on the plan for the peak summer month.
What does the State Department say?
“We sent a Rapid Deployment Team to Rhodes. The group is assisting British nationals at the airport by assisting with emergency travel documents and liaising with travel operators and Greek authorities.
“If you are a UK citizen affected by bushfires in Rhodes near Kiotari, Pefkoi, Lindos and the surrounding area, please follow instructions from emergency services. Call Greece Emergency Services on 112 if you are in immediate danger.
“If you are planning to travel to Rhodes, please check with your tour operator or hotel prior to travel that the area you intend to visit is not affected by the current wildfires.”
British nationals in Rhodes affected by the bushfires can call the Foreign Office’s emergency helpline, +44 20 7008 5000, for consular assistance.