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 that depart on Sunday. Ryanair has a seat left for sale on its 3.40pm flight from London Stansted for £394 one way, with a 3.30pm Manchester-Rhodes flight for £214.
From Gatwick, an easyJet flight at 3:55pm to Rhodes sells for £208 one way. Flights on easyJet from Bristol, Gatwick and Luton are en route to the island. But the airline is allowing the change to be made for passengers booked through July 29 for those who no longer want to travel.
British Airways does not fly daily from London to Rhodes and is selling a single Monday afternoon departure from Gatwick for £220. The first available return trip is on Wednesday.
Jet2 and Tui are dispatching empty planes from UK airports to Rhodes to pick up tourists. Both are sending teams to help tourists
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.
I am in Rhodes and want to leave as soon as possible. What are my options?
Many tourists are in that location. 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 in short supply, there are no seats on easyJet flights to the London area until Tuesday night.
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.
It is possible that some airlines may be able to operate special rescue flights outside of their usual schedules or deploy larger-than-usual aircraft.
Some tourists who rushed to evacuate their accommodation left behind their passports.
The British Embassy in Athens reported that the Greek Foreign Ministry had set up a help desk at Rhodes Airport on Sunday afternoon. Purpose: “To facilitate, with the cooperation of relevant embassies, the timely exit of travelers who have lost their passports.”
“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 Crete 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?
“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.