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28 May, 2024
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Greek wildfires lead to flight cancellations

Caution urged for travelers affected by cancellations

Source: Sky News

Raging wildfires on the Greek island of Rhodes have sparked the evacuation of around 2,000 tourists from its resorts.

The Greek government said it had evacuated 19,000 people in the "largest ever" wildfire evacuation in the country's history.

Local media said the fires had reached three hotels, which had already been evacuated, with three coastguard vessels plus one from the army evacuating people from two beaches.

But what should holidaymakers do if they have booked to travel to the island?

Jet2 canceled all flights and holidays to Rhodes until next Monday (31 July), saying "We will be contacting affected customers with regards to their refund and rebooking options".

TUI also canceled all flights to the island until Tuesday, with customers looking to fly out on Wednesday allowed to rebook or cancel free of charge.

They advised that individuals set to stay at the TUI Blue Atlantica Nissaki Beach, Pantokrator, Golden Mare, La Riviera, or Nautilusue hotels do not travel to the airport on the 24th or 25th of July.

EasyJet cancelled package holidays until Tuesday, and though it said it is currently "operating flights as normal" it was offering those who had booked to travel to or from Rhodes the chance to transfer to another date or request a flight voucher up to next Saturday.

Two rescue flights - totaling 421 additional seats - will fly from Gatwick on Monday, and a third will operate on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, British Airways said it is offering customers on the island who need to return home early the opportunity to change flights free of charge and Ryanair said flights were "currently operating as normal and unaffected by the forest fires".

Thomas Cook has canceled all holidays to areas of Rhodes most affected by the wildfire - such as Kiotari and Lardos - until July 31. The travel agency announced it had been in touch will all customers due to travel today (23 July) or tomorrow (24 July) to those areas to arrange "swift refunds". It has also offered full refunds to customers due to depart for other parts of the island on Sunday and Monday who wish to cancel.

Thomas Cook will be in touch with people booked to travel on Tuesday to discuss their options, the firm added.

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 canceled, 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 canceled, 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.

The UK's foreign office has urged British travelers affected by the wildfires to follow guidance from Greek emergency services.

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

However, it has stopped short of advising against traveling to Rhodes - a move that would significantly help anyone seeking compensation.

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, 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."

Instead, anyone concerned about traveling 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.

Cyprus  |  Greece  |  evacuations  |  wildfire  |  travel  |  tourists  |  airport  |  people  |  flights

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