Rhodes wildfires: What are your travel and refund rights?
Tourists are being evacuated from the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu following wildfires over the weekend.
But while some holidaymakers are being flown back to the UK early, some airlines are still flying as normal to the crisis-hit region.
About 19,000 people have been evacuated from Rhodes in the “largest ever” wildfire evacuation in Greece’s history. According to Sky News about 10,000 Brits are currently on the Greek island.
The fires on Corfu are less extensive, with evacuations from the north-east side of the island and in the northern Peloponnese region.
Your rights if you have a holiday booked to Rhodes or Corfu
Despite the crisis, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has not advised against travel to the crisis-hit holiday islands – the trigger for travel insurance payouts.
The FCDO is advising Brits on Rhodes to contact their airline or travel operator who can assist with return travel to the UK. It says anyone planning to travel to any areas affected by wildfires should “check with your travel operator or hotel prior to travel that the area you plan to visit”.
YourMoney.com has contacted the FCDO for comment.
The lack of action from the Government means it’s up to holiday companies as to whether they cancel holidays and issue refunds.
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, Tweeted: “Travellers don’t want to go to Rhodes, and local authorities don’t need more tourists. While there’s no FCDO warning against travel, it would be unconscionable for holiday firms to cash in on travellers’ sensible decision not to travel by not refunding them.”
Anna-Marie Duthie, travel insurance expert at Defaqto, said: “If your airline is having to cancel your flight due to the wildfires, they should be offering you the chance to rebook, or a full refund should you wish to cancel. Depending on the airline, they may offer ‘credit’ with them rather than a refund, so you will need to check with your operator.
“If you booked a package holiday, the rebooking or refund will apply to all elements within that package, so your flight, transport, and accommodation.
“If you have booked the elements of your holiday independently, so your flight and accommodation separately, then you will need to speak to each provider to understand your rights and their cancellation policy. The airline should do as above; however, it will be down to the accommodation provider as to how they treat an event such as this.
“If it is the case the accommodation is no longer safe or habitable then they should most likely refund you, however if your flight has been cancelled but the accommodation is unaffected, they may not be required to give you your money back. It is therefore important to check their terms and speak with them about your options.”
Some travellers who paid for their holiday with a credit card will also have protection under the Consumer Credit Act if the services they have paid for are not provided – if your hotel has burnt down or is not open, for example.
It is also important to check your travel insurance policy. If Government advice changes and advises against travel to an area after you have booked your trip, then you should be covered for cancellation or curtailment.
Some policies might include cover for disruption due to a ‘catastrophic event’ – but each insurer will define this differently, so it’s key to check your terms and conditions and speak to your insurer.
What are airlines and tour operators saying?
BA said it was operating flights as normal, and putting on a larger aircraft on the next flight from Rhodes so it could help people get home.
It said any BA customers currently in Rhodes or Corfu on a flight-only booking could change their flight to come back earlier, free of charge, while any BA customer due to travel to Rhodes or Corfu in the next week could change their booking to a later date for free.
A statement from British Airways read: “The safety of all our customers is our priority and we are giving them the option to change their return flight from either destination free of charge if they need to return earlier than planned. Anyone due to travel out of the UK in the next week to these destinations can change their flight to a later date if they prefer.”
Easyjet said it is currently “operating as normal to Rhodes” and advises customers to check the status of their flights.
However, it said that any Easyjet flight-only customers who are booked to travel to or from Rhodes until 29 July can transfer for free to another date or can request a flight voucher for the value of their unused flights.
The airline’s tour operator, Easyjet Holidays, has cancelled holiday packages departing up to and including tomorrow (Tuesday), and customers will receive a full refund. It is proactively contacting customers due to travel up to and including Saturday 29 July to confirm their options.
Jet2 has cancelled all flights going from the UK to Rhodes up to and including 30 July.
A statement on the Jet2 website read: “As a result of this, we will be contacting affected customers with regards to their refund and rebooking options. We currently plan to operate flights from Rhodes to the UK as normal.”
Ryanair flights to and from Rhodes are currently operating as normal. The airline says the flights are “unaffected by the forest fires” and has advised customers to check the Ryanair app to be notified of any change to their flights.
Thomas Cook said it was contacting customers in date of departure order to discuss their options. It is currently offering to cancel any holidays departing today and tomorrow free of charge.
A statement on the Thomas Cook website read: “For departures on Wednesday 26 July we will decide by Tuesday 6am what options are available based on the situation in Rhodes at that time. We will then make daily decisions based on the latest information for all upcoming departures.”
Tui was still flying holidaymakers to Rhodes over the weekend, but it has now cancelled all outbound flights to Rhodes for today (Monday 24 July) and tomorrow (Tuesday 25 July). Passengers due to travel will receive full refunds.
Passengers due to travel on Wednesday will be offered a fee-free amend to another holiday or the option to cancel for a full refund. Tui said that customers currently in Rhodes will return on their intended flight home.