Rhodes repatriation flights organised after wildfires force hotel evacuations

Tui and easyJet holidays have joined Jet2 in cancelling services to Rhodes after holidaymakers were evacuated from hotels due to wildfires.

Both operators confirmed that all holiday departures to the Greek island from the UK would not be running until Tuesday.

Jet2 suspended all flights and holidays to Rhodes for a week until July 30 after initially cancelling five flights on Sunday and using the aircraft to fly people home. Four repatriation flights are operating today (Monday).

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EasyJet will be operating two repatriation flights today from Rhodes to Gatwick using Airbus A320 and an A321 aircraft totalling 421 seats. 

This is in addition to nine flights the airline already has been operating between Rhodes and the UK. 

“We will also operate a further repatriation flight on Tuesday and continue to keep under review if additional repatriation flights are needed,” a spokesperson said.

Those due to fly out with Tui on Wednesday are being offered the option to take an alternative holiday without amendment fees or a full refund if they opt to cancel.

A Tui UK & Ireland spokesperson said: “We’re now working hard to get everybody home safely with our first passengers returning to the UK on three dedicated flights overnight and plans in place to get everyone affected back as soon as possible.”

British Airways is continuing to operate flights to help get passengers home from Rhodes, with a larger aircraft being deployed tonight to accommodate those wanting to return early.

OTA Loveholidays cancelled all holiday departures to Rhodes on Sunday and Monday.

As many as 19,000 moved from homes and hotels

As many as 19,000 people were reported by the fire brigade to have moved from homes and hotels, reportedly describing it as the biggest safe transport of residents and tourists Greece has ever carried out.

A Jet2 spokesperson said: “Due to these extraordinary circumstances, we have cancelled all flights and holidays that are due to depart to Rhodes up to and including Sunday 30th July.

“We have cancelled that far out because it is right to give our customers that assurance, and in addition we don’t want to put more people on the island when the authorities and the general infrastructure has so much to deal with. The feedback from agents to that decision has been very positive as they were hearing from concerned customers who were due to travel.

“We believe this is the right thing to do, and just like the pandemic, customers who have their plans cancelled will be provided with a refund with no quibbles.

“We’re throwing everything at this to look after our customers including increasing resource in our contact centre, flying a senior team out to Rhodes, and getting more colleagues into evacuation centres, resorts, and the airport to give customers the support they need.”

Tui UK & Ireland is working with local authorities in Rhodes with reps on the ground at evacuation points after Greek officials established a crisis management unit to handle the impact of the wildfires in the south of the island.

Tui confirmed that full refunds will be given to holidaymakers whose flights to Rhodes up to and including Tuesday have been cancelled.

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. 

Those currently on holiday elsewhere in Rhodes will return on their scheduled flights.

A spokesperson for the company said: “The wildfires in the south-eastern parts of Rhodes have led to the evacuation of masses of holidaymakers in the past 24 hours, and our teams on the island are doing everything they can to provide assistance to Tui guests. 

“Over 300 reps, drivers and service colleagues and doing their utmost to help where they can, working alongside the amazing local community and emergency services.

“We appreciate how distressing and difficult this situation is for customers who have been evacuated and ask that they follow the advice of the local authorities who are managing tourist movements in impacted areas and make contact with the Tui reps who are present in all evacuation centres.

“We’ll continue to work with the relevant authorities to do all we can to support and are working on plans to get customers home.

“We have cancelled all outbound flights to Rhodes up to and including Tuesday, and passengers due to travel on these flights will receive full refunds.”

‘Working round the clock’

EasyJet holidays was working to comply with requests of the local authorities and is in contact with customers in resort to support them.

A spokesperson said: “We are working round the clock to arrange transfers, manage our customers’ flights, and return customers to hotels when it is safe to do so. 

“We have unfortunately had to cancel package holidays departing up to and including Tuesday, and we’ve proactively contacted impacted customers. 

“We are also contacting customers due to travel to Rhodes up to 29 July to discuss their options.

“The safety and wellbeing of our customers and crew is easyJet’s highest priority.”

The authorities have stressed that the affected areas represent “less than 10% of the total tourist capacity” on the island in an area south of Lindos between Pekoe and Kiotari on the southeast coast.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) said: “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.”

An Abta spokesperson said: “We are supporting Abta members who have customers affected by the wildfires in Rhodes, and are in close contact with the UK and Greek authorities.

“The safety of customers is the number one priority and Abta members are working hard to support those customers affected.

“Holidaymakers have been evacuated to a number of locations and Abta members are communicating with their customers about next steps.

“We continue to advise holidaymakers who have been affected by the fires to follow the advice of the local authorities and their travel company.

“If you are imminently due to travel to Rhodes in the coming days, please look out for updates from your holiday company or airline. We are aware of some cancellations – your rights will vary depending on whether you have booked a package holiday or the different elements of your holiday separately.”

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “The devastating wildfires in Rhodes will be a huge blow for many local businesses reliant on seasonal tourism.

“It’s likely that those who are due to go to Rhodes now won’t want to go, and given the emergency operations that are taking place on the island, local authorities could probably do without more tourists arriving.

“It’s good to see some airlines offering customers refunds or the opportunity to rebook free of charge, and we would encourage more airlines and holiday companies to show flexibility. 

“While there is no official Foreign Office advice against travel to Rhodes, it would be unconscionable for holiday companies to cash in on travellers’ sensible decision not to travel by not refunding or rebooking them.”
The Irish Travel Agents Association is advising holidaymakers in Rhodes to follow local advice.

Most Irish tourists are in the northern areas of Rhodes which are unaffected, according to the ITAA.

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