Wildfires have ravaged the Greek island of Rhodes, causing some vacationers to abandon their belongings and move to temporary shelters.
Airlines and holiday companies are scrambling to bring some of those affected home, while some flights to the island from the UK have been cancelled.
There were as many as 10,000 British tourists there, with many more booked for travel in the coming weeks. So what are their rights?
Can I still travel to Rhode Island?
Many airlines continue to operate flights as normal, but some have canceled flights or package holidays for the next few days.
Crucially, official advice from the UK Foreign Office does not advise against traveling to Rhode Island. Instead, it advised people to follow the guidance of Greece’s emergency services. Anyone planning travel should first check with their operator, airline or hotel.
This guidance is subject to change, so people should continue to check no matter where they plan to travel.
What about Corfu?
Some 2,400 tourists and locals have been evacuated from Corfu and wildfires have also raged on the island of Evia.
Greek officials said the fire in Corfu was under control and urged tourists to continue with their holiday plans.
Travelers should still check whether their flights and accommodations are affected.
Does travel insurance cover wildfires?
Specific terms are unlikely – which is why the Foreign Office’s advice is so important.
Claims will usually be valid if officials advise against travel. This is not currently the case.
So for now it depends on your specific policy. For some people who claim to have a specific health condition or became ill as a result of the wildfires, the opportunity to make a claim may be limited.
Which airlines have canceled flights?
At present, the policies of different companies are different, and the flexibility of rebooking is also different:
- Jet2 has canceled all flights and holidays to Rhode Island for the next 7 days, but the plane without passengers on board will fly there to bring people back
- Tui has canceled all flights to the island through and including Friday 28 July. It also canceled all outbound flights to affected hotels through Sunday, July 30. All customers will receive a refund. Passengers currently in Rhode Island can return on their scheduled or repatriation flights. Passengers planning to travel to areas not affected by the fire on Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30 can change their travel dates or receive a refund.
- Easyjet has canceled package holidays until Tuesday.The company is operating flights as normal but is allowing customers to change travel dates and is sending repatriation flights
- Ryanair says flights are operating normally
- Online travel agency Thomas Cook said it had canceled some holidays to affected regions and offered full refunds.The company added: “We are contacting some passengers who booked travel to other regions on Monday and Tuesday to have the option to cancel and get a refund if they wish.”
- British Airways said its flights to Rhodes and Corfu were operating as normal, but passengers who needed to return early could change their flights for free, while those who did not want to travel there from the UK next week could postpone their flights
Why do companies only operate flights but cancel holidays?
The Foreign Office does not recommend travel to Rhodes or Corfu, so there is nothing to stop airlines from selling standalone flights, or canceling already scheduled flights.
However, package holidays are more complicated. These may include accommodation affected by the fire, and the duty of care lasts longer, so the operator may decide to cancel.
Will I get a refund if I go home early?
People who took package tours and were forced to return home early may receive partial refunds.
However, if you book for two weeks and come back a week later, that doesn’t mean you get half of your money back because, for example, you still took the outbound and inbound flights.
Your best bet is to stay as close as possible with your vacation company.
If you are independent, then the cost of accommodation will depend on each hotel.
I just want to go home, what rights do I have?
Travel expert Simon Calder said anyone who cut their holiday short because it wasn’t a very pleasant experience or worried about being stranded was unlikely to ask for a refund.
Because it’s their choice, not necessity. Not the entire island is at risk of fire.
Can I cancel my upcoming vacation?
Not all islands have been affected by the fires, so the picture is mixed. Some holidays have been cancelled, but individual flights may still operate.
If you have a package deal, your entire vacation may be cancelled. If this is the case then there will be a full refund or the opportunity to rebook elsewhere.
According to the Association of British Travel Agents, if you just don’t want to go then it depends more on your particular tour company – there is no automatic right to a refund.
Anyone who booked flights and accommodation separately will receive a refund for the flight portion if canceled, but will need to contact the hotel for the other portion.
Again, if you choose not to travel, refunds are at the discretion of the specific airline and hotel.
What are the wider implications of the heat wave for the holiday season?
Many of the same cancellation rules apply if people don’t want to travel because of the heat.
We explain these issues here.