Brits escape Greek fires as travel advice updated
Despite fires burning on Rhodes, British tourists continue to shorten their vacations.
On Tuesday, more flights brought holidaymakers back to the UK from Greece.
Travelers to potentially affected areas should make sure they have “appropriate insurance”, according to Foreign Office guidance.
To help with travel insurance claims, the Liberal Democrats have urged ministers to discourage people from going to Rhodes unless they have to.
There were nine Jet2 flights scheduled to depart Rhodes on Tuesday, some of which had spare seats to accommodate extra passengers.
On Wednesday’s flights, EasyJet said extra seats were available.
Before takeoff, one of the airline’s pilots flying British tourists to Rhodes urged passengers to get off the plane.
If you are travelling for leisure, I recommend that you don’t do it,” the pilot told passengers on board.
Eight passengers took up the pilot’s offer, including one young boy in tears, according to BBC Wales correspondent Gwyn Loader, who was travelling to Rhodes to report on the wildfires.
According to Foreign Office Minister Andrew Mitchell, up to 10,000 British tourists are on Rhodes in total – this includes tourists in non-affected areas.
“Approximately 1,000 customers” were either flown back to the UK or moved to hotels in unaffected areas by Jet2, which ran repatriation flights overnight between Manchester, Leeds-Bradford, Glasgow and Stansted.
As of Saturday, EasyJet has canceled its outbound package holidays to Rhodes, while Tui has canceled its packages to the south of the island until August 11.
The Foreign Office advised holidaymakers to check with their hotel and travel operator before travelling to the affected Greek islands, and explained how to sign up for emergency alerts.
According to the latest advice, the fires were occurring “in populated areas on the mainland and on a number of islands” and were “highly dangerous and unpredictable”.
Visitors to the affected areas were advised to get “appropriate insurance” and directed to a number of resources if they were near the wildfires.
In an earlier statement, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said he still planned to go on holiday to Greece next week. According to Sky News, he is headed to Evia, one of the islands that has been ordered to evacuate.
According to BBC Breakfast, Greece is a “safe” and a “wonderful place for those fortunate enough to spend some time abroad this summer”.
Labor’s Baroness Angela Smith urged the government to “rethink” its guidance in the House of Lords in response to the government’s advice.
The Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran called for a change in travel advice so that British tourists flying to Rhodes can cancel their trips without losing money.
If there were no formal government travel warnings, many travellers would not be able to claim a refund using travel insurance.
“There will be some cover, but it won’t be great,” Mr Boland said. ‘Disinclination to travel’ is not usually accommodated by insurance.”
The London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is offering free travel to holidaymakers returning from Rhodes and Corfu.
Anyone landing at a different airport from their home location or having to travel on a different day would not be charged for standard east coast travel.
To use the service between 25 July and 7 August, customers must present a stamped passport and airline boarding card confirming travel from the islands within the previous 24 hours.
For those arriving at a different UK airport than they flew out from, coach company National Express is offering free travel.
Fire brigade deputy chief Ioannis Artophios said the most serious fires were developing on Rhodes and Corfu. Due to an extreme risk of fire, Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands, has been placed on high alert.
While fighting wildfires on the island of Evia, two Greek air force pilots were killed by a water-bombing plane on Tuesday afternoon.
Captain Christos Moulas, 34, and Captain Pericles Stefanidis, 27, were named as the pilots.