Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Joanna Partridge

Travel operators urged to refund UK holidaymakers who call off trips to Rhodes

Travellers sit on the floor of the airport
Holidaymakers wait to fly out of Rhodes airport on Sunday. Which? says Greek authorities ‘could probably do without more tourists arriving’. Photograph: Will Vassilopoulos/AFP/Getty Images

Travel firms and airlines are being urged to reimburse passengers who decide against flying to Rhodes as the Greek island is ravaged by wildfires, with a leading consumer group arguing it would be “unconscionable” to withhold refunds.

Which? travel editor Rory Boland called on carriers to be “flexible” if customers decide for themselves that they do not want to fly to Rhodes, at a time when there have been emergency evacuations of more than 19,000 people on the island.

“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,” he said.

A string of travel companies have cancelled package holidays to the Greek island that were due to depart in the coming days. Tui said on Sunday evening that all passengers due to travel to Rhodes up to and including on Tuesday would receive full refunds, while those due to depart on Wednesday would be able to receive a full refund or change for free to another holiday.

EasyJet said those who were booked to travel to or from the island until Tuesday would be able to transfer to another date or request a flight voucher.

Thomas Cook will not take tourists to parts of the island considered most at risk until the end of the month, and Jet2 has confirmed that it will not fly travellers to the destination for at least a week.

British Airways said that customers already on Rhodes who needed to return home early would be able to change their flights for free, although it was expected there would be limited availability.

The Foreign Office’s website informs tourists planning to travel to Rhodes that they should check with their travel operator or hotel before travelling, to make sure that their visit would not be affected by the wildfires.

Experts have said that it could be harder for holidaymakers to claim compensation in the absence of advice from the Foreign Office not to travel to the destination, on health or safety grounds.

Despite this, Boland called on travel firms to do the right thing: “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.”

Passengers who have booked package holidays generally have more rights than those who have chosen flights and accommodation separately, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta).

An Abta spokesperson said: “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.”

Those who choose not to travel, rather than having their trip cancelled or postponed, may not necessarily be covered by their travel insurance policy.

Such policies usually only allow claims for cancellation in the event of serious illness of one of the travellers, a bereavement of the insured or a very close family member or an exceptionally long delay prior to departure.

Louise Clark, policy adviser at the Association of British Insurers, said the primary purpose of travel insurance is to protect holidaymakers in case they require emergency medical treatment overseas.

She added that travel insurance is “unlikely to provide cover if you’re unable to go outside on your holiday because of a wildfire”. However, some insurers do provide add-ons for customers at the time of purchase, which protect against natural disasters.

Holidaymakers are also warned that many package holiday operators charge customers all or at least 90% of the price paid if customers cancel at the last minute.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.