Should I cancel my Greece holiday and does insurance cover wildfires?


Holidaymakers queue at airport after being evacuated from RhodesImage source, Reuters

Wildfires have swept across the Greek island of Rhodes, leading some holidaymakers to abandon their belongings and move to makeshift 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.

Up to 10,000 British tourists are there, with many more booked to travel in the coming weeks. So what are their rights?

Can I still travel to Rhodes?

A number of airlines are continuing flights as normal, but some have cancelled flights or package holidays scheduled for the coming days.

Crucially, the official advice from the UK Foreign Office has stopped short of advising against travel to Rhodes. Instead, it is advising people to follow guidance from the Greek emergency services. Anyone planning to travel should first check with their operator, airline or hotel.

That guidance can change so people should keep checking, wherever they are planning to travel to.

What about Corfu?

Around 2,400 visitors and locals have been evacuated from Corfu and there are also wildfires on Evia.

Greek officials say the fires in Corfu are coming under control and are urging travellers to go ahead with their holiday plans.

Travellers should still check their flights and accommodation are not affected.

Does travel insurance cover wildfires?

There is unlikely to be a specific clause – which is why the Foreign Office advice is so crucial.

Were there to be official advice not to travel, then claims would usually become valid. At present, that is not the case.

So, for now, it depends on your specific policy. For some people who have stated particular medical conditions, or if they have become ill as a result of the wildfires, then there might be limited opportunities to claim.

Which companies specifically have cancelled flights?

Different companies have varying policies at present, and varying degrees of flexibility on rebooking:

  • Jet2 has cancelled all flights and holidays due to depart to Rhodes in the next seven days, but aircraft with no customers on board will be flown there in order to bring people back
  • Tui has cancelled all its flights to the island until Wednesday, and customers currently in Rhodes may return on their intended flights or repatriation flights
  • Easyjet has cancelled package holidays until Tuesday. It is running flights as normal, but allowing customers to change their travel dates, and is sending repatriation flights
  • Ryanair says it is running flights as normal
  • Online travel agent Thomas Cook said it had cancelled some holidays to affected areas, with full refunds offered. It added some customers booked to travel to other parts on Monday and Tuesday were being contacted with the option to cancel and be refunded if they wished
  • British Airways said its flights to Rhodes and Corfu were running as normal, but customers needing to return early could change their flight for free, and those not wishing to travel there in the next week from the UK could postpone their flight

Why are companies running flights but cancelling holidays?

There is no Foreign Office advice against travel to Rhodes or Corfu, so there’s nothing to stop airlines selling standalone flights, nor do they have to cancel those already scheduled.

However, package holidays are more complex. They may include accommodation that has been affected by fire, and the duty of care lasts for longer, so operators may decide to cancel.

Will I be refunded if I come home early?

Someone who travelled on a package deal and is forced to come home early may receive a partial refund.

Media caption,

Holidaymakers describe “terrifying” wildfires ordeal

However, if you were booked for two weeks, and came back after one, that does not mean you get half your money back, because, for example, you would still have travelled on an outbound and inbound flight.

The best option is to keep in close contact, where possible, with your holiday company.

If you travelled independently, then accommodation costs will depend on the individual hotel.

I just want to get home, what are my rights?

Anyone who shortens their holiday because it is not a very pleasant experience or are concerned about being trapped is unlikely to be able to claim refunds, according to travel expert Simon Calder.

That is because it is their choice, rather than necessity. Not all of the island is at risk from the fires.

Can I cancel my upcoming holiday?

Not all of the island is affected by the fires, so it is a mixed picture. Some holidays are cancelled, while individual flights may still leave.

If you have a package deal, then there is a chance your whole holiday has been cancelled. If that is the case, then there would be a full refund or the chance to rebook elsewhere.

If you simply don’t want to go, then it is more dependant on your specific travel company – there is no automatic right to get your money back, according to the Association of British Travel Agents.

Anyone who has booked flights and accommodation separately would receive a refund for the flights element if they are cancelled, but would need to contact their hotel for other elements.

Again, refunds if you chose not to travel is a decision for specific airlines and hotels.

What are the wider heatwave implications for holidays?

If people do not want to travel owing to the heat, many of the same cancellation rules apply.


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