Greece fires: What are your rights if you’re due to go on holiday to Rhodes or Corfu?

Travel companies and airlines offering varying help to leave islands, but flights out continue as scheduled

Over 20,000 people have been evacuated from the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu due to ongoing fires. While the situation in Corfu is said to be largely under control, Rhodes continues to be affected by wildfires as Greece embarks on its largest emergency evacuation ever.

Given the islands’ popularity as tourist destinations, a number of holidaymakers have been affected by the fires and subsequent evacuations.

Irish citizens are being advised to move rapidly out of any areas affected. “This is an evolving situation, and citizens should comply with evacuation orders and follow the instructions from the emergency services and local authorities,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

What are your options if you have booked to travel to the affected areas?


I am on the island, what can I do?

According to airline Tui, which also offers flight and hotel packages, after taking the “precautionary” measure of halting new arrivals to a number of hotels on Corfu, holiday makers are able to “return to their hotels to continue their holidays as planned.”

On Rhodes, there have been reports of tourists sleeping on school floors having been evacuated from their accommodation.

In regard to any potential refund or compensation for those who have been forced to leave their hotels, Paul Hackett, president of the Irish Travel Agents Association, says the immediate priority is to “get people to safety, assess the situation and make decisions with the most up to date information.

“If a customer has been evacuated out of their hotel, the travel company will endeavour to get them home. For customers in situ, there are not an enormous number of flights to get them home and it is July, peak holiday season. So travel companies are doing their best.”

Mr Hackett says he has spoken to customers on Rhodes who have not been affected by the fires and are happy to continue with their holiday.

I am yet to travel

For customers who have booked to travel to Greece but have yet to do so, the situation is “clearer” says Mr Hackett. For those flying out of Dublin Airport, Tui and Ryanair are the two flight operators to Rhodes and Corfu.

In the UK, Tui cancelled flights to the affected areas until Tuesday July 25th. However, the next available flight out of Dublin Airport is not until Wednesday, and is running as scheduled.

“Tui’s view is that anyone due to travel on Wednesday can decide they’re not travelling,” explains Mr Hackett. “They can cancel and get a full refund. They can also change to another destination or get another date. Passengers need to pay only the difference in price, and there has been 10 per cent reduction in that.

“If the part of the island people are travelling to is not affected and people wish to travel, they are free to travel. Those are the three options for Tui. Their next flight out is Saturday and they will do the same provided the hotel [that a passenger is staying in] is in an evacuation area.”

Given Tui packages flights and hotels together, any refunds would include costs paid for both.

Ryanair have said that their flights to and from Rhodes and Corfu are “currently operating as scheduled and remain unaffected by the forest fires.”

“They [airlines] have to operate flights since there are people on the island due to come home,” explains Mr Hackett. “Those flights outbound have to operate to bring those people back.”

To anyone in Rhodes that has booked a flight off the island, Ryanair has offered the option of bringing forward their return trip free of charge.

Tourists who have booked their holiday through a travel company and are not flying with Tui “will have to speak to their travel agent to find out what their options are,” says Mr Hackett.

“If the flights are operating and the hotel is not in an evacuation area, the holiday will in all likelihood be going ahead. If a hotel is closed and is in an evacuation area, in all likelihood, the holiday will have to be cancelled.

“The European Package Travel Directive is very strong on consumer duty of care. If a hotel is not open, that falls under extraordinary circumstances and the holiday will be cancelled if no alternative can be provided.”

I booked the holiday without an agent

For tourists that have not booked their trip through a travel agent, securing a refund can be more difficult since there are more parties that need to be contacted, says Mr Hackett. “DIY consumers need to talk to their hotelier to ask ‘What is my position, can I get my money back?’

“It’s hard to tell what will happen, it’s a case by case. It’s down to individual hoteliers and airlines.”

What if I have travel insurance?

Insurance Ireland has advised tourists to get in contact with their insurance provider, should they be covered. “Travel insurance policies can differ, so check the policy wording or contact your insurer if you are unsure if what you are covered for, and also review your policy documents for any exclusions or policy limits,” said a spokesman.

“Travel insurance policies generally cover items such as damaged or delayed luggage, cancellation or curtailment of your trip, loss or theft of money or passport or emergency medical treatment abroad and/or repatriation expenses, if you fall ill or become injured while abroad.

“Disinclination to travel will not give rise to a valid claim. If your policy includes travel disruption cover as an add-on, you may be covered if you have to cut short or cancel your holiday.”

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist