Simon Calder: Book Ayia Napa, get Armageddon?

The man who pays his way

President Obama said this week, "The international community's credibility is on the line" over a response to last month's horrific chemical weapons attack in Syria. To say, "Well, my holiday is on a bit of a knife-edge, too" might sound glib in the extreme. But this weekend, as US politicians prepare to vote on a missile attack against President Assad's regime, thousands of British travellers are getting ready to fly to Cyprus.

September is an ideal month to visit the island where, legend has it, Aphrodite was born. The crowds have diminished. So have the extreme temperatures of July and August, while the Mediterranean is at its most benign as it laps against the island's beaches. This September, though, prospective visitors who glance at the map will note that Cyprus is the closest EU territory to Syria. Just 70 miles of Mediterranean separate the island's Karpass Peninsula from the Syrian port of Latakia.

"We are scheduled to fly to Cyprus on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after Congress takes a view about attacking Syria," says one concerned correspondent. "I wonder what the policy is of the airlines to fly in these circumstances? I don't doubt that they will have safety as their priority, but it's so unpredictable."

You can see his point. Larnaca, the main airport for Cyprus, is less than 200 miles from the Syrian capital, Damascus. Eleven years ago this month, the British public were being warned that another despicable regime, a little further east, was targeting weapons of mass destruction on "the UK sovereign base areas in Cyprus" – the two British military enclaves on the south coast.

Chemical and biological weapons, we were assured, could be launched at Cyprus in the time it takes to enjoy a light lunch at the Harbour restaurant on the seafront at Paphos.

The Iraq dossier was a tapestry of terror. It had the effect of taking Britain into what turned out to be a botched invasion with appalling consequences. But one enduring dimension of the web of mistruths has been to align Cyprus, Greece and Turkey as the frontline of retaliation by murderous Middle East tyrants. Which, if you are heading for the eastern Mediterranean this month, may not be a comfortable prospect.

When a holiday becomes a burden

"We are going to Coral Bay in Cyprus for a week on 14 September," says another traveller. "Will it be safe with all the trouble in Syria?"

The honest answer is: I don't know. I would, however, happily travel to the island next Saturday. Coral Bay in the west is about as far from Syria as it is possible to be in Cyprus. Yet I would feel equally confident about visiting the east end. My main concern would not be rocket attacks from Syria, but local driving standards; the death toll on the roads of Cyprus is three times the rate in the UK. I have every sympathy, though, with people who planned a holiday in Ayia Napa but now fear they may be booked to a destination that you don't find on TripAdvisor: Armageddon. For some, the sweet anticipation of a late-summer holiday has been driven out by a growing sense of unease.

Anyone now disinclined to travel to Cyprus, Greece or Turkey will discover that they have few rights. Most holiday companies are sticking to their standard terms, which stipulate that short-notice cancellations involve the loss of some or all of the money paid. One possible solution for those who are booked on "proper" package holidays is to pass the trip on to friends or family who take a more carefree attitude. But if that is not feasible, the prospective traveller can only watch and wait. It is most unlikely that the Foreign Office will counsel against travel to these friendly eastern Mediterranean countries. Only if the FCO did so would holiday firms be obliged to give a full refund or an alternative trip – and then only on packages. Those with DIY holidays are, once again, on their own.

Airlines offer their own no-fly zones

The airlines, meanwhile, are preparing for something only a short way from financial Armageddon. Trouble in the Middle East implies a spike in oil prices. Missile attacks imply closure of airspace, which in turn implies more circuitous journeys, increasing fuel consumption and multiplying missed connections.

I cannot see any destinations from the UK on which the most direct route involves flying over Syrian airspace. But displaced aircraft competing for slots could have knock-on disruption for British planes and passengers heading for the Indian Ocean and the Far East. During the first Gulf War in 1991, some passengers between the UK and Australia found themselves routed via Kenya to avoid the Middle East.

Given the financial pain that carriers are feeling, it is all the more to the credit of our two biggest airlines that they are giving flexibility to travellers heading for this troubled corner. BA says that anyone booked to travel to Beirut in the next few days can delay the trip or switch to an alternative destination without penalty, while easyJet is offering passengers booked imminently to Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada in Egypt the option to switch destination free of charge. That's to a destination served by easyJet, of course, just in case you are tempted simply to head for the Axis of Eastbourne, embracing Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'