A car, damaged in the overnight earthquake
A car, damaged in the overnight earthquake

Earthquake in Kos and southwest Turkey: your rights

After two tourists were killed in the earthquake that struck the Greek island of Kos and the coast of Turkey, what are the options for travellers?

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 21 July 2017 21:49
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Q How many British holidaymakers are on Kos and in the Bodrum area at present?

Based on the flight schedules from the UK to the Greek island and the Turkish resort, I estimate there are 8,000-10,000 British holidaymakers on Kos and 6,000-8,000 in Bodrum; there are also some longer-term UK expatriate residents, who number in the hundreds.

Q What is happening to them?

Most of them are continuing their holidays as normal, or, at least, as best as they can given that many spent most of the night of the event outdoors to avoid being at risk from structural damage caused by another earthquake or aftershocks.

The damage in Kos seems much more significant than on the Turkish side of the water. Abta, the travel association, says: “Tour operators are working alongside the local authorities to assess the damage, and will make arrangements to move customers should structural damage be found to their accommodation.”

Older structures in the eastern part of the island have been much more affected than the more recently built hotels in the west.

Some holidaymakers, particularly those staying around the Kos Town area, have told The Independent that tour operators have failed to respond adequately to the disaster. There is an obligation on the part of tour operators to provide assistance and find a safe place for their holidaymakers to stay.

Independent travellers will have to make their own arrangements; the Foreign Office is telling British tourists to “follow the advice of the local authorities”.

Q Can people on a package holiday come home early?

The tests are: can the tour operator deliver the remainder of the holiday safely and as booked, and does the Foreign Office say that it is safe to travel?

The answers to both appear to be “Yes”.

It is possible that British holidaymakers who were injured may be able to return home ahead of schedule. But in general anyone choosing to leave early will have to pay for a new flight.

CCTV footage shows moment earthquake hit Turkey

Q Is the airport open?

Yes, there was disruption at Kos for several hours early on Friday morning, but the airport soon re-opened. The first flights from the UK since the earthquake, from Heathrow, Gatwick and Glasgow, are scheduled to operate as normal now and, indeed, there are seats available for anyone who wants to fly to the island. The big tour operators, Thomson and Thomas Cook, are selling package holidays to Kos and southwestern Turkey for next week.

A spokesperson for easyJet said: “Our schedule to and from Turkey and the Greek Islands is not affected and will operate as planned.

“There are three flights to Kos and seven flights to Bodrum scheduled to operate over the weekend.

“We are communicating with any passengers travelling to the Bodrum and Kos over the next few days and recommend they check easyJet’s flight tracker before travelling to the airport.”

Q What if I no longer want to go there?

Thomson says: “If customers who are due to travel to Kos this weekend wish to amend or cancel their holiday without incurring any amendment fees customers can contact our team on 0203 636 1997 or 0800 009 3836 to discuss their options.”

It adds: “We can confirm that holidaymakers in Turkey are continuing their holidays and all flights will be operating as normal.”

Other tour operators say they have not had people calling to ask to cancel the trip, but those in the tourist industry in Kos – and Turkey – are concerned that a natural disaster like this at the start of the main tourist season will harm business for the rest of the summer.

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