Greek wildfires: for holidaymakers in Greece, or soon to go, what are the options?

‘Anyone already in the area and who wants to return home, should in the first instance speak to their tour operator or air carrier,’ says the Association of British Insurers

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 25 July 2018 10:49
Huge fire sweeps through holiday resorts near Athens, as death toll rises to 24

As the death toll from the terrible wildfires in Greece increases, British holidaymakers who are in the region – or soon to travel there – have contacted The Independent to ask about their options. These are the key questions and answers.

Q Which areas are worst affected?

Two huge wildfires have been blazing, with a tragic loss of life. The most serious is north of Rafina, a port on the coast east of Athens – and close to the international airport, though flights do not appear to have been affected.

The other is in the area around Kineta, west of the capital, on the main road and rail routes to Corinth and the Peloponnese.

A spokesman for ABTA, the travel association, said: “This area isn’t a main destination for UK tourists. People on holiday in the region are advised to monitor news reports and follow any advice or instructions issued by the local authorities, their travel company or their accommodation provider.

“Anyone due to travel imminently to the areas affected should speak to their travel company or accommodation provider.”

Q What is the Foreign Office advice?

On Tuesday morning, the advice was updated to say: “There have been wildfires in a number of areas in southern Greece, including close to Athens. They have been confined to limited areas, but within those the impact has been high, with significant loss of life.

“Most visits to Greece, including to Athens, are unaffected. You should keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of the Greek authorities in affected areas.

“If you’ve been affected by the wildfires and need consular assistance, you can call the British Embassy in Athens on +30 210 7272 600. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in Greece, call the FCO on 020 7008 1500.”

Q I am booked to fly to Athens on Saturday. What are my options?

If you have a flight-only deal, and the airline can get you to Athens – which evidently continues to be the case – there is no legal obligation to offer alternatives.

However, if you are flying on easyJet, you have a range of options. The airline’s flights are operating as normal. But easyJet is offering anyone booked to travel to Athens in the next seven days the option to transfer for free to another date or another route within the next three months, or alternatively request a flight voucher to the value of their unused flights.

“Passengers wishing to do so are advised to call easyJet Customer Services team on 0330 365 5000,” says the airline.

Q I am in Athens right now but want to come home. What are my options?

If you are on British Airways, the airline says: “​Following the tragic wildfires in Greece, we are offering a flexible rebooking policy for customers wanting to return home early.

“Our flights are operating as planned, however we would encourage any customers with concerns about their bookings to contact us or their travel agent.”​

Other carriers may also offer the option to come home early, on a case-by-case basis and subject to availability. But as the Foreign Office is not warning against travel, there is no obligation for airlines to vary their normal terms.

Q I am on an organised archaeological tour that is travelling from Athens to the Peloponnese. What are my options?

The wildfire west of Athens may make access to the region difficult. If the tour operator cannot get you to the intended destinations, you may be able to claim compensation. But with other travel possibilities, such as travelling by ferry from Athens’ port, Piraeus, to the Peloponnese, the chances are the trip can proceed more or less as intended.

Q I have a package holiday booked to a Greek island. Can I cancel or change destination to avoid the risk of further wildfires?

Probably not. A spokesperson for TUI, the UK’s largest holiday company, told The Independent: “Like all airlines and holiday companies we follow the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice for all destinations we operate to.

“The FCO advice remains unchanged for travel to Greece and as such normal booking conditions apply. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Chris Wright, managing director of Sunvil, said: “At the moment none of our destinations are affected however we are in constant contact with our resort offices in case the situation changes.

“We are constantly monitoring the situation and should any of the areas with guests be affected then we make changes to the programme accordingly, either moving guests to alternative locations or as a last resort bringing them home.

“After operating in Greece for over 48 years, our teams on the ground are used to dealing a variety of situations ensuring guests comfort and safety at all times.”

Q Will my travel insurance cover me if I decide to cancel?

Not unless the Foreign Office warns against travel to your chosen location. A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers said: “If people wish to make alternative travel plans, then they can usually transfer travel insurance to cover the new arrangements.

“Anyone already in the area and who wants to return home, should in the first instance speak to their tour operator or air carrier.”

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