Stick to your tour operator, Minister tells Brits in Rhodes

By Lisa James
Home » Stick to your tour operator, Minister tells Brits in Rhodes

Foreign Office Minister Andrew Mitchell has advised British tourists in Rhodes to ‘stick very close to your tour company,’ adding: “They know what you should do.”

Mr Mitchell told news outlets on Monday morning that there are between 7,000 and 10,000 British tourists on the island and added the Government has deployed Foreign Office officials and staff from the British Red Cross to Rhodes airport.

The Minister appeared to play down the effects of wildfires in the southern part of the Greek island, which forced hundreds of British holidaymakers to flee from their hotels, saying only 10% of the island was affected.

However, when asked on Times Radio whether he would go to Rhodes at the moment, he replied: “Probably not.”

And, when asked why the UK Foreign Office had not advised against travel to Rhodes, Mr Mitchell said tour operators were ‘best placed to give guidance to say whether people’s holidays are going to be ruined’.

He was speaking as the first repatriation flights to Rhodes were due to arrive to bring home British holidaymakers who have had to evacuate their hotels.

It’s the biggest evacuation from wildfire that Greece has ever had to carry out, with tourist towns in the south east of Rhodes the worst affected, including Lindos, Lardos, Kiotari and Gennadi.

Mr Mitchell told Sky News there have been no evacuations from Corfu, despite evacuation orders on Sunday. However, TUI has told some passengers not to travel to the island.

EasyJet is operating two rescue flights today and one on Tuesday to Rhodes, in addition to its nine scheduled flights to the island, while the first TUI passengers returned to the UK overnight on three dedicated flights.

Jet2 has cancelled flights and holidays until 30 July and has put on three repatriation flights for Monday evening, from Manchester with 220 seats, Leeds Bradford, with 189 seats and Birmingham, with 189 seats.

Its first repatriation flight landed from Rhodes into Leeds Bradford late on Sunday evening, carrying 95 and Jet2holidays customers back to the UK. Customers were also provided with onward ground transportation.

The Greek Foreign Ministry has set up a helpdesk at Rhodes airport for people who have lost travel documents and the FCDO said it is ‘actively monitoring the fires in Rhodes’.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The FCDO has deployed a Rapid Deployment Team (RDT) of five FCDO staff and four British Red Cross responders to Rhodes to support British Nationals, whose safety is our top priority.

“They will be based at Rhodes International Airport to assist with travel documents and liaise with Greek authorities and travel operators on the ground.

“British nationals in Rhodes should contact their travel operator in the first instance for any queries regarding the rescheduling of flights and continue to check our updated travel advice for information.”

Operators have struggled to keep up with the fast-moving situation and travel companies have been criticised for not acting quickly enough. On Sunday, people arrived in Rhodes to find their hotel had been evacuated.

TUI issued a statement on Monday morning to say: “Our teams in Rhodes have been working tirelessly to support customers impacted by the wildfires in south-eastern parts of the island, with over 300 reps, drivers and service colleagues doing their utmost to help where the can, alongside the amazing local community and emergency services.

“We’re now working hard to get everybody home safely with our first passengers returning to the UK on three dedicated flights overnight and plans in place to get everyone affected back as soon as possible.

“We appreciate how distressing and difficult it’s been for those who have been evacuated and ask that they continue to follow the advice of the local authorities and keep in touch with the TUI reps who are present in all evacuation centres.  Our teams will be contacting customers with any updates as soon as they can.

“We have cancelled all outbound flights to Rhodes up to and including Tuesday, and passengers due to travel on these flights will receive full refunds.

“Passengers due to travel on Wednesday will be offered a fee free amend to another holiday or the option to cancel for a full refund. We are still operating flights to bring those customers currently on holiday elsewhere in Rhodes home as planned.

“The safety and well-being of our customers and teams remains our top priority.”

Jet2 said: “We understand how difficult this experience has been for many, and our entire focus is on looking after our customers. We have a significantly expanded presence in Rhodes, with a huge team of experienced colleagues providing all the support we can for our customers, whether that is in affected areas or at Rhodes Airport.

“We have also put on three repatriation flights to bring our customers home, which is on top of our scheduled programme of flights that will continue to operate from Rhodes to the UK this week.

“We are continuing to make decisions in the best interests of our customers, and we are keeping everything under constant review.”

Travel Gossip has asked easyJet for an update this morning.

See also: Jet2, easyJet and TUI cancel holidays to Rhodes

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