A British family has accused an easyJet pilot of using intimidation to get them to postpone their summer holiday plans while getting set to depart for Rhodes – despite the fact their hotel was still open.
The family’s mother has said that they had no trouble boarding the flight at London Gatwick Airport on Monday afternoon (July 24) since their hotel had informed them that it was unaffected by the wildfires and would be open as usual.
However, the woman described how the pilot issued a harsh warning over the intercom, informing passengers that visiting the island was a “terrible idea” owing to the flames and that the flight was operating on an “emergency basis”.
Consumer group Which? has characterized Rhodes as a ‘disaster zone’; however, only 20 per cent of this popular holiday destination is affected by wildfires.
Despite the ongoing fires, tens of thousands of tourists are currently enjoying their holidays on the island.
Read More: Thousands of British tourists flee to safety as wildfires spread
The woman, however, opted to disembark from the Airbus A320 flight EZY6541 after the pilot made what she described as a ‘dramatic’ announcement. She felt she had ‘no choice’ but to follow the pilot’s advice.
In contrast, easyJet disputes the woman’s account of the events. Employees at the airline’s head office reportedly believe that the pilot did not instruct customers to leave the aircraft, nor did they discourage passengers from travelling.
According to MailOnline, the pilot, who was flying UK tourists, advised them to depart before takeoff, saying that return flights were handled by the military.
Furthermore, the captain reminded the 37 passengers on board the 180-seat flight that they may rebook for another time, prompting eight passengers to do so.
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The woman, who asked to be kept anonymous, told MailOnline: “At first we were concerned so checked the Government website which was not giving any advice not to travel – it advised to contact the holiday provider or hotel.
“We did both – the hotel advised they were far away from the affected area and everything was perfectly safe.
“We then contacted our holiday provider who said easyJet were still flying out there and our hotel was over an hour away from the areas affected.
“With the Government advice, easyJet not cancelling the flight and the hotel being an hour away we felt we would fine to travel, the hotel and customers were posting social media photos which showed the hotel perfectly safe and people having normal holidays.”
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A third successive heat wave in Greece pushed temperatures back above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) Tuesday amid a string of evacuations from fires that have raged for days, whipped on by strong winds.
It’s still unclear how they started, although tinder-dry conditions and the summer heat mean the slightest spark can ignite a blaze that will spread fast if not quickly quenched. Several people have been arrested or fined across Greece in recent days for accidentally starting fires.
EU officials have blamed climate change for the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires across the European continent, noting that 2022 was the second-worst year for wildfire damage on record after 2017.
Greek police said a burned body believed to belong to a sheep farmer who had been missing since Sunday in southern Evia — a day before the fire broke out there — was found on Tuesday. It was unclear whether he had been killed by the fire or had died of other causes beforehand.
An easyJet spokesman told MailOnline last night: “Customers are advised to follow official FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) advice. For Rhodes this has not changed and our schedule continues to operate.
“As we understand that some customers travelling to the affected area may want to change their plans we have put in place a flexible policy for customers travelling to Rhodes in the coming days with the option to change their flights for free to another date or request a flight voucher for the value of their unused flights if they no longer wish to travel.”
The airline has also issued this update to passengers: “We know the situation for many currently in Rhodes is very difficult and we are doing all we can to help customers and provide assistance.
“easyJet has been operating repatriation flights from Rhodes to Gatwick in addition to our scheduled flights. Customers can check the Government travel advice at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/greece. The safety and wellbeing of our customers and crew is easyJet’s highest priority.”
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