JET2 and other major UK airlines have been forced to cancel trips to a popular tourist hotspot as Britons flee massive wildfires.
Huge fires have forced up to 30,000 locals and tourists to evacuate parts of Rhodes, Greece.
Several planes were due to depart from East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted airports with passengers on board to start their holiday.
Due to the forest fires, the airline has now canceled flights and travel to Rhodes until next Sunday.
However, Jet2 said it would fly out some aircraft with no passengers on board to be able to bring customers back to the UK.
Affected customers will receive a full refund and the option to rebook, the airline said.
Jet2 said in a statement: “The situation in Rhodes continues to evolve rapidly.”
“We continue to ask customers in the affected areas to follow the advice of local authorities as well as staff at their hotels and we will be in touch with customers as soon as possible.”
The airline had previously stated: “We will be contacting affected customers to update them and let them know they will receive a full refund and the option to rebook.”
“We will be flying these five aircraft to Rhodes with no passengers on board so we can take customers back to the UK on their scheduled flight.”
The blazes have been burning on the island for almost a week as Greece has been hit by a prolonged bout of extreme heat that has made it difficult to contain the blaze.
Firefighters are in a race against time to stop the fire from spreading further as winds of 33 km/h are forecast for tomorrow.
This is because airline TUI has also canceled all travel to the Greek island up to and including Tuesday 25 July.
TUI said in a statement: “The situation in the southern part of Rhodes remains unstable and challenging.”
“For this reason, and taking into account the impact on the affected local communities, TUI has decided to cancel all flights and booked trips to Rhodes for departures up to and including Tuesday 25 July.”
Greek authorities say it is the largest evacuation mission the country has ever seen as rescue workers escort people to safety by land and sea.
Extraordinary scenes from Rhodes show columns of people carrying their luggage on the run.
Since the fire broke out in a mountainous area on Tuesday, it has scorched large swathes of forest and also burned down buildings.
The fire spread to at least three hotels in the coastal town of Kiotari, which caught fire on Saturday.
British tourists have described being caught up in the “horrific” ordeal as the Foreign Office referred British nationals to a crisis management unit set up by the Greek authorities.
British embassy officials in Athens on Saturday night urged Britons to leave the area.
And the fight is expected to get worse today as more and more whipping winds sweep across the island and fuel the flames.
“The wind is expected to pick up between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m., without ruling out the possibility that it might come earlier,” said fire department spokesman Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis.
Authorities have warned the battle to contain the blazes, raging amid the peak tourism season on the busy island of Rhodes, will last several days.
Escaping Britons have spent the night in makeshift camps across the island – young children are forced to sleep on mattresses in classrooms and gymnasiums.
Mum-of-three Helen Tonks, from Manchester, flew to Rhodes on Saturday night with her three daughters and husband ahead of a two-week break in the sun.
She told The Sun: “There was no communication at all.
“We came here and learned that our hotel was among the evacuees.
“They put us on a bus and took us to a school in Rhodes Old Town.
“There are hundreds of us here. We were placed in makeshift dormitories in the classrooms.”
“Dozens are sleeping on mattresses on the basketball court at the gym.”
Weather experts have declared 2023 the El Niño year – a natural phenomenon that occurs cyclically and causes fluctuations in the global climate.
The United Nations World Meteorological Organization said temperatures are set to rise around the world and that this effect is likely to continue for the rest of the year.
And despite the heat this summer, Europe’s record temperature of 48.8°C – measured in Sardinia, Sicily in 2021 – has not been reached and is currently not expected to be exceeded.