'Fights break out' at Greek airport as crowds of British holidaymakers fill terminal

·4-min read
Rhodes airport crowds - David Vassallo
Rhodes airport crowds - David Vassallo

Holidaymakers returning to the UK from the Greek island of Rhodes have described how the airport descended into “chaos” as it failed to cope with the volume of travellers.

Rhodes International Airport was overwhelmed yesterday, stranding passengers for hours with no air-conditioning to combat the high temperature and no room for social distancing. Witnesses on the ground reported there were few members of staff to control the situation.

Many were left “visibly distressed”, according to reports, while others said "tempers were flaring" and "fights" broke out as people tried to battle their way through the crowds.

Further disruption came when five boarding calls were announced at once, said one British traveller. Social media has been flooded with angry messages from those caught in the crush.

With so little choice for restriction-free holiday destinations and the half-term break now underway, there is concern that there will be more scenes like this. Travellers from England are currently only able to visit nine countries or island groups without needing to quarantine on return, Rhodes being among them.

One passenger who was travelling with her family told Telegraph Travel: “We got an email from Jet2 warning us to get to the airport two hours early as there would likely be congestion. When we arrived it was stuffed full of people. The queue for passport control ran the entire length of the terminal and doubled back on itself. It would have taken at least two, if not three, hours to clear. There were only two agents manning the desk and no support staff, no crowd control. It was chaos.

“Tempers were flaring, some were trying to sneak into the line nearer the front, others were just barging in. Our flight was delayed because a third of the passengers couldn't make it through in time.

“It's the Government's fault for its quarantine policy; it's inevitable when there are so few places left to go on holiday, that companies will funnel everyone into these tiny regions that can't cope.”

Jet2 has been approached for comment. Earlier this month the airline announced that it was planning to increase its capacity to Rhodes from early November.

David Vassallo, 32, was flying back to Newcastle after a 10-day break with his fiancée. He told Telegraph Travel that when the pair arrived at the airport they had to walk through one terminal to another to join a queue “which had snaked itself several times over” and that there were “no barriers or any staff controlling the queue.”

The “worst of the carnage” happened after travellers had gone through security, he said, where “it was impossible to practise social distancing in the queue and there were no staff around to enforce this or direct passengers”.

He said: “The experience made us feel both anxious and disappointed as we felt the safety measures on our outbound flight and at our hotel were excellent only to be let down at the end. Some of the other passengers were visibly distressed which was quite upsetting to see and the airport staff either weren't visible or didn't seem to care [...] scheduling that many flights to depart at the same time is a bad idea even in a non-pandemic situation but to do it now is just madness.

In a statement, travel operator Tui said: “We’re sorry for the disruption that our customers have experienced at Rhodes airport today. We did inform customers in advance that the airport was going to be busy due to the increased volume of flights by a number of airlines, and they were to proceed to passport control as soon as they had checked in. We would like to thank them for their patience and understanding.”

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