Symi Visitor Accommodation Travel Blog

Flights, ferries, and travel tips to help visitors to the Greek island of Symi

Symi Greece Travel Blog

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Panormitis Festival ferries

Dodekanisos Seaways have now released their sailings for the period 1 to 12 November. This is when the great festival and religious pilgrimage to Panormitis Monastery happens each year. All three ferries operate an intensive service but quite often they call only at Panormitis rather than the usual Yialos. That’s the destination for most people, at this time after all. However if you do want to get to/from Yialos or Chorio,it mean using the bus,a taxi, or getting a lift to cross the island.
The timetable is complex and rather than try and list it, here’s a link to Dodekanisos Seaways website. When you use it, don’t put in the place names. If you do, you may not see all the sailings, since some use only Yialos (Symi) and others use only Panormitis. Very few use both.
We still don’t know what Blue Star will be doing after 31 October. This is due to the continuing absence of the Blue Star Patmos, still under repair outside Piraeus, which must be seriously complicating the winter timetable planning.

Those who remember the confusion last year about which ships could carry vehicles to and from Symi during the festival will at least be pleased that the Panagia Skiadeni is functioning as a passenger and vehicle ferry this time,and sailing at least daily to/from Rhodes.

Turkish ferries-part 2

Update 14th October. Situation resolved,normal service expected soon

So today, 13 October, no Turkish boats have so far left Marmaris or Fethiye for Rhodes. The King Saron has left Rhodes on a day excursion for Marmaris though, but of course she’s Greek registered so not affected by any ban.

Confusingly, several Turkish-registered ferries/excursion boats have departed Bodrum for Kos this morning. So even the Turkish officials on the ground don’t know what they’re supposed to do. No wonder passengers are puzzled.

Then there’s the hydrofoil Flying Poseidon which is en route from Fethiye to Rhodes. MarineTraffic.com tells me she’s registered in Togo, of all places. So the ‘flag of convenience’ trick seems  to be a possible workround for other ships next season.

 

 

Turkish ferries

Update – ferry crisis now resolved after talks at ministerial level between Greece and Turkey.

Followers of international news will know that President Erdogan of Turkey recently issued a decree banning Turkish-registered passenger vessels from sailing to Greece. There has been a great deal of confusion about what exactly is meant, which ships are covered, when the ban takes effect, and why he thinks it is necessary.

It is claimed to be in retaliation for Greek seizures of 11 smallish commercial yachts for breaches of international regulations. The Turkish ban took effect on 25 September for commercial yachts (chartered yachts and gulets). It is supposed to start today (12 October) for larger cruise ships and passenger ferries. However, Turkish registered ferries have arrived today in both Rhodes and Kos, so maybe the implementation date is for sailings leaving after 12 October rather than on that date, or implementation has been suspended, or the shipping operators are ignoring the ban. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

There’s not been a ban on Greek-registered passenger ships sailing to Turkey, (which would be against international law), or on people sailing on Turkish registered yachts they own themselves.

But I’d certainly avoid planning any kind of holiday that involves crossing between Turkey and Greece by sea for next year until things get clearer.

This comes in addition to the current spat between Turkey and the USA which involves the suspension of issuing visas to each other’s citizens. Visas already issued will be honoured.

 

October ferries and beyond

Again replacing what has been lost, here is the combined ferry timetable for the rest of this month. We’re waiting for early November (Panormitis Festival) times, and for Blue Star’s complete winter programme. No doubt Blue Star want a definite return to service date for the Blue Star Patmos so they can post a timetable without having to change ferries after bookings have already been made.

Dodekanisos Seaways however have released times from 12 November 2017  up to 31 March 2018. Predictably this is a 4 sailings a week service for Symi, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, with a morning departure northbound from Rhodes, returning in the late afternoon.

Getting to Symi 2018 – from the United Kingdom and Ireland

Here’s the UK 2018 flights list, updating the one lost with the old blog. As it happens it would need to be updated anyway due to the loss of the Monarch flights from Manchester, Birmingham, and Gatwick to Rhodes, and the British Airways flights from Heathrow to Kos. (Don’t panic – British Airways have just found a more lucrative service to use their plane on, the other routes are fine). I’ve also removed the lines for Ryanair from Liverpool to Rhodes as there’s still no sign of that route going on sale.

I’d expect some additional flights at some point to partly replace the capacity lost with Monarch, but which airline and what timings are unknown so far.

If it’s October there are airline troubles

No less than four airlines have serious problems at the moment, and all of them serve Rhodes in one way or another.

Air Berlin

Air Berlin is in administration, but still flying (just). Attempts are being made to sell off various bits.

Currently the airline itself is expected to stop after the last planes return home on 28 October, and this will include the subsidiaries Niki, Belair, and LGW. Long haul flights from Berlin have already stopped for good, and those from Dusseldorf are likely to end next week. If you booked a ticket before mid-August, and your flight is cancelled, yo, u simply take your place in a long queue of other creditors. If you bought the ticket from mid-August onwards, that money is ringfenced and you will receive a full refund if your flight doesn’t go.

The Dusseldorf shorthaul operation may go to Lufthansa, and the Berlin one to easyJet, but this isn’t yet certain.

Belair is likely gone for good, Niki may pass to TUIfly. More news as it arrives.

Alitalia

Alitalia is still flying, and the Italian government is trying desperately to keep it that way. The airline is for sale, several of their competitors have expressed an interest, looked at the books, and hurriedly backed off. The funding runs out in November, so flights to and from Rhodes will have ended for the season by then. Do not buy any flights for 2018 until more is known.

Both of these airlines were effectively controlled and propped up by Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi, but vast losses have forced the departure of the management who thought buying into Europe was a good idea, and they have decided to stop throwing good money after bad.

Monarch

Monarch went into administration on Monday 2 October, and all flying has stopped. The UK Civil Aviation Authority has organised a repatriation operation and everyone with Monarch tickets from Rhodes for flights departing there up to 15 October will be brought to the UK on the booked day and at approximately the same time. So far flights have been operated from Rhodes by Titan Airways (UK), Wamos Air (Spain), Air Transat (Canada), and Qatar Airways (under contract to British Airways and using BA flight numbers).

After the weekend it all depends on how you booked.

Still in Greece?

People who booked through Monarch Holidays who are already in Greece and due to return after 15 October will be rebooked on alternative flights up to the end of October. People who booked flight only with Monarch Airlines before 16 December 2016 are covered by ATOL and will also be brought home. If you booked flight only after that date, you’re on your own once the repatriation flights stop – use travel insurance if yours covers this situation, or contact whoever issued the card you used to pay – they may be able to refund you. If you’re on a package holiday with some other tour operator but using Monarch flights, it is up to the tour operator to rebook you on other flights.

Not left the UK yet?

Monarch Holidays customers whose outbound flights from the UK haven’t/will not operate will get refunded by ATOL. This also applies to the small number of flight only customers who booked their tickets before 16 December 2016. Customers of other package holiday companies whose holiday included Monarch flights will either get rebooked on alternative flights, or refunded. Flight only customers are otherwise on their own  and need to look to insurance or card issuers for refunds.

Ryanair

Not about to go bust, immensely profitable. But large numbers of flights have been cancelled due to crew shortage, and this will continue through the winter. The public statements of the company are misleading, and journalists have tended to swallow them whole. In fact a serious number of pilots have resigned and gone to other airlines, including a high proportion of the most experienced ones who were the trainers and assessors for new entrants. As a result the process of getting replacements has slowed drastically. Then there’s the holiday issue – pilots are entitled to holidays like most people, only theirs are embodied in regulations rather than personal contracts, because nobody wants a pilot who hasn’t had a break for 12 months in charge of their flight, or flying over their house. There’s a rule right across Europe that the holiday year for pilots runs from January to December, except for Ryanair who used April to March. They were told by the authorities that they had to follow the standard two years ago, starting in 2018. As a result all the holiday entitlement for April to December 2017 has to be taken this year. They knew this would happen, but did absolutely nothing about it. Now there’s a crisis, and large numbers of flights are cancelled. As Ryanair is still in business, people do get refunded or rebooked, and short notice cancellations get EC261 compensation.

Rhodes isn’t affected by this. Services to Northern Europe up to the end of October have not been cancelled, and the domestic flights to Athens are running as advertised all winter. But if you were flying to/from other Greek airports you may well have problems – Chania seems particularly hard hit.

So some lessons from all this –

  1. Check the airline out before you book.
  2. Have airline failure insurance or pay by credit card – that way you don’t lose out.
  3. Avoid booking flight-only though on-line travel agencies. When things go wrong, as we’ve just seen, you can’t get hold of anybody to help you.

Welcome Back

After several problems, without much support, I’ve had to delete the old blog and start again. The stuff like ferry timetables, flight listings and so on is saved and can be reloaded, but the text is gone forever. Look for lots of catchup postings over the next few days.

Andy