A passenger on an easyJet flight leaving Greece was stuck in Rhodes International Airport for almost 36 hours last weekend.
Ben, 29, was supposed to leave on Flight 8232 from Rhodes to London Gatwick on Saturday evening, but he didn’t leave the airport until early Monday morning.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Express US, Ben (who did not want to release his last name) said: “We just felt abandoned. I felt like a caged animal.”
Ben, who was on vacation in Rhodes with his partner, was staying in Rhodes Old Town when they were evacuated due to the wildfires on the island.
Greek authorities said 19,000 people were evacuated from several locations on Rhodes as wildfires burned for several days. The Ministry of Climate Change and Civil Protection said it was “the largest evacuation from a wildfire in the country”.
A number of tourists were forced to fly back home from Rhodes, including Ben and his partner.
But when they got to the airport, they found their flight was continuously delayed for almost two days.
Although the passengers on the flight received €4.50 vouchers from the airport staff, he claims they have yet to receive anything from easyJet, which operated the return journey.
Ben said: “There was a complete lack of any communication from easyJet to their passengers. At no point did we know what was happening.”
EasyJet reportedly said the flight was delayed due to the wildfires in Greece, but Ben said that other flights operated by the airline were still departing from the airport.
“I want to know how this can be related to wildfires even though there were multiple other departures while we were in the airport,” he said.
The passengers on the flight were given no sleeping accommodations, and Ben said most of them slept on the airport floor Saturday night.
He said: “Just to have some sort of bedding arranged for us would have been useful. Myself personally, I got 30 minutes of sleep on that Saturday evening, and then a 30 minute sleep on that Sunday evening.”
Ben also said there was little medical assistance or food availability: “People with food requirements and allergies, some of which with celiac disease, weren’t able to eat because it would have triggered serious reactions.”
Some passengers were also trying to access their luggage, which contained vital medicine for their conditions, but they couldn’t.
“It was 24-hour confinement. We weren’t allowed outside,” Ben said.
“When you’re stressed and tired and a bit confused and angry, sometimes just getting outside and having fresh air can actually help a lot. I just felt relieved of all human rights.”
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Ben added that there were several families, elderly people, and disabled people waiting – and they received no special assistance.
Eventually, there was a flight departing Rhodes to London Gatwick on Sunday afternoon, but Ben said passengers on that plane were stuck on the runway for over three hours, with no air conditioning, no water, and no food, as all the food had perished.
Ben said temperatures were confirmed by the cockpit to be 43C (109F). While that flight eventually departed, there were still 27 passengers stranded from the original flight, including Ben and his partner.
Waiting with them was a couple on their honeymoon, who had to get evacuated from a five-star resort, and a family with a young child who had to walk across the beach for four hours in the heat.
“The last thing they needed was going through all that and then getting treated so poorly. It seemed like easyJet didn’t even know we were there,” Ben said.
Finally, early Monday morning, the remaining passengers were told there was an incoming flight leaving for London Gatwick, operated by TUI Airways.
Ben said: “The pilot gave us full compassion and care, and they handed out free food and water. They treated us like human beings.”
In an exclusive statement to Daily Express US, easyJet said: “We are very sorry to hear of these customers’ experience following the overnight delay of their flight from Rhodes to London Gatwick on Saturday.
“Whilst we did our best to source accommodation, due to limited availability we are aware that some customers stayed in the airport. We understand the difficulties this caused and are very sorry for this.
“We are in touch with these customers to apologize for their experience, reimburse their expenses and provide the compensation those unable to fly are due.”
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