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Flights to Rhodes may be axed

- by Dave Sewel

Cheap flights to Rhodes may be axed.

Tourism leaders are alarmed at reports that cheap flight airline Ryanair could axe out-of-season flights to the Greek holiday islands of Rhodes and Kos. Rumours of the suspension of late season cheap holiday flights to the Greek islands resorts have triggered turmoil in the tourism sector on both islands.

Ryanair has dismissed the rumours as 'speculation' but fears that the airline could drop cheap flights has prompted a political row on Rhodes where hopes have been running high of attracting more winter tourists.

Political opposition leaders blame the Greek government for not pumping in cash to subsidise the routes which form a key plank of a campaign by tourism leaders to extend the holiday season on Rhodes well into the winter months.

Rhodes hotels and tavernas have been encouraged to remain open to tempt more Rhodes holiday arrivals beyond the normal summer season.

Now political leaders warn that 'possible disruption of flight operations of Ryanair would undermine the efforts to extend the tourist season and convert Rhodes to an all-season tourist destination.'

Greek Tourism Minister Giorgios Nikitiadis is to visit Ryanair headquarters in Dublin later this month but he said the government had no contract with Ryanair to subsidise cheap holiday flights to Rhodes or Kos. "The government has not signed any contract with any low-budget airline," he insisted.

There has been a big rise in Rhodes and Kos holidays arrivals this year with tourist visitors up more than 30%. It follows a big advertising campaigns to attract more holidaymakers tot he islands and it comes as numbers of people taking Greek island holidays surged 10% overall in the first six months of 2011.

From November to April in 2009-2010, holiday arrivals on Rhodes flying Ryanair cheap holiday flights totalled about 8,000 and another 5,000 flew in for holidays on Kos using the cheap flight airline. Tourist leaders fear that cutting these flights this year would result in a severe blow to their all-year holiday campaign.