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Couple cancel £2k anniversary trip to Athens over health fears during Greece heatwave

A couple from Yorkshire have abandoned their £2,000 wedding anniversary trip to Athens due to the extreme heat and wildfires in Greece over concerns for their health.

Michael and Kerri Speed, both 60, from Castleford in West Yorkshire, had been planning their trip to Athens to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary since January – with plans to visit the major tourist attractions, such as the Acropolis.

They were meant to holiday between 20 July and 23 July, but watching temperatures escalate to 40°C and beyond, with wildfires raging west of the capital and warnings from the Greek Government, gave them “serious concerns”.

“I am on the wrong side of age to be getting heat stroke, I’m on the wrong side of 60 now and you’re thinking, do I really want to be sat in a hotel room, not being able to see the sites?” he told i.

Mr Speed said he has health problems which means he is often wheezing – inhalers and antibiotics haven’t helped – and he is concerned about smoke pollution from the wildfires.

“I just don’t want to risk going into that situation. It’s dangerous…it’s serious stuff, those temperatures.”

“There are all these fires going around the area, so you know smoke is going to end up in Athens,” he added.

The couple tried to change the dates of their flights through their travel and flight providers, Hays Travel and, but claim they were told it was not possible.

“It’s beyond belief they won’t move these flights, we were not after our money back, we just wanted to move it to another date so we were not in this eye-storm.”

Mr Speed is currently going through a separate travel insurance claim, but it has not been settled and he claims he has no idea whether he will be refunded.

The couple are among other Britons who are cancelling summer trips in an effort to avoid the blistering heatwave across southern Europe, amid reports of tourists collapsing at popular destinations like the Colosseum.

Spanish authorities revealed today that more than 300 people had died because of excessive heat in a three-week period between 21 June and 8 July, before these recent days of scorching temperatures.

A Jet2 spokesperson said: “We are aware of the heatwave which is currently affecting parts of Europe, however high temperatures are not uncommon at this time of the year in many of our popular destinations.

ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 19: Locals watch a wildfire near the village Vlyhada near Athens on July 19, 2023 in Athens, Greece. Several forest fires raged on the outskirts of the Greek capital amid a relentless heatwave, with the most violent fire in the forest of Dervenohoria 50 km north of Athens where 140 firefighters, six water bombers and a helicopter battled the flames during high winds. France and Italy have sent planes to support the operation. The Acropolis of Athens and other archaeological sites in Greece announced reduced opening hours due to the heatwave conditions. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
A wildfire near the village of Vlyhada near Athens (Photo: Milos Bicanski/Getty)

“As a tour operator and airline, we always follow the advice of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (UKFCDO) who are not advising against travel to any of our destinations.

“Our flight and holiday programmes are continuing to operate as normal, and bookings are subject to our normal terms and conditions.”

A Hayes Travel spokesperson said the company could not comment on the specifics of this situation.

The association of British Insurers said it would be unlikely travel insurance companies would refund customers money over the heatwave – especially if it falls under “disinclination to travel” and the traveler decided not to travel on account of the heatwave.

Insurers will follow safety updates from the UK Foreign Office, and customers may be able to make a claim if advice has changed since the trip was booked.

Louise Clark, ABI’s Policy Adviser, General Insurance, said: “Insurance can cover you if advice from the Government changes since you’ve booked your trip and it’s no longer considered safe to travel to the destination.”

Kevin Pratt, travel insurance expert at Forbes Advisor, told i many people would have sympathy with Mr Speed’s situation, but that insurance often doesn’t cover those who are worried about falling ill before they get to a destination.

However, a medical note from his doctor advising him not to travel somewhere due to his health may help when speaking to his insurance company.

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