Symi Travel News

Latest Travel News for Visitors to Symi by Andy Ward

Symi Visitor Travel blog

More on Kos, Air Berlin, and 2018 flights

The Dodekanisos Seaways ferries serving Kos have now returned to their normal stopping place as even more of the earthquake damage has been repaired. This puts them together with Blue Star by the castle once again. The ferries to Turkey are still leaving from the opposite side of the harbour, by the Kosta Palace Hotel and the electricity company offices. for the time being.

At Air Berlin, however, things are getting worse. Now all their long haul flights from Berlin TXL are being cancelled over the course of this month, as the bankruptcy administrator stops loss-making services. If you booked before 15 August, good luck with getting your money back, too. Join the queue with the other creditors. If you booked after that, the money you paid has been kept separate and you will be refunded. If you paid by credit card before 15 August, in many (but not all) countries you can lodge a claim with the credit card issuer instead.

People do keep asking when airlines like easyJet and Ryanair will put summer 2018 flights on sale. The answer is, probably later this month. They too are waiting to see what happens at Air Berlin and Alitalia, as easyJet is actually negotiating to buy part of Air Berlin, and Ryanair most of Alitalia. Will they move planes and crews to bases in Germany or Italy to seize opportunities, or will their bids be successful so they actually inherit the planes and crews along with the routes they’re already flying on?

Blue Star changes

Blue Star were due to do one of their regular ship-swaps this week, on Tuesday. The Blue Star Paros has been serving Symi since late June, but was due to change places in Piraeus with the Blue Star Patmos. This has been postponed and the Blue Star Paros will now continue until further notice.

For those who have booked in advance and actually collected the tickets (not just having an on-line booking confirmation) you should visit a Blue Star agent and exchange them for new tickets at no charge. If you have an on-line booking confirmation it doesn’t matter as you will be given the right tickets when you show up at the ticket office before travelling. The reason for this is that Greek law requires each passenger to be issued with a ticket stating the name of the ferry they will be travelling on.

Month end update-August

The Air Berlin saga rolls onwards without any real resolution. Yesterday one of their planes was impounded by Gothenburg Airport because landing fees were in arrears, a payment was made, and the plane eventually took off. Several transatlantic flights, which were summer-only anyway, will finish several weeks early, the announcement being timed to avoid any compensation payments under EC261/2004, as more than 2 weeks notice has been given. Several airlines are hovering round the carcass and making statements that they will make an offer to purchase all or part of the airline, but nobody actually has put in an offer.

I can only advise not to book any Air Berlin flight at the moment as there’s no guarantee that it won’t be cancelled, leaving you with a refund at a time when other flight prices have increased, but nothing else. I’m also increasingly worried about the leisure flight subsidiary Niki, which serves Rhodes and Kos. Initially we were assured it was profitable and would simply continue. Now it seems the actual ownership of Niki is uncertain and may be the subject of litigation, so I’d avoid them as well if it isn’t already too late.

Down at sea level, Monday 4 September sees the end of the high-season ferry timetable, and from Wednesday 6 September Blue Star will return to just Wednesday and Friday calls at Symi, using the Blue Star Patmos (or maybe not the Patmos immediately, since she ran aground last night at Ios and has suffered some hull damage. Five tugs are trying to shift her, and then no doubt she’ll need a spell in drydock for repairs).

September sees few changes on Dodekanisos Seaways until 24 September, which is the last sailing of the year from Samos. Symi is largely unaffected, as there are only one sailing each way which serves both Symi and Samos. In fact in the last week of September there will be a couple of extra Rhodes-Symi-Kos -Kalymnos-Leros-Lipsi-Patmos and return sailings using the ship that would have served Samos.

2017 Bankrupt Airlines

Today Air Berlin has started bankuptcy proceedings. This doesn’t mean that it will stop flying instantly. The German government has guaranteed a bridging loan to keep operations going until November, during which time the business is likely to be broken up and sold in different chunks to various buyers.

Despite this, in 2016 and earlier the news would have had a serious impact on people flying from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria to Rhodes and Kos. But this year Air Berlin moved its summer sun flights into its Austrian subsidiary “Niki” and de-merged Niki from the main airline. Niki is not insolvent and is expected to carry on as usual.

Then there’s Alitalia – well when I talk about bankrupt airlines, there’s always Alitalia, which has had more bail-outs than a leaky boat. They are also on government life support until the end of the tourist season. A different government of course, but the same idea. Bidders have been invited to purchase the airline, and some offers have been received. The closing date for this hasn’t been reached yet.

My advice: avoid both Air Berlin and Alitalia until things become clearer, and do not book flights with them past late October unless you have a strong appetite for risk or are insured against airline failure.

Kos Port news

As of today (Sunday August 13) sufficient work has been done to repair the quayside and mooring points at Kos Town port for Blue Star Ferries to return to the main port area by the castle, and they will stop serving Kefalos. The announcement of the first phase of repairs being completed wasn’t clear as to what is happening today to the Dodekanisos Seaways hydrofoils, the ferries to/from Turkey, and other small inter-island ferries. All of these have continued to use Kos Town but moored at different points within the port area to those normally used.

For example, Dodekanisos Seaways have been temporarily using what is still known as the Hydrofoil Pier, though there have been no hydrofoils to use it for some years. This is located south of the castle, off the main shore-front road, but before you reach the main marina. The disadvantage of it is that it was only built for passenger vessels, there’s no way to load anything bigger than a motorbike onto a ferry there. As the Dodekanisos Express used the Hydrofoil Pier again this morning, we can assume that there isn’t enough space in the rebuilt area to handle their ferries as well as Blue Star’s.

The ferries to/from Turkey have been temporarily using a location on the north side of the harbour, by the Kosta Palace Hotel and the electricity company offices, and still are today.