EasyJet pilot warns passengers on flight to Rhodes to get off plane moments before take-off

A fire fighting aircraft drops water over a wildfire close to village of Vati  in the southern part of the Greek island of Rhodes, about 70 km southwest of the capital city on July 25, 2023. Some 30,000 people fled the flames on Rhodes at the weekend, the country's largest-ever wildfire evacuation as the prime minister warned that the heat-battered nation was
A fire fighting aircraft drops water over a wildfire close to the village of Vati in the southern part of the Greek island of Rhodes on Tuesday. (AFP via Getty Images)

An easyJet pilot warned passengers to get off a plane bound for Rhodes seconds before take-off, it has been reported.

About 19,000 people have been evacuated on the Greek island because of wildfires - with many forced to sleep at the airport - and a further 2,500 on Corfu.

There were an estimated 10,000 British tourists on Rhodes before evacuations began, where temperatures have hovered above the 35C mark.

Follow the latest live coverage of the Greek wildfires here

The easyJet pilot gave people on board the flight from London Gatwick one last chance to disembark before heading for Rhodes, the BBC said.

Its reporter, Gwyn Loader, was on board the flight on Monday, which was less than a quarter full.

He said there were only 37 passengers on the plane, which had a capacity of 180.

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An Easyjet Airbus aircraft taxis close to the northern runway at Gatwick Airport in Crawley, Britain, August 25, 2021.  REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
An easyJet plane on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport. (File photo: Reuters)

The BBC said the pilot made an announcement before take-off, giving passengers one last chance to get off the plane and rebook their flights for another time.

Loader said eight people took up the offer and got off the flight, including one boy who was crying.

The pilot said over the tannoy: “Travelling to Rhodes for a holiday at the moment is a terrible idea."

He pointed out that some people were "stranded and sleeping at the airport".

Watch: Foreign Office advice on Rhodes is 'stick close to your tour company'

The pilot said: "As far as I’m concerned, this flight is being operated on an emergency basis. If you want to get off flight, you are welcome to do so.

"I don’t know in what capacity you are travelling, but if you are travelling for leisure, my sincere recommendation is it’s a bad idea.”

While some British airlines and tour operators have cancelled flights in and out of Rhodes, others, such as easyJet and Ryanair, are operating as normal.

The pilot's warning came despite Greek officials saying Rhodes and Corfu are safe and remain open for business to tourists.

dpatop - 25 July 2023, Greece, Vati: Near the village of Vati in the south of the island of Rhodes, a forest is in flames. Emergency forces in constant use, evacuated tourists and canceled flights to the vacation island of Rhodes: Greece on Monday continued to fight the consequences of severe forest fires. In the southeast of Rhodes, despite massive use of firefighting aircraft and helicopters, a major fire was still out of control. Photo: Christoph Reichwein/dpa (Photo by Christoph Reichwein/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A forest in flames near the village of Vati in the south of the island of Rhodes, Greece. (Getty Images)

The UK government has stopped short of advising Britons not to travel to the two islands, saying: "If you are planning to travel to any areas affected by wildfires, please check with your travel operator or hotel prior to travel that the area you plan to visit."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday: “My paramount priority is the safety of British nationals.

“The most important thing is people remain in touch with their tour operators, there are lots of flights going back and forth to be able to bring people home, and if people are in touch with their tour operators they will get the information that they need.”

On Tuesday, housing secretary Michael Gove insisted Greece is safe for holidaymakers.

He denied to Times Radio that the Foreign Office has taken too relaxed an approach and said he plans to go on holiday in just over a week to the Greek island of Evia, which was also partially affected because of wildfires.

On Monday, local Greek officials claimed the fires in Corfu were started by arsonists.

Watch: British tourists describe return from Rhodes