What is a ‘Medicane’ – and how might it affect flights in Europe this weekend?


Air travellers in southern Europe this weekend face the possibility of flight delays and cancellations as a powerful storm, or ‘medicane’, gathers momentum in the Mediterranean.

What is a Medicane?

Medicanes are rare weather phenomena observed in the Mediterranean Sea. They are often referred to as Mediterranean tropical-like cyclones or Mediterranean hurricanes.

Most systems remain at or below the intensity of a tropical storm, but some have been recorded reaching the strength of a Category One hurricane.

Tropical and subtropical cyclones don’t happen often in the Mediterranean. Records suggest there have been around 100 since the Forties.

Satellite images of Numa, a Medicane that hit Italy and Greece in 2017

Satellite images of Numa, a Medicane that hit Italy and Greece in 2017

What’s happening?

Toppled trees and power outages have already been reported in parts of Greece including Athens; some ferry services have been cancelled and schools closed.

The national weather service, EMY, said conditions were expected to worsen on Friday, affecting the island of Crete, the Cyclades island group (which includes Santorini) and parts of the southern and western mainland.

Eurocontrol, the Brussels-based organisation that coordinates flights over Europe, warned pilots to expect heavy rain and winds of up to 80mph.

Which areas are likely to be affected?

The storm’s trajectory is uncertain at the moment, but Eurocontrol says it is expected to track towards the Aegean Islands on Saturday and then southwest Turkey on Sunday, weakening as it moves inland.

Will flights be affected?

Eurocontrol is warning pilots to prepare for the possibility of being rerouted this weekend. “Airspace users are advised to load fuel accordingly,” it said. Contact your airline to find out if your flight has been affected.  

What about ferry services?

The storm has caused disruption to ferry services in the worst hit areas and further disruption is likely. Contact your ferry company to see if your sailing has been affected.   

Ferry services have been affected with more disruption expected

Ferry services have been affected with more disruption expected


What are my rights if my flight is affected?

EU regulations – which apply to anyone flying to or from an EU, Swiss, Norwegian or Icelandic airport, and with an EU, Swiss, Norwegian or Icelandic airline – require airlines to offer you either a full refund of the unused parts of your tickets, or to re-route you to your destination, as soon as possible.

If your flight is cancelled outright you are entitled to a full refund. Some airlines may also allow you to rebook your flights for a later date at no extra cost.

Will I get compensation for any delay?

No. EU regulations mean passengers are entitled to cash compensation when their flight is delayed for three hours or more, unless the delay is beyond their control. Clearly a Medicane is beyond their control.

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