Why you should consider flying an airline with COVID-19 insurance — here’s the full list
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information.
Traveling now comes with its own set of risks, and contracting COVID-19 is a legitimate part of the equation.
Savvy travelers plan for even the worst-case scenario. That begs the question of how to best prepare for a situation where you test positive for COVID-19 while abroad.
One option to consider that is relevant now more than ever: Flying an airline with COVID-19 insurance included in the cost of airfare. Throughout 2020, we saw airlines roll out complimentary COVID-19 insurance packages to entice travelers to take to the skies again.
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But these policies are now getting renewed interest from travelers in 2021. Let’s take a look at why that’s the case — and which airlines offer free coverage.
New guidelines to re-enter the U.S.
The most essential components of these policies cover two areas. First, most airline-supplied insurance plans will cover medical expenses (up to a certain amount) should you require hospitalization due to COVID-19. Second, the policy will include quarantine costs abroad, including accommodations and meals.
That second point is particularly important for travelers who plan to reenter the U.S. starting in late January 2021. That’s because, on Jan. 26, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require travelers entering the U.S. to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test.
Of course, if you test positive, the impact of COVID-19 can be severe, including hospitalization or death. But at the very least, you won’t be allowed to board a flight bound for the U.S. which means you will be quarantining abroad until you can provide proof of recovery.
Those costs can be prohibitive. That’s why it’s vital to prepare in advance and one option is to fly on an airline that includes COVID-19 coverage. Of note, there are no U.S. carriers that offer such coverage but plenty of international airlines do.
Air Canada’s coronavirus insurance will apply to all round-trip international flights booked through Jan. 31, 2021, for travel completed on or before April 12, 2021.
Here’s the major catch: The coverage is only offered to Canadian residents (and you must be an Aeroplan member) subject to eligibility requirements, and covers every international destination served by Air Canada.
If Canadian travelers test positive for COVID-19 while abroad, Air Canada’s Manulife plan will provide:
- Up to $200,000 Canadian dollars per insured traveler for COVID-19 treatment medical expenses
- Up to $150 Canadian dollars per person, per day, for quarantine costs, such as meals and accommodation
- Up to $300 Canadian dollars per family, per day, up to a maximum of 14 days
- Up to $500 Canadian dollars for expenses related to returning home if the travel advisory from the Canadian government goes from Level 3 to Level 4 while the traveler is away from home.
Customers who book Air Canada Vacations will receive a different complimentary protection plan through Allianz, designed to cover emergency medical and quarantine expenses if the traveler contracts COVID-19 during their vacation. This plan is available to all eligible customers who book an Air Canada Vacations package to an eligible destination, as long as all travel is completed on or by April 30, 2021.
Cathay Pacific’s COVID-19 insurance is automatically included for trips that begin by Feb. 28, 2021. Coverage applies to anyone with tickets issued by Cathay Pacific, including codeshare or interline partners.
This coverage is provided by AXA and is effective once your trip has commenced and is valid for 30 days or upon your return to your home country, whichever is earlier.
Cathay Pacific will cover overseas medical expenses and quarantine costs, subject to applicable limits and exclusions. That includes all overseas PCR tests, whether positive or negative. However, Cathay Pacific notes that you will not be covered for any medical treatment costs, quarantine expenses or costs of PCR tests within your home country.
Emirates was the first airline to offer complimentary COVID-19 insurance in July 2020 and have since expanded their coverage. The Dubai-based carrier has some of the most comprehensive (and generous) benefits.
For flights booked on or after Dec. 1, 2020 through Jan. 31, 2021 (for travel on any date), you’ll receive the following coverage:
- Up to $500,000 for overseas medical expenses and emergency evacuation.
- Up to $7,500 if your trip is cancelled due to contracting COVID‑19 or for other reasons named in the policy.
- Up to $7,500 if your trip is cancelled or cut short if the school year is extended due to COVID‑19 beyond the departure date, and you or a relative is a full‑time teacher, full‑time employee, or a student at a primary or secondary school.
- Up to $7,500 if your trip is cut short due to you or a relative falling ill overseas, including contracting COVID‑19, and you need to return home.
- Up to $7,500 if you have to abandon your travels for failing a COVID‑19 test or medical screening at the airport.
- $150 per day, per person for up to 14 consecutive days if you test positive for COVID‑19 and are unexpectedly placed into mandatory quarantine while overseas.
Passengers who contract the coronavirus within 31 days of flying with Etihad will have medical costs covered up to €150,000 euros (about $177,000) and, yes, even quarantine costs up to €100 euros (about $118) per day for two weeks.
Etihad’s insurance is offered through AXA, and will be baked into the cost of airfare until March 31, 2021. COVID-19 tests — including PCR or rapid tests — are not included as part of this policy. However, there is one exception: PCR tests are included on flights departing from Abu Dhabi, Etihad’s hub.
The additional coverage is designed to not only “instill confidence to travel,” said Etihad vice president Duncan Bureau in a statement, but also to “reassure” travelers that the airline is doing everything possible to keep flyers “safe and protected.”
Japan Airlines is another carrier to include free COVID-19 insurance. The coverage is provided by Allianz Travel and is similar to other airlines’ plans. This includes coverage of up to €150,000 euros (about $177,000) in total medical costs resulting from the initial COVID-19 testing fee and subsequent medical treatment for those that test positive during their travels.
Quarantine costs are covered up to €100 euros (about $117) per eligible person per day for a maximum of 14 days.
Additionally, medical evacuation support of up to €1,500 euros (about $1,800) per person to return to your home country is provided, if it’s deemed necessary by a medical doctor.
The applicable travel period where the insurance will kick in is from Dec. 23, 2020 through June 30, 2021 and is valid for up to 31 days from the first leg of an international Japan Airlines flight. Coverage only applies to international flights.
Last summer, Virgin Atlantic began automatically offering COVID-19 coverage to all existing and new bookings. The insurance kicks in if a customer becomes ill with COVID-19 during on a Virgin Atlantic flight.
The coverage will be valid for all Virgin Atlantic flights that commence through March 31, 2021. Additionally, Virgin Atlantic Holidays customers will benefit from the coverage as long as their flights are with Virgin Atlantic. The coverage extends even further to those passengers flying on partner airline metal like Delta or Air France/KLM, so long as they’re traveling on a Virgin Atlantic-issued ticket.
Similar to the policies listed above, this insurance applies to COVID-19 only and would not replace a traditional travel insurance policy. If, for example, you were involved in a motor vehicle accident during your trip, this policy would not cover your expenses, as they’re not related to COVID-19.
Virgin’s insurance with Allianz Assistance includes emergency medical costs, associated expenses such as transport, accommodation and repatriation up to £500,000 points (about $650,000) for all passengers listed on the same booking.
Additional coverage includes £3,000 points (about $3,900) for customers who might be denied boarding whether leaving or returning home as well as being held in quarantine. Passengers will also benefit from 24-hour emergency medical assistance, wherever they are in the world.
Coverage is provided irrespective of time away, age of passenger or cabin class of the flight. The insurance even includes one-way flights and covers passengers up to 12 hours after arriving at their destination.
Canadian carrier WestJet offers no-charge COVID-19 insurance coverage for travel to and from the U.S., Europe, the UK, Mexico and the Caribbean through Aug. 31, 2021.
Similar to Air Canada, this policy is catered to Canadian residents and offers the following benefits:
- Emergency medical and hospital costs if diagnosed with COVID-19 while traveling outside of Canada for up to a maximum limit of $200,000 Canadian dollars per insured person
- Emergency medical and hospital costs for travelers visiting Canada that are diagnosed with COVID-19 up to the maximum limit of $200,000 Canadian dollars per insured person
- Quarantine accommodation costs if you test positive for COVID-19 on your trip: up to $150 Canadian dollars per insured person (or up to $300 Canadian dollars per day per immediate family), per day to a maximum of 14 days for travel into or out of Canada
In times when demand for travel has reached staggering lows, airlines are struggling to fill their planes and convince wary customers to book flights. By taking additional measures such as providing extra insurance in the COVID-19 era, these airlines are hoping to give flyers additional peace of mind.
The new CDC guidelines in the U.S. only reinforce the need to prepare for a situation where you contract COVID-19 while abroad. There are a variety of safeguards to consider, and flying on an airline with insurance included is one such option.
“Whether it’s to visit friends and relatives or take a well-deserved break, we believe that this complimentary cover will provide some added reassurance for our customers as they start to plan trips further afield,” said Juha Jarvinen, Virgin’s chief commercial officer in a statement.
Additional reporting by Daniel Ross, Melanie Lieberman and Katherine Fan.
Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.
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