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Covac Global changes its COVID-19 evacuation membership policy amid growing demand for repatriation

Jan. 21, 2022
5 min read
Covac Global changes its COVID-19 evacuation membership policy amid growing demand for repatriation
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In December, I wrote about Covac Global, a COVID-19 travel insurance membership program designed to get you home upon testing positive for COVID-19, without having to quarantine abroad.

Since then, the membership-based evacuation and repatriation company, founded in 2020 specifically to provide medical evacuations during the pandemic without a hospitalization requirement, has sometimes struggled to keep up with the demand of patients asking for evacuations during the omicron wave and its devastating impact on the holiday travel season.

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"In commercial travel we saw over 8,000 flights canceled for weather and crews getting COVID. Our air ambulances experienced the same difficulties over the holiday period," Covac Global CEO Ross Thompson told me via email. "Many of our aircrews were impacted by covid – causing us to scramble at the last minute to find new crews or providers to get to our members quickly. Weather in other areas meant that we had delays as well."

During this time period, Covac Global executed more than 52 evacuations via private air ambulance over the course of 12 days. These evacuations were for members running the gamut from those who experienced little or no symptoms to those who "required critical medical intervention."

Thompson confirmed some members experienced "mild delays" of one to three days, which he attributed in part to a "finite number of air ambulances."

There have been some reports of alleged issues experienced by a few clients who used Covac Global. No one was willing to go on the record.

Some users have complained online, including on Reddit and in the below thread on FlyerTalk, a popular online forum.

Thompson placed responsibility for the reported problems on the "many attempts at abuse of the system." In one case, Thompson said the company notified a member there would be a delay in getting them home over the holidays, and the member "announced this was unacceptable as [they] would miss a New Year’s Eve party then decided to cancel the evacuation as the symptoms suddenly cleared."

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He also claimed an "unfortunate amount" of members "falsely" reported "observable symptoms in hopes of not having to spend a few inconvenient days at their choice of hotel."

Although Thompson declined to comment on specific allegations, the CEO said some delays in service or other limitations were due to "the restrictions of certain host countries" and the fluid nature of country-by-country COVID-19 regulations.

"Countries ... such as Italy, require by law, [that] we utilize isolation measures when departing their airspace. These measures are required by mandate and Covac Global must abide by these rules and regulations," he said. "Variants change rapidly as do local laws and COVID-19 regulations. We do not skirt the laws for any member no matter how inconvenienced they may be. All members are transported home safely and in the direct company of highly trained and caring medical professionals."

Covac recently changed the terms and conditions of its Global COVID-19 Evacuation and Repatriation service.

All members must now fulfill two requirements in order to trigger the COVID-19 evacuation service to avoid hospitalization.

The first new requirement is proof of a positive PCR test. The previous requirement was only to claim one self-reported symptom.

Additionally, both a "local attending qualified medical professional" and the Covac medical director must sign off on the decision to evacuate in the name of "medical prudence," as now outlined in the 2022 COVID-19 Evacuation Membership Services Agreement. Below is an agreement that Covac sent out to members before the updated language.

(Screenshot courtesy of Covac Global)

"Medically Prudent to Avoid Hospitalization — Determination by the local attending qualified medical professional and the COVAC Global medical director that member cannot safely remain in quarantine due to such conditions or potential conditions that could result in the member requiring possible medical intervention or local hospitalization," reads the agreement, which was shared with TPG by a Covac member.

While those are the two most significant changes of note, all Covac members are now required to either purchase the membership 14 days prior to departure or present results of a negative PCR test taken within seven days of departure.

(Screenshot courtesy of Covac Global)

Additionally, Covac no longer provides COVID-19 evacuation services in 22 countries, including Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Maldives and South Africa. A full list is available below and online.

Related: 5 things that should be in your COVID-19 travel contingency plan

(Screenshot courtesy of Covac Global)

To be clear, Covac Global is a membership program marketed as insurance but is not regulated in the way travel insurance is.

Related: Why I’m still buying travel insurance for international vacations — even if it isn’t required

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of COVAC Global)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023