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Airlines Add COVID-19 Coverage –Here’s Why You Should Still Buy Travel Insurance

Last Updated On 11/25/2020

As international travel (and travel in general) remain somewhat stagnant, airlines are doing what they can to sweeten the deal in the hopes of increasing demand for air travel. Travelers concerns have changed drastically over the past months and many are now worried about contracting COVID-19 if they decide to travel abroad. 

Some airlines have responded to this worry by offering free “COVID insurance” with their customer’s tickets for a limited time. Those airlines so far are Emirates Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad Airways, and WestJet.

Yonder has looked at the policy certificates for these COVID-19 insurance policies offered by certain airlines to determine what’s covered, what’s not covered, and why you might want to purchase additional travel insurance.

What’s Covered?

What is most important to know about these airline-offered insurance policies is that they only cover COVID-19 related events during your trip. If you were to contract COVID-19 while traveling, you could file a claim for reimbursement of medical and hospital expenses, medical evacuation, quarantine costs, and medical COVID-19 repatriation. Note that the sickness has to first occur while on your trip (and away from home) for coverage to apply.

This coverage is free to passengers and automatically included if you have a ticket with one of these specific airlines. Each airline offers a policy from different providers as well as different time restraints on how long the coverage is valid for. Take a look below for the airline-specific details.

Emirates Airlines

Passengers traveling through December 31, 2020 automatically receive this benefit. Coverage is valid for 31 days from your first flight. The insurance is offered through NEXtCare Health Insurance, in which you can find the full terms and conditions

Virgin Atlantic

Passengers who have flights with Virgin Atlantic from 8/24/2020 – 3/31/2021 will automatically have access to this specific coverage provided by Allianz. If you booked a one-way flight, you’ll have 12 hours of access from the time of arrival. Beware that it won’t apply if you travel somewhere the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travel or if you travel against the authority of your destination country.

Etihad Airways

Those flying with EA will have automatic AXA Assistance COVID-19 coverage from 9/7/2020 – 12/31/2020, valid 31 days from your first flight. Keep in mind that benefits won’t apply if you’re visiting Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Crimea and Sevastopol in any capacity. Like Virgin Atlantic’s policy, you also won’t be covered if you travel to a place where non-essential or all travel is restricted.


For all the other listed airways, coverage is available for all types of passengers. With WestJet though, coverage is limited to Canadians who’ve booked travel from 9/18/2020 – 8/31/2021. Coverage will only apply for tickets to Mexico, the Caribbean, and specific European countries like the UK. Round trip bookings will have coverage for 21 days from the date of departure.

What’s Not Covered?

Although this free coverage provides benefits if you were to contract COVID-19 while traveling, you will be missing other vital benefit categories like trip cancellation and interruption, medical coverage for other events, and travel loss and delay benefits –all things that are typically included with comprehensive travel insurance plans. Here are some areas of coverage you won’t find in the insurance plans the airlines are offering for COVID-19.

grey circle with white X in middle Trip Cancellation and Interruption

This type of benefit protects your trip investment in the event something unforeseen happens and you have to cancel your trip or cut your trip early. 

grey circle with white X in middle Medical Coverage for Events Other Than COVID-19

These plans offered by airlines will reimburse you for medical expenses only related to COVID-19.

grey circle with white X in middle Travel Loss and Delay

These categories of coverage aren’t included in the “COVID insurance” being offered by airlines. These benefits are included in comprehensive policies.

green button that reads quote and compare travel insurance

Why Purchase Additional Coverage?

Although it’s great you won’t have to pay for the airline offered insurance if you meet the time restraints, it’s quite clear the coverage offered by airlines for COVID-19 is pretty specific and leaves many vital benefits out. In fact, they aren’t even considered to be full travel insurance policies. It’s always a wise idea to purchase coverage for any kind of trip because there will always be risks involved with travel. Things like delays, lost baggage, a death in the family, or a trip to the doctor happen quite frequently while traveling, no matter where you’re going. Here are some examples of why you might want to purchase a comprehensive policy for your next trip.

Example #1

Your next trip to Cancun includes an air ticket with Emirates Airlines, but you contract COVID-19 and can no longer take your trip. The free COVID-19 coverage offered by Emirates doesn’t protect your nonrefundable trip expenses like airline ticket, hotel, and other prepaid costs for unforeseen events that happen pre-departure. However, most travel insurance companies offer comprehensive plans that would reimburse you your trip cost if you cancelled your trip due to illness or injury.

Example #2

You fall during a tour on your trip and break your arm. If you’re relying on the airline insurance, you’ll be out of luck since it will only reimburse you for COVID-19 medical bills. On the bright side, with a comprehensive travel insurance plan, it includes medical expense coverage for a wide variety of ailments including hospital costs, prescriptions, ambulatory expenses and treatments.

Example #3 

On your trip to Turkey, your flight is delayed due to bad weather. You incur unexpected costs like a hotel room, additional meals, and local transportation until the next flight leaves. Normally, without travel insurance you’d have to foot the bill –not ideal when your travel budget is already set. If you had purchased a comprehensive travel insurance policy on the other hand, you could file a claim to get reimbursed for those expenses once you return home.

If any of these examples resonated with you or if you’re curious how much a policy will cost, go ahead and compare the options! The Yonder team recommends purchasing a travel insurance policy after you’ve made your initial trip deposit or payment. That way, if anything goes wrong, your trip investment is protected.


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