In a bid to boost customer confidence and increase bookings, a rising number of companies are pioneering free Covid-19 travel insurance. Sam Ballard reports

Emirates, an airline based in the UAE, is offering free Covid-19 insurance for all flights and holidays booked through the company until October 2020, a trend that is being seen across the travel industry.

The policy covers all medical and quarantine expenses – as well as funeral costs up to €1,500 – for people who are diagnosed with Covid-19 when abroad.

The policy covers medical expenses up to €150,000 and quarantine costs up to €100 per day for up to 14 days. It is applied automatically to bookings regardless of the cost of the ticket.

“At Emirates Holidays, we’ve been working behind the scenes to ensure that when you choose to go back on holiday, we’re able to provide you with the quality, world-class Emirates experience you’ve come to know, enjoy and trust, in the air and on the ground.”

As Globetrender reported at the beginning of August, people arriving in Dubai and Abu Dhabi must test negative for Covid-19 to be allowed entry. Emirates passenger and crewEmirates is not the only airline to adjust its offering in a bid to increase passenger numbers. Virgin Atlantic, which recently published details of a financing package that goes some way to securing the airline’s future, has also introduced a free Covid-19 insurance from Allianz Assistance for all of passengers travelling up until March 31, 2021.

A statement from the company read: “It is the most comprehensive Covid-19 cover provided by any major airline to date, covering expenses up to £500,000 should a customer or their travel companion(s) get coronavirus while on a trip, as well as expenses up to £3,000 if denied boarding or required to quarantine on their trip due to actual or suspected Covid-19. No excess payment is required.”

Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic, says: “Following our return to the skies to much-loved destinations like Barbados, we’re planning more services in the autumn, as travel restrictions continue to ease, including London Heathrow to Montego Bay, Antigua, Lagos and Tel Aviv.

“Whether it’s to visit friends and relatives or take a well-deserved break, we believe this complimentary cover will provide some added reassurance for our customers as they start to plan trips further afield.

“It applies in parallel to existing travel insurance policies which may now exclude Covid-19, and provides comprehensive cover for coronavirus, recognising the needs of our customers as we restart services.”Virgin Atlantic crew face maskHowever, the additional cover is not just being offered by airlines. The Greek Villas – a luxury holiday accommodation provider – has added a top-end insurance product through Lloyd’s of London for people who book stays.

The insurance provides “travel cancellation and full money refunds, accident and health coverage including Covid-19 and personal liability”.

Recognising that older people are more vulnerable to Covid-19 and that they, therefore, will be less confident to travel that millennials or Gen Z, over 50s travel specialist Saga is another firm that is offering Covid-19 travel insurance.

The tour operator – which runs escorted tours and its own cruises – has its own insurance product, and has added Covid-19 to its existing insurance policies. (A study revealed that 74 per cent of Saga’s customers would not take out travel insurance if it did not include a Covid-19 policy.)

The insurance includes treatment abroad and repatriation to the UK.

Kevin McMullan, head of product, Saga Health and Travel Insurance, says: “Understandably, the current crisis has put travel plans on hold for many people. However, with the UK’s strict lockdown measures beginning to lift, more people may be planning both exciting and much needed trips away over the coming months.

“We recognise that this may be a daunting process, particularly for customers with underlying health concerns. We want to give people the confidence and reassurance that if they were to fall ill abroad, we’re there to help and get them back home safely.

“We’re continuing to review and innovate our products to ensure they work as well as they can for our customers. However, we know the impact of coronavirus is far-reaching. We’d encourage customers to contact us directly if they’d like to discuss their individual circumstances and how we can best support them through these uncertain times.”

All this said, consumers have to read each policy carefully, as not everything related to Covid-19 will be covered. For example, the insurance may not cover people who have to cancel a holiday because they have Covid-19, symptoms, or those who have decided to travel to places that are on government “red lists” or cancel their trip because of new quarantine rules.

Editor’s note: On September 7, Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad also announced it was introducing Covid-19 global wellness insurance cover as part of Etihad Wellness, the airline’s new health and hygiene programme.

Guests who are diagnosed with Covid-19 during their trip won’t have to worry about medical expenses or quarantine costs when they fly with Etihad.

Duncan Bureau, senior vice-president of sales and distribution at Etihad Airways, says: “The introduction of global Covid-19 insurance, in partnership with AXA, builds on stringent measures already in place as part of our Etihad Wellness programme, championed by our Wellness Ambassadors.

“This additional cover will not only instill confidence to travel but also reassure our guests that we are doing all we can to keep them safe and protected. As more countries start opening their borders, we are making it as easy as possible for our guests to plan their next trip, hassle free.”

All Etihad tickets regardless of date of booking, traveling between now and 31 December 2020, will include Covid-19 insurance. Guests with existing bookings don’t need to do anything – they are automatically enrolled into the programme. The insurance is valid worldwide for 31 days from the first day of travel.

If you are diagnosed with Covid-19 while you’re away from home, Covid-19 global wellness insurance will cover up to €150K of medical costs and up to €100 a day of quarantine costs in case of a positive diagnosis for 14 days.

Editor’s note: In October, Europe’s largest online travel company eDreams Odigeo also proceeded to launch Covid-19 travel insurance, which covers customers when cancelling their bookings for several reasons related to the pandemic.

These include being infected by Covid-19 and a requirement to quarantine prior to departure; overseas medical expenses if they get Covid-19 abroad; and expenses incurred at a destination due to changes to lockdown and quarantine as a result of infection. The policy will also cover travellers if members of their household contracts Covid-19, or if the traveller is required to self-isolate.

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