These airlines offer free COVID-19 insurance when you travel

Most travel insurance policies don't cover you for COVID-19, but some airlines have your back if you still need to fly.

By Chris C., December 21 2020
These airlines offer free COVID-19 insurance when you travel

Most travel insurance policies don’t cover COVID-19, so a number of international airlines have taken things into their own hands.

Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, FlyDubai, Japan Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and WestJet all offer complimentary COVID-19 cover, to complement that existing travel insurance policy.

Here’s who qualifies when travelling with each airline, what to do if you test positive, and what's covered.

Cathay Pacific free COVID-19 cover

Cathay Pacific is offering financial protection to passengers who fly over the coming months and are diagnosed with COVID-19 on their travels.

Who is covered? All Cathay Pacific passengers travelling with the airline on a ticket also issued by Cathay Pacific are covered (that’s with a ticket number beginning with 160), including both paid reservations and Asia Miles bookings.

For these eligible passengers, coverage is automatically activated, so there’s no need to apply. Tickets issued by other airlines – such when using Qantas Points to book Cathay Pacific, where Qantas issues the ticket – don’t qualify, however.

What is covered? Eligible travellers are covered for “medical expenses related to a COVID-19 diagnosis whilst overseas”, being up to US$200,000 for hospitalisation and testing.

The policy also awards up to US$100 per day for a period of up to 14 days for “unforeseen and mandatory quarantine” due to COVID-19, as well as evacuation and repatriation costs to return to your home country when it’s safe to do so.

How long does the cover last? This policy is available until February 28 2021, unless extended.

For an individual, coverage begins when departing your home country, continuing then for 30 days or upon return to that home country, whichever is earlier – unless you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, then coverage continues until you return home.

Key exclusions: You won’t be insured against any expenses incurred in your home country, nor reimbursed for costs of general quarantine requirements that apply to most or all passengers, such as for the expense of compulsory quarantine upon arrival in Australia, whether a resident or visitor.

How to claim: As the coverage is underwritten by AXA General Insurance Hong Kong Limited, if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19 on your travels, be sure to call AXA on +852 2863 5785, or send a WhatsApp message to +852 2863 5784, before incurring any expenses after your diagnosis.

More information: You can find the full Terms and Conditions of coverage, as well as handy FAQ, on the Cathay Pacific website.

Emirates, FlyDubai free COVID-19 cover

Emirates was the first airline to offer complimentary COVID-19 cover to its international passengers, which has since been extended to its lower-cost arm FlyDubai.

Who is covered? Passengers who have an Emirates or FlyDubai booking for travel that begins on or before December 31 2020, who did not book via a partner airline, and booked any Emirates flights only on EK flight numbers and any FlyDubai flights only on FZ flight numbers (not as a codeshare flight).

Reservations using Skywards miles qualify if these terms are met, although tickets booked using Qantas Points and other partner programs do not, being ‘partner airline’ bookings.

What is covered? After a positive test for COVID-19, eligible health expenses up to €150,000, and quarantine costs of up to €100 for up to 14 days.

How long does the cover last? Coverage is available when you travel on Emirates or FlyDubai until December 31 2020, unless extended. Assistance is then valid for 31 days from the date of the first flight in your itinerary.

Emirates' COVID-19 cover is available to travellers in first class, as well as business class and economy.
Emirates' COVID-19 cover is available to travellers in first class, as well as business class and economy.

Key exclusions: There’s no coverage in your country of residence, nor are COVID-19 testing costs paid for. As well, no expense paid by you will be reimbursed – everything must be organised by insurer. General quarantine, such as required of all passengers to enter a country, is also excluded.

How to claim: Emirates passengers must contact the Emirates COVID-19 Cover Assistance service as soon as possible after a positive diagnosis. The insurer must pay for everything directly – expense claims are not considered.

You can call +971 4 270825, WhatsApp +971 56 3589937, or email [email protected].

The same rules apply for FlyDubai customers – who can use the same WhatsApp number – although phone calls should instead be to +971 4 2708577, and emails to [email protected].

More information: For more detail on this cover provided by Nextcare (part of Allianz Partners), head to the Emirates website or the FlyDubai website, as applicable to your journey.

Read more: Emirates extends COVID-19 cover to Australian travellers

Etihad Airways free COVID-19 cover

Etihad’s “global wellness insurance cover” largely mirrors that offered by its Gulf neighbour Emirates, but is currently valid for departures further into the future, among other small differences.

Who is covered? Passengers travelling on tickets issued by Etihad Airways are currently eligible for this cover for travel up to March 31 2021. Insurance remains available if your journey includes codeshare flights operated by other airlines, but not if the booking itself was made via another airline.

What is covered? After a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, there’s cover for up to €150,000 in related medical expenses, and €100 per day for each full day you have to quarantine, up to 14 days total.

How long does the cover last? The policy runs for 31 days from the first day of your trip.

Key exclusions: Exclusions are again similar to the coverage offered by Emirates, in that COVID-19 testing costs are not covered, and nor are any expenses incurred after returning home, or costs related to mandatory quarantine that applies to all travellers entering a country or region.

How to claim: The underwriter does not accept any claims for reimbursement – only expenses paid for directly by the insurer are covered.

To arrange this, you will need to call +971 4 5074007, as soon as possible after testing positive for COVID-19.

More information: Visit the Etihad website for further details.

Japan Airlines free COVID-19 cover

JAL is Japan’s first airline to offer free protection of this kind, simply branded as “JAL COVID-19 Cover”.

Who is covered? Passengers travelling on an international flight operated and marketed by Japan Airlines, with the first leg of their journey taking place between December 23 2020 and June 30 2021, inclusive.

This means a Japan Airlines flight, booked on a JL flight number. Flights booked under any codeshare flight number doesn’t qualify.

Yours must be a Japan Airlines flight to qualify...
Yours must be a Japan Airlines flight to qualify...

What is covered? After a positive test result for COVID-19, related medical fees are covered up to €150,000. Isolation accommodation costs due to quarantine are also covered up to €100 per day for a maximum of 15 days.

There’s also up to €1,500 available for repatriation in the event of death due to COVID-19.

How long does the cover last? From the date of your first Japan Airlines-operated international flight, coverage runs for 31 days or until entering your country of residence, whichever is sooner.

Key exclusions: Mirroring the policies available through other airlines, any expenses paid for directly by you are not covered – these must be authorised and settled directly by the insurer.

Cover ends when you return home, so expenses in your home country aren’t covered: nor are quarantine costs where you haven’t been diagnosed with COVID-19, such as if a country directs all arriving passengers into quarantine.

How to claim: Once diagnosed with COVID-19, call the JAL COVID-19 Cover helpdesk as soon as possible, either on 1800 531 984, or +81 3 4321 8262. These numbers will be available 24/7 from December 23 when the coverage period begins, supported by Allianz Travel.

More information: Japan Airlines’ website provides the full details including the relevant Terms and Conditions of cover.

Virgin Atlantic free COVID-19 cover

Virgin Atlantic’s free COVID-19 insurance policy for passengers is a cut above the rest, with significantly broader allowances in many respects, but a notable exclusion for Australian residents.

Who is covered? Virgin Atlantic passengers who travel until April 30 2021 on a ticket issued by Virgin Atlantic qualify, even if codeshare flights form part of the same ticket. The ticket number must begin with “932”, which indicates it’s a Virgin Atlantic ticket.

However, at least one flight on the booking must be operated by Virgin Atlantic. Bookings made via other airlines are excluded.

What is covered? Virgin Atlantic’s policy allows for up to £500,000 in necessary and emergency medical expenses due to COVID-19, as well as any necessary repatriation costs, expenses incurred when denied boarding or individually required to quarantine at your destination.

How long does the cover last? Coverage continues either until you return home, or until April 30 2021, whichever is sooner. In the case of one-way bookings, coverage ends 12 hours after arriving at your destination.

You'd be well advised to book a clear return trip, rather than two separate one-way bookings.
You'd be well advised to book a clear return trip, rather than two separate one-way bookings.

Key exclusions: As above, bookings made via partner airlines – including for Virgin Atlantic operated flights, such as booked via partner frequent flyer points – are not covered.

Also, if the government of your home country has advised against travel to your destination, coverage is only available if your trip is considered ‘essential’ under UK guidelines. This could impact Australian travellers, given the “do not travel” advice currently listed for every country.

How to claim: For the most part, you’ll need to contact Allianz Assistance before incurring any medical expenses, which can be reached at +44 20 8239 4028, or by emailing [email protected].

For other expenses, Virgin Atlantic advises travellers to “retain all receipts, invoices and other expenses so you can submit a claim for your expenses.”

More information: Look to the Virgin Atlantic website for the full details, including key exclusions that apply, such as where your home government has advised against travel to a destination.

WestJet free COVID-19 cover

As the only airline in North America currently offering COVID-19 insurance, Canada’s WestJet provides cover to eligible travellers as below.

Who is covered? For WestJet flights booked from September 18 2020 for travel until August 31 2021, foreigners visiting Canada as well as Canadians travelling home or abroad may be eligible for cover, when arriving into the country on a WestJet operated or WestJet codeshare flight.

To qualify, the ticket must be issued by WestJet (with an 838 ticket number), and the booking must include at least one flight operated by WestJet, even if your arriving flight to Canada is on a WestJet codeshare.

What is covered? If you become sick with COVID-19 on your trip, there’s insurance for up to CAD$200,000 in medical expenses, as well as allowances for emergency transportation to your home country. Individual quarantine costs of up to CAD$150 per day are also covered.

Additional benefits apply to Canadian residents, such as a ‘Trip Interruption Benefit’ of up to CAD$500, should the Canadian Government change its advice for your destination to “do not travel” during your trip, to provide for a one-way flight to return home promptly.

How long does the cover last? Coverage is for the duration of your WestJet ticketed journey, or until your return home, or a maximum of 21 days, whichever is sooner.

One-way tickets provide the exception, with coverage ending seven days into the trip.

Key exclusions: Only flights booked and ticketed through WestJet are eligible. This can include travel agent bookings, but excludes flights booked by partner airlines.

WestJet travellers using WestJet Dollars to pay for their journey would be covered in the same way as those buying a ticket with cash – but those using other frequent flyer points, including Qantas Points, would not be covered, as the partner airline would issue the ticket.

How to claim: If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and become sick, you should call TuGo (the company providing the insurance to WestJet) on +1 844 896 8846. You’ll need to quote “Group Policy Number WES100” to get the ball rolling.

More information: The WestJet website provides an outline of the cover available, including full details as to who qualifies, and the Certificate of Insurance for the policy, in case you’re required to provide this at any stage of your trip.

The above is intended as a general guide only, drawn from information published by insurers and airlines as available at the time of writing. Policies can change over time. Executive Traveller makes no guarantee to the validity of any claim, or that the information published here remains up-to-date.

Conditions, exclusions, limits and policy terms and conditions apply to all insurance products, and may differ from one airline to the next. Refer to the relevant policy documents for more specific information about the coverage available, and to determine whether the coverage adequately meets your needs. All questions regarding insurance policies and products must be directed to the airline or insurer, and cannot be answered here or elsewhere by Executive Traveller staff.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 381

Honestly I couldn't care less about CV travel insurance right now, the horse has well and truely bolted. My company has suspended all business travel until further notice and the thought of flying international for a holiday is purely a fantasy daydream. Something tells me these airlines are living a bit of a fantasy daydream if they think a CV insurance clause makes it somehow all OK to travel, it's as ridiculous as the "wellness ambassadors" inflight I see advertised. 

12 Jun 2018

Total posts 4

How does the JAL quarantine fee work. Does that mean that it can cover half of the quarantine fee when going to Singapore for example ? Do you have more details on how this would work ?

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

Hi Digicola, JAL's coverage only kicks in after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, but for further details beyond what's listed in the article, you'll need to speak to JAL or the coverage provider.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 112

Air Canada is also offering free Covid insurance on "qualifying" international flights for the next few months, though it may only apply to Canadian residents (sorry, haven't checked).

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