Review: Emirates' free COVID-19 medical and quarantine expense cover

While Emirates is offering 'free' cover for COVID-19 hospital bills and quarantine, you may not actually be covered at all...

By Chris C., July 24 2020
Emirates' free COVID-19 medical and quarantine expense cover
The Good
  • Automatic coverage for eligible Emirates travellers over the coming months
The Bad
  • So many exclusions that very few will be able to successfully claim a benefit
  • International medical cover for COVID-19, which remains rare


In a bid to get passengers back in the air, Emirates is now offering "free global cover for COVID-19", paying out your medical expenses and quarantine costs if you're diagnosed with COVID-19 during your travels.

While it's the first airline in the world to tempt travellers with such a promotion, the coverage provided has so many conditions and exclusions attached that it's likely very few travellers would ever be eligible to claim.

For instance, if you travel against the advice of your own country, you're not covered.

So, even if you can leave Australia despite its current border closures, the Australian Government's "do not travel" warning – as applies to every other country in the world – would see you excluded regardless.

Executive Traveller takes a closer look at Emirates' complimentary coronavirus travel policy to see what travellers are actually covered for: and more importantly, what they aren't.

UPDATE: Since publishing this review on July 24 2020, Emirates has adjusted the Terms and Conditions of this cover to avoid excluding Australians by way of the Australian Government's "do not travel" warning level, as listed above.

Those from countries with a 'travel ban' (such as Australia) but who obtain government permission to fly are no longer excluded on this basis, but remain subject to the other rules and restrictions in place.

Read: Emirates extends COVID-19 cover to Australian travellers

As this change was made after this review was published, the review continues to reflect the Terms and Conditions that were in place at the time of writing, when the service was launched.

Who is eligible for Emirates' COVID-19 cover?

You may be covered by Emirates' blanket COVID-19 policy if you:

  • Have or make a booking to fly with Emirates between July 23 2020 and October 31 2020 on an Emirates ticket, and
  • Did not book your journey via a partner airline, and
  • Have not booked any of your Emirates flights on another airline's codeshare flight number, and
  • Have flown the first flight of your journey, and do so on or before October 31 2020, and
  • It has been 31 days or less since that first flight was taken.

If your Emirates flight was booked through Qantas (including using Qantas Points), or purchased on a Qantas codeshare (QF) flight number, the entire journey would be ineligible for cover.

Emirates flights booked using Skywards miles, or booked through a travel agency, are eligible, however, provided the ticket is issued by Emirates and all other conditions are met.

As above, cover does not commence until after the first flight in the itinerary has been flown, and the cover expires either when 31 days have passed since that first flight was taken, or when you return to your country of residence: whichever comes first.

In the case of one-way bookings, cover simply runs for 31 days, unless you return to your home country sooner.

Those confirmed as eligible for cover prior to that 31-day mark – such as being diagnosed with COVID-19 on day 30 and immediately reporting this to Emirates – may remain eligible for the benefits of the policy while that treatment continues, even if 31 days have passed.

Coverage remains available even if you travel onward from the destination at which you arrived on Emirates: such as flying into one city, but taking a train onward to another.

The provider of this cover is Nextcare Claims Management LLC, an Allianz Partners entity, also now known as Emirates COVID-19 Assistance.

What does Emirates' COVID-19 protection cover?

For those eligible, Emirates' coronavirus travel cover offers indemnity against certain eligible medical expenses, quarantine costs, repatriation charges and limited funeral expenses, if the traveller has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Where cover is available, claim limits are the same for travellers booked in first class, business class and economy class, as below.

After positive COVID-19 diagnosis:

Cover available

Approved COVID-19 medical expenses.

Up to €150,000

Quarantine costs in an approved designated facility, when ordered to quarantine by a government, public authority or travel supplier.

Up to €100 per day for up to 14 days

Repatriation assistance, when safe and necessary.

Covers actual costs

Transporting a person's body to their home country, in the event of death because of COVID-19.

Covers actual costs

Funeral expenses following a death resulting from COVID-19.

Up to €1,500

However, be aware that the coverage provided under Emirates' offer is only available after the traveller has contacted the coverage provider, following a positive diagnosis for COVID-19.

Any expense arising before that diagnosis and before contacting Emirates, including the cost of the COVID-19 test, is not covered.

If eligible for this cover, no excess is payable on any eligible claim amount, and there is no need to 'register' before you travel: only to contact the provider if you receive a positive diagnosis.

What doesn't Emirates' COVID-19 expense protection cover?

Browse the policy documents and you'll quickly uncover a laundry list of exclusions, any of which could prevent you from being able to claim anything.

Key exclusions for Australian travellers

Critically, Emirates' COVID-19 cover does not apply when “you travel against your home country’s government advice or against local authority advice at your trip destination.” 

Even for those Australian residents who can still travel overseas, this makes the cover utterly useless, given the Australian Government continues to advise that Australians "do not travel" to any other country in the world.

When it comes to cover for quarantine costs, the policy also excludes any quarantine that applies generally or broadly to some or all of a population, vessel, or geographical area, or that applies based on where the person is travelling to, from, or through.”

As such, a foreigner arriving in Australia and ordered into mandatory quarantine would not be covered – nor would an Australian resident returning home and into quarantine even if that "do not travel" advice were lowered, because cover ends when you return to your own country.

These exclusions apply to all travellers that might otherwise be eligible for the policy, but serve to make the policy unusable for any Australian traveller.

Other key exclusions

If you haven't been disqualified from cover via the exclusions above, there are a host of other exclusions to navigate, too.

Under Emirates' COVID-19 cover, the provider will also not pay for:

  • Any expense the traveller has paid for themselves (expenses must be paid directly by the coverage provider only)
  • Any expense that has not been pre-approved and directly paid for by the coverage provider
  • Any expense at all, if the provider was not promptly notified of the COVID-19 diagnosis
  • Any costs relating to "local emergency services organisations", which may include ambulance transport costs
  • If any expense is the direct or indirect consequence of your consumption of alcohol
  • If any expense is the direct or indirect consequence of a riot or "popular movement", which may include protests
  • Claims being the direct or indirect consequence of "wars", the definition of which is so broad as to include "riots" and even "disturbances"

While it's common for travel insurers to deny claims when a traveller is intoxicated, banning any claim that results from "the direct or indirect consequence of your consumption of alcohol" is a very broad statement.

If an Emirates passenger visits a local pub during their travels, consumes an alcoholic beverage, and happens to catch COVID-19 while at the pub or travelling to and from, the provider may be able to argue against paying a claim.

The above is not a comprehensive list of exclusions and conditions, the full details for which can be found in the cover's terms and conditions. 

Returning home after COVID-19? There's another catch

If you picked up COVID-19 on your travels, are seeking to return home when it's safe to do so ('repatriation', under this cover) and hold a return or multi-city ticket, don't expect that your existing fare and flight will simply be changed.

When claiming for repatriation, the coverage provider "takes ownership of the original tickets and you undertake to give up these tickets."

Instead, you'll be booked onto "first class train travel", or as is more practical for most international travellers, "economy class flights".

This means if you booked return business class flights to your destination, but catch COVID-19 during your journey, your business class flight home will be cancelled without refund, and you'll be booked a new seat in economy.

The only time this works to the traveller's advantage is if they had travelled on a one-way fare only, as they would get a 'free' flight home: otherwise, for those holding return tickets, it's tough luck.

Emirates' free COVID-19 travel cover: the verdict

While it's great to see an airline offer any form of complimentary travel cover – especially right now, when paid travel insurance options remain highly limited – this particular policy leaves much to be desired.

Firstly, given the lack of cover when travelling against government advice, this policy provides no benefit to any Australian resident travelling overseas for as long as the Australian Government maintains its global "do not travel" warning level.

Even if you're not excluded by that clause – such as by living in another country – there are so many other conditions, exclusions and catches to be mindful of and to navigate.

Ultimately, as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for: and in this case, you've paid nothing.

Also read: What's it like to fly with Emirates during the coronavirus?

The above is intended as a general guide only, drawn from information published by the product provider as available at the time of writing. Coverage 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 travel cover products, and may differ between policy types, plans and add-ons. Refer to the relevant Terms and Conditions for more specific information about the coverage available, and to determine whether a product adequately meets your needs. All questions regarding coverage policies and products must be directed to the provider, and cannot be answered here or elsewhere by Executive Traveller staff.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

25 Jul 2020

Total posts 1

Another useless feature of this policy is it immediately ceases the moment you return home. Say you buy a one way Emirates ticket LHR-DXB-SYD. You reach home and go straight into 14 days quarantine. During the period you get diagnosed with COVID-19, hence obvious that you would've caught it during your trip outside Australia or on the flight back to Australia. The diagnosis happened still within 31 days of the flight. But you can't claim any medical and hospitalisation costs against the policy!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 174

A curious question for the travel industry: how do you get people feeling safe to book travel, when rules can change suddenly or you could be forced to go into isolation without much notice. It seems no insurance is covering these scenarios, but thats the world we live in and will no doubt be for some time to come. This is doubly so since the airline presumably doesn't want sick flyers travelling on their services.

Forget the international, even for domestic - for example would someone from Sydney be wise to book a holiday in a month's time for Queensland; knowing that the Queensland Government could prevent entry with little to no notice (and then potentially their money is lost)? Or that because of going dining one night, could link you to a hot-spot requiring a 14-day quarantine because of another unrelated diner or staff member?

These aren't hypotheticals - for example, if you had a Queensland jaunt booked this week, and happened to live in Fairfield LGA, then tough luck.

These are insurance issues that would obviously be very costly to cover; but yet are what is needed if limited domestic holidays are to become viable (IMHO) - or otherwise there needs to be recognition that even limited domestic tourism is dead for the next 6 to 12 months.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1247

So who is the insurer underwriting this product?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Sep 2013

Total posts 47

NEXTCARE Claims Management LLC (UAE based company)


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 385

This is one ginormous bubble bath of marketing blah blah. No one is flying and Emirates are desperate to convince people that this scheme takes the risk out of CV19 and travelling on them versus other airlines, as if you would! Get real, no one is interested in this kind of insincerity.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 169

(Thanks, Chris. Once again covering important subject matter with a querying eye).

Yes, it is desperation and it is a pity. EK doesn't like to answer to anyone and this move, ambitious as it is, has a lot of hot air within in. And travel needs a lot more than hot air and marketing to allow confidence in travel. Even before Government's give the green light.

I wrote an article in Community Forum on EK, Loyalty & The Customer...

01 Jun 2016

Total posts 3

Wow, such nitpicking and cynicism; seems pretty generous to me; I'm amazed they are even offering cover. Who else is? Short answer: No-one. Kudos to Emirates, they have always been an innovative leading-edge airline right since the days they entered the Australian market back in '94 with features such as the first back seat screens in economy class (and I took a short break from journalism to do their PR - briefly; full disclosure).  Everyone else is going under; Emirates is going onwards and upwards! 

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