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Air Canada Introduces Free COVID‑19 Travel Insurance

In a major step in the gradual recovery of the Canadian air travel industry, Air Canada has partnered with Manulife to launch COVID-19 emergency medical travel and quarantine insurance for customers booking round-trip flights to all international destinations.

The coverage applies on new bookings made between September 17 and October 31, 2020, for travel until April 12, 2021, and includes very healthy amounts of insurance coverage in case of all things that can go wrong during these times of COVID-19: testing positive for the virus, entering into quarantine, being denied entry, etc. Best of all, this coverage extends to tickets booked with Aeroplan miles as well.

As always with things like these, the devil is in the details – so let’s examine them.

In This Post

Who Is Eligible for Air Canada’s COVID-19 Insurance?

All the information about Air Canada’s new COVID-19 insurance can be found on this dedicated page on the Air Canada website.

The eligibility criteria are thankfully pretty straightforward, although it’s still important to pay close attention to make sure you qualify.

  • Insurance is included on round-trip flights departing from Canada to an international destination (including the United States) for which there is no Level 4 “avoid all travel” advisory in effect issued by the Canadian government at time of departure.
  • Travel must be booked from September 17, 2020 until October 31, 2020 inclusively, for travel completed by April 12, 2021.
  • Your booking must be on a new Air Canada-issued ticket (i.e., the e-ticket number should begin with “014”, which will be true of any paid ticket booked with Air Canada or any Aeroplan award ticket) and must include at least one segment onboard an Air Canada-marketed or -operated flight.
    • The first segment of the ticket doesn’t matter; there simply needs to be one Air Canada-marketed or -operated flight on the itinerary, even if the rest are codeshare flights or operated entirely by Air Canada’s partners.
    • This means that, yes, even 16-segment Aeroplan award tickets will be eligible as long as there’s an Air Canada flight at the beginning or end somewhere.
  • COVID-19 insurance only covers the first 21 days of your trip; any duration of the trip beyond 21 days will not be eligible for coverage.
  • You must be a Canadian resident with a valid provincial or territorial health insurance (OHIP, MSP, etc.) for the duration of the trip.
  • You must not have been advised by a physician not to travel.

If you meet these criteria, then there’s no registration required, and you don’t need to fill in any forms to be eligible for the COVID-19 insurance. It’ll automatically be included in your trip, for free, as of the time of booking.

According to the fine print of the policy, the following exclusion criteria are also important to keep in mind:

  • No expenses relating to a positive COVID-19 test or quarantine prior to your date of departure will be covered. 
  • If you are travelling on a cruise, then the policy only covers the dates of your trip before and after a cruise, but not if anything should happen while on or associated with being on a cruise.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 during your trip, but had displayed symptoms of COVID-19 within the 15 days prior to your date of departure, then you won’t be covered.
    • However, if you had received a negative test for COVID-19 subsequently after displaying symptoms, and then embarked on your trip, then you’d still be covered as usual in case you do test positive for COVID-19 on your trip. 

What Does Air Canada’s COVID-19 Insurance Cover?

The inclusions of Air Canada’s COVID-19 insurance policy are summarized in the table below:

The key insurance item is the emergency medical coverage after a positive test for COVID-19 at your destination for up to $200,000 (CAD). Currently, the majority of emergency medical travel insurance policies (including those included with major Canadian credit cards) exclude medical treatment due to COVID-19 as a covered item, so this coverage fills that gap.

Indeed, the insured amount of $200,000 ought to go a long way towards covering unexpected costs regardless of whether you simply need some medication to treat your symptoms, or the unthinkable happens and you need to be hospitalized; in the latter case, it even allows for emergency air transport to bring you home.

It’s worth pointing out that most COVID-19 insurance policies that have been launched in recent months, whether by individual insurance companies or as a bundled deal by airlines and travel providers, focus exclusively on the medical insurance side.

Not only has Air Canada matched that, but they’ve also gone one step further and included coverage for quarantine expenses, repatriation due to death, and an early return home in case of a change to the Government of Canada’s Travel Advisory as well.

In the event of unexpected mandatory quarantine due to a COVID-19 positive test result, denied entry, or contact tracing at your destination, your costs will be covered by an allowance of $150/day up to $2,100 per person, or $300/day up to $4,200 per family, up to a maximum of 14 days.

Meanwhile, in case the Government of Canada’s Level 3 Travel Advisory gets updated to a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory in the middle of your trip (such as in the event of a serious outbreak at your destination, etc.) you’ll receive an allowance of up to $500 to cover your return airfare, as well as any meals and accommodations costs that arise.

Of course, despite all of the assurances included, the most likely byproduct of Air Canada’s new COVID-19 insurance is that it provides travellers with peace of mind to book with Air Canada if they need to travel internationally, whether that’s for family, business, or pleasure.

Air Canada Vacations: COVID-19 Insurance by Allianz

Air Canada’s new COVID-19 insurance by Manulife covers round-trip international flights, but it doesn’t apply when you book Air Canada Vacations packages. That’s because Air Canada Vacations are covered under a separate COVID-19 insurance policy issued by Allianz, which was announced a few weeks back.

Allianz’s policy automatically applies to any Air Canada Vacations packages for travel until April 30, 2021, to a list of select destinations in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. It excludes travel to the USA, and also does not apply to residents of Saskatchewan.

The Air Canada Vacations COVID-19 insurance policy is slightly weaker than the general Air Canada COVID-19 insurance policy outlined above. Emergency medical coverage due to COVID-19 is only covered up to $100,000 (CAD), and also excludes coverage for a change in the Government of Canada’s Travel Advisory.

Nevertheless, many Canadians may prefer a simpler all-inclusive getaway to a sunny destination during these uncertain times as compared to a more involved independent style of travelling in other foreign places, so it’s great to know that you are covered for COVID-19 if you do book with Air Canada Vacations (well, unless you live in Saskatchewan, that is).

How Does WestJet’s COVID-19 Insurance Compare?

Air Canada’s chief competitor, WestJet, has also recently introduced free COVID-19 insurance in partnership with TuGo.

WestJet’s COVID-19 insurance applies on flights booked after September 18, 2020 for travel until August 31, 2021. Its policy includes up to 21 days of coverage on round-trip flights, as well as up to seven days of coverage on one-way flights.

As you can see, WestJet’s policy extends into a longer period of travel in 2021 compared to Air Canada’s, and also has the benefit of covering one-way flights in addition to round-trip flights. However, its major weakness is that it does not include flights to the United States, whereas Air Canada’s COVID-19 insurance policy applies on the entire global network, and of course encompasses their Star Alliance partners’ networks as well.

(Like the Air Canada Vacations policy, WestJet’s policy also does not apply to residents of Saskatchewan. It’s my understanding that both airlines are working to satisfy the provincial regulations in order to be able to serve residents of the province with their insurance policies as well.)

I plan to write an upcoming post summarizing all the COVID-19 travel insurance options available to Canadian travellers (including those issued by airlines as well as independent insurers) at some point in the near future, so keep an eye out for that.

Conclusion

Short of Mr. Rovinescu walking into Mr. Bill Blair’s office himself and strong-arming him into relaxing the 14-day quarantine requirement, Air Canada is doing everything they can to restore confidence among Canadian travellers and provide assurance against the risk of COVID-19 when it’s time to reembark on a trip.

It’s great to see Air Canada and WestJet adding free automatic COVID-19 travel insurance policies to new flight bookings, providing Canadian travellers with both valuable peace of mind and a protection against unexpected expenses should the unfortunate outcome of a positive test for COVID-19 befall them.

Given the current situation, I’d fully expect Air Canada’s booking deadline of October 31 to be extended when that date rolls around, and I’d love to see them at least match WestJet’s coverage period until August 31, 2021 as well.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m considering some light international travel later this fall, and I’ll certainly be tempted to work everything into an Aeroplan redemption when the time comes, so that I’m covered under Air Canada’s new policy and don’t have to worry about getting separate COVID-19 insurance for myself.

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