Air Canada now includes COVID-19 insurance coverage when you book a flight. This most recent announcement reflects a continuing effort by airlines to encourage new bookings during a challenging time for the travel industry. Although travel remains on the back burner for many Canadians, this news might lead at least a few people to weigh their options when it comes to planning a possible trip.
Air Canada’s COVID-19 Coverage
As with WestJet and Air Canada Vacations, the insurance included with new bookings relates only to COVID-19. This is because many travel medical insurance companies excluded COVID-19 from their coverage after the onset of the pandemic. So, you’ll still need insurance for other kinds of medical emergencies.
Air Canada has detailed information on its website about its COVID-19 insurance coverage and eligibility. Review it very carefully if you have any thoughts of booking a flight based on this added feature of your Air Canada ticket.
In particular, note the following:
- Must be a Canadian resident
- Round-trips only
- Aeroplan flights are eligible
- 21 day maximum trip duration
- Travel by April 12, 2021
For the full details, read all the information provided by Air Canada. Like any sort of insurance policy, you need to pay very close attention to the terms and conditions.
Air Canada Vacations has its own COVID-19 insurance for package bookings.
Currently, the deadline to book a flight with COVID-19 insurance is October 31, 2020 for travel up until April 12, 2021. The end date for eligible travel is much earlier than that of WestJet which extends to August 31, 2021.
Flight Change or Cancellation Policy
Air Canada allows a one-time free change for flights booked before December 31, 2020. If you wish to cancel, you may convert your ticket to a voucher or to Aeroplan miles with a 65% bonus. Check their Travel News and Updates page for details.
Includes the United States
Unlike WestJet, flights to the United States are not excluded from Air Canada’s COVID-19 coverage. The U.S. is perhaps the country where you’re most likely to be overwhelmed with huge bills if you unfortunately end up hospitalized due to the coronavirus. Whether the amount provided under this policy ($200,000) is something you’d be comfortable with is subjective. [UPDATE: WestJet’s COVID-19 insurance now includes the United States its coverage has been increased to $200,000. Check WestJet’s website for details]
Remaining Obstacles For Travellers
I’m sure this insurance is appreciated by anyone who needs to travel outside of Canada. But, for leisure travellers for whom no legitimate need exists, I don’t know how many will now be keen to fly, at least in the near term.
Despite all the measures and precautions instituted to varying degrees around the world, there remains a real possibility of contracting COVID-19, and whether you have insurance or not, a potentially deadly illness is still a very strong deterrent to travel. Having insurance is certainly reassuring, but knowing you could get sick or spread the virus unknowingly to others is unnerving, regardless of the monetary consequences.
There is still a mandatory 14 day quarantine requirement upon returning to Canada. This puts international travel out of the question for a large percentage of the population.
One must also consider what a trip would be like during a pandemic. For some travellers, the rules and restrictions in place at their destination wouldn’t have a markedly negative effect on their enjoyment of the trip. For others, the realities of vacationing amid a global health crisis might kill the joy enough to make the trip not worth taking.
Save By Purchasing COVID-19 Insurance Separately?
Manulife is the insurance company that partnered with Air Canada but according to its website, it’s going to offer its own COVID-19 policy in October. There are other insurance companies currently offering coverage for COVID-19 as well.
Just for curiosity, I checked airfares from Halifax to a few American cities in March and the cheapest flights were on United Airlines. (Although the land border is closed to non-essential travel, it’s still possible to fly between Canada and the U.S.)
March break in Nova Scotia is scheduled to be March 15-19, 2021, so I chose the Saturday to Saturday dates for my search. I guess it’s possible the school break won’t even happen, but for the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume that by March things are improving and leisure travel is back to some degree.
March 13-20, 2021
Halifax – Orlando
Air Canada: $778 (non-stop)
WestJet: $694 (non-stop)
Halifax – Miami
Air Canada: $826
Halifax – Los Angeles
United: $476 (or $330 w/ 2 stops)
Air Canada: $711
Halifax – San Francisco
Air Canada: $782
There are United fares as low as the $200s and $300s to some cities on other dates. Just remember to carefully review the change and cancellation policies in place at the time of booking.
Checking March break for flights to Europe on Aeroplan is usually a waste of time, especially when you have to find availability on the few airlines that don’t have high surcharges. However, here are a couple of options I found, also on United:
Halifax – Lisbon
United (via Newark)
60,000 Aeroplan miles + $162.35
Halifax – Amsterdam
United (via Newark)
60,000 Aeroplan miles + $160.75
It’s interesting to see what Canadian airlines are doing in an attempt to allay the concerns of potential travellers and incentivize them to book flights. There might be a few people for whom this COVID-19 medical coverage will tip the scale in favour of planning a trip. Perhaps this is more likely in areas where multiple new cases are added every day while their chosen destination has quite low numbers in comparison. In Nova Scotia at the time of writing this there are no known active cases. The Atlantic bubble feels like a good place to stay for the time being.