[UPDATE: The United Sates is no longer excluded from WestJet’s COVID-19 insurance and emergency medical coverage has been increased to $200,000. Check WestJet’s website for details] According to a recent email, beginning September 18, 2020 your WestJet flight or package vacation, with some exceptions, is now going to include COVID-19 insurance when flying to destinations in the UK, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean. The United States is excluded. For those willing and able to travel, it’s possible this addition could entice them to make a booking. For the rest of us, we can continue to daydream about potential future trips.
Travel Medical Insurance and COVID-19
In discussions about when people will feel comfortable travelling internationally again, medical insurance invariably pops up as a major impediment. After the Canadian government issued a travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel outside the country, many travel insurance providers excluded COVID-19 from coverage.
I had read of a couple of companies now selling travel medical insurance that includes COVID-19 coverage but Air Canada Vacations was the first travel provider I’m aware of to advertise that package trips would come with insurance. If purchased after August 31, trips to certain destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean from September 4, 2020 to April 30, 2021 would include COVID-19 coverage. See their website for the list of applicable destinations along with a detailed FAQ and the certificate of insurance.
The WestJet offering goes further by including one-way or round trip flights in addition to vacation packages, and extends to travel until August 31, 2021. It also includes the UK and Europe.
WestJet’s COVID-19 Insurance
Below are details from the website explaining WestJet’s COVID-19 insurance:
In our continued efforts to put your Safety Above All, effective September 18, 2020 we’ll offer no-charge COVID-19 travel insurance coverage for our guests when travelling to Europe, the UK, Mexico and the Caribbean (excluding the U.S. and U.S. territories) until August 31, 2021. This coverage also extends to inbound guests to Canada from these destinations. Coverage will be automatically included when you purchase your booking.
- New round-trip bookings including WestJet Vacations packages (excluding U.S.) will be eligible for coverage up to 21 days
- New one-way bookings will be eligible for coverage for up to seven days
- Emergency medical and hospital costs for outbound travellers if diagnosed with COVID-19 while outside of Canada (excluding U.S.) for up to a maximum limit of $100,000 CAD per insured person.
- Emergency medical and hospital costs for inbound travellers visiting Canada diagnosed with COVID-19 while in Canada up to the maximum limit of $100,000 CAD per insured person.
- Quarantine accommodation costs when the traveller tests positive for COVID-19 on the trip up to $150 CAD per insured person, per day to a maximum of 14 days for inbound and outbound reservations.
- Ambulance transportation and air evacuation costs related to COVID-19, up to the maximum limit of $100,000 CAD per insured person for inbound and outbound guests.
- COVID-19 repatriation costs in case of death of up to $5,000 CAD per insured person for inbound and outbound guests.
- One-way economy airfare for the return of one travelling companion and dependent children when air evacuated back home for treatment.
- COVID-19 related insurance coverage will apply to any eligible itinerary that includes at least one flight operated by WestJet (code 838). You will qualify for coverage regardless of whether your first flight was operated by WestJet or by one of WestJet’s code share partners so long as your booking was ticketed on WestJet and includes a flight operated by WestJet.
- If you purchased your ticket on a WestJet-operated flight from another airline, even if that airline is a code-share partner airline of WestJet, you will not be eligible for coverage.
*Exclusions apply. Not available to residents of Saskatchewan, United States, or for travel including cruises.
Safety above all
We’re continuing to ensure the safest travel experience for our guests. See all the robust safety measures we have in place for your journey.
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So, Will People Book Travel?
This is interesting. I wonder if it will motivate many Canadians to book international travel. I’m not well versed in the coverage amounts in typical travel medical insurance policies. The cost of medical care varies among countries, and god forbid you face a worst case scenario of long term hospitalization abroad, I don’t know how far this coverage will actually go.
Personally, I cannot imagine travelling while the government advisory against non-essential travel remains in place. But I know there are some who are itching to go away and are prepared to take all the necessary precautions. Indeed, there is still a responsibility on travellers to be aware of any restrictions and requirements at their destination.
As long as the mandatory 14 day quarantine still applies to returning travellers to Canada, there will be many for whom this COVID coverage will make no difference as to whether or not they’re able to leave the country.
Changing or Cancelling a Flight
According to WestJet’s current change and cancellation policy, flights booked between March 3 and September 30, 2020 will be allowed a one-time fee waiver for a change or cancellation. The value of a cancelled flight will be returned as a Travel Bank credit valid for 24 months from the date of cancellation. Flight changes are subject to any fare difference. If the new flight is less, the difference is returned as a Travel Bank credit.
It’s different for packages. People purchasing vacation packages are advised by WestJet to purchase a Travel Protection Plan for $49.
2021 Airfare Search
Just as in non-pandemic times, I like to look for good airfares even if I’m not even remotely close to being ready to book anything.
There are four seasonal non-stop WestJet routes from Halifax across the Atlantic next year. Of course, these could change between now and next spring but they are currently bookable for dates from late April or early May, 2021 all the way into mid-summer.
My benchmark for an excellent deal to the UK/Europe is a fare in the $500s round trip. There is rarely anything below that level. Fares in the $600s – $800s can also be a great value if they fit your plans when you don’t have a flexible schedule.
Play around on Google Flights or ITA Software to see what 2021 fares you can find. Google Flights conveniently tells you if it’s cheaper to book as two one-ways on separate tickets instead of one round trip booking.
Here’s what I came across on a brief search:
Halifax – Dublin
Halifax – Glasgow
Halifax – London Gatwick
Halifax – Paris
$682+ with separate tickets vs. $808+ on one ticket
The cheapest outbound one-way I could find was $252 Halifax – London Gatwick. For the inbound, the lowest one-way was $232 Dublin – Halifax. Remember to check open-jaw combos if you might be interested in flying into one city and out of another.
It’s nice to be here in the Atlantic bubble where active case numbers are extremely low. For me, that feeling of relative security amid a global pandemic leaves travel planning firmly in the daydreaming phase until the COVID-19 situation improves. Perhaps WestJet’s new insurance coverage will be appealing to those comfortable travelling in the near future. And hopefully they won’t actually need to make use of it.