Richard Branson’s struggling airline, Virgin Atlantic, is betting on free COVID-19 insurance to spur bookings.

By Meena Thiruvengadam
August 27, 2020
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Virgin Atlantic is hoping free insurance will encourage reluctant travelers to step back on board.

The airline, which won a bailout from the U.K. government on Tuesday, is partnering with Allianz Global Assistance to offer coronavirus insurance coverage for travelers flying on Virgin Atlantic between Aug. 24 and March 31, 2021.

The policies cover up to $650,000 for emergency medical expenses should a passenger or traveling companion be infected with the coronavirus. Coverage includes repatriation and funeral costs if necessary, as well as accommodations and transportation in the event a passenger is denied boarding or forced to quarantine.

Emirates unveiled a similar program last month, as have governments in Spain’s Canary Islands and Portugal in an effort to kickstart local tourism.

Unlike most insurance policies, Virgin Atlantic’s coronavirus coverage doesn’t require policy holders to pay a portion of their medical costs. There are no restrictions on age or people with preexisting conditions. The policy also is being automatically added to all bookings through March.

Passengers can travel freely after the first leg of their journey, as long they’ve booked a round-trip ticket with Virgin Atlantic. And those flying on partner airlines, including Delta, KLM, and Air France, will be covered as long as they’ve booked through Virgin Atlantic, the airline said.

Coverage is less generous to one-way travelers, who will see their insurance expire 12 hours after landing at their destination.

“We believe this complimentary cover will provide some added reassurance for our customers as they start to plan trips further afield,” Juha Jarvinen, Virgin’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement.

Virgin Atlantic has been hit so hard by the global travel slowdown that its CEO had warned it could run out of cash next month.

That being said, there is a bit of fine print travelers should note. Coverage only applies to COVID-19-related medical expenses. Medical expenses related to a car accident, for example, won’t be covered without the purchase of additional travel insurance.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.