Airlines have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic. American and Southwest airlines posted quarterly losses in the billions last month, and Virgin Atlantic filed for bankruptcy, according to an Aug. 4 court filing.
In a bid to attract customers back to the skies, airlines have implemented various safety measures, like blocking off middle seats, conducting deep cleans of aircraft and instituting more stringent enforcement of face coverings. And carriers continue to unveil programs in the name of safety as Etihad just introduced a snood-style face mask for premium passengers.
But Emirates Airlines has taken incentive programs to another level by announcing that it will cover medical expenses up to 150,000 euros ($177,962.25) for passengers diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, during their travel and while they are away from home.
Within the cost breakdown is a small note: The airline will cover funeral costs as well.
“Emirates is proud to lead the way in boosting confidence for international travel. We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually re-open, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel,” said H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Emirates Group chairman and chief executive, in a statement.
This announcement comes after the president of Emirates, Tim Clark, told the BBC that it was poised to slash 9,000 jobs.
Emirates' coronavirus coverage begins from the moment of departure and remains valid even if passengers go to other destinations after their initial flight with the airline. As an added incentive, the airline is equally dedicated to covering the fees for a 14-day quarantine at 100 euros per day.
The airline is the first to roll out such a plan that is effective from July 23 to Oct. 31, according to the Emirates COVID-19 Cover Assistance document.
Instead of going through a registration process or filling out a questionnaire, customers who have contracted COVID-19 during their travels can call a hotline service that will aid them in accessing the benefits. Emirates recommends that people contact the hotline as soon as possible since you will not be able to claim these expenses if you've already paid.
For those who wish to return to the U.S. after testing positive for COVID-19, Emirates will cover the actual cost of a repatriation flight with one other passenger and any children or minors.
However, in the event of “your death due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the airline will cover 1,500 euros per covered person for funeral services. That means “conservation costs, handling, placing in coffin, specific arrangements for transportation” and the cost for a simple coffin are all covered. Ceremonial and burial costs will not be covered through the airline.
Assistance separate from the 1,500 euros also includes “transportation of the body from the location where it is placed in the coffin to the burial place in the relevant geographical area,” according to the cost breakdown.
If any of this coverage sounds extreme, it's not that different from many travel insurance policies, which tend to cover emergency medical and evacuation services and the return of remains to your home country in the case of death.
While Emirates has people covered in the event of a death, in a surprise twist, one of the few fees the airline won't cover in the new initiative includes those tied to COVID-19 tests.
“We are now taking it to the next level, by being the first in the industry to offer our customers free global cover for COVID-19 medical expenses and quarantine costs should they incur these costs during their travel,” Al Maktoum said.“It is an investment on our part, but we are putting our customers first, and we believe they will welcome this initiative.”