Airlines want us on planes so badly they’re willing to pay for our funerals

Press/Media: Expert Comment


Airlines are desperate to get passengers back on board, spruiking coronavirus-specific travel insurance – and one airline is even offering to foot the bill for funerals. Etihad became the latest airline on Tuesday to bundle in extras in a bid to book seats, handing out ‘wellness insurance’ that will cover a passenger’s medical and quarantine bills if they contract COVID-19 during their trip. Virgin Atlantic and Emirates have invoked similar policies – the latter will even pay up to $2700 in funeral costs should a passenger die from the virus while on their trip. (Whether or not travellers see that as a vote of confidence is yet to be seen.)

We can expect other airlines, especially those in the full-service market, to follow suit, industry watchers say. Airline economist Tony Webber said carriers are desperately looking for a way to stand out and win over customers. “Particularly in the full-service market – they’re all about point of difference driving demand,” Dr Webber, CEO of Airline Intelligence & Research, told The New Daily.

Although the moves by these airlines don’t have particular relevance to border-confined Australians, Finder’s travel guru Angus Kidman said we can still watch and learn from the northern hemisphere. Mr Kidman said it’s common for carriers in the United Arab Emirates to try and one-up each other when it comes to offerings – they have the capital backing to do so. “Airlines will be looking to see what else can they be doing to make it more appealing to fly,” Mr Kidman said.

Add-ons adopt a whole new meaning

Emirates is offering complimentary insurance for all its flights and holidays booked until October, which includes medical and quarantine expenses for travellers diagnosed while abroad. Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Allianz Assistance for its packages, which includes cover for a positive diagnosis and quarantine, plus some coverage for if a passenger is denied boarding. It runs through until March. Etihad’s automatically applied coverage runs until the end of the year, covering quarantine and medical expenses.

As the trend grows, travellers might find more and more freebies being wheeled out as incentives, Monash University’s Greg Bamber predicted. Airlines are desperate to soothe passengers’ nerves and increase bookings, Professor Bamber told TND. “What else might airlines offer to tempt people to fly again e.g. extra frequent flyer points, free or cut-price accommodation at your stopover or final destination and free or cut-price car hire or chauffeur-driven rides to the airport,” Professor Bamber said.

Fear of flying

Australia’s borders remain tightly closed, but other countries are beginning to cautiously open corridors in a bid to reignite trade and leisure travel. As one of the world’s transit capitals, Singapore has begun winding back some of its travel restrictions, creating corridors to Malaysia, China and Brunei.

While it’s a reassuring sign to a return to normal, Dr Webber said international flights obviously presented a risk while the world is without a coronavirus vaccine.  “As aviation starts to take off again, so will the probability of second, third, fourth waves, no doubt about it,” Dr Webber said. “(Offering virus insurance) will lead to an increase in client confidence, but it also increases the probability that there’ll be transmission between economies and countries.”

Mr Kidman pointed out the insurance being offered by these airlines is not on par with the travel insurance that consumers would usually take. Most insurance companies – particularly in Australia – are reluctant to offer any kind of travel insurance. “And if they do, it’s just so expensive that, is it even worth it?” Mr Kidman added.

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Period9 Sept 2020

Media contributions


Media contributions


  • airlines
  • passengers
  • COVID-19
  • Etihad
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Emirates
  • funeral costs
  • insurance
  • quarantine
  • frequent flyer
  • accommodation
  • borders
  • travel
  • aviation industry