Airbnb’s Coronavirus Policy

Like many of you, I’ve had travel plans interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The health and safety of everyone is obviously the priority. However, the situation created some serious headaches for just about everyone involved.

It can be hard to keep track of all the different policies. Earlier this week, Jon covered hotel cancelation policies related to the COVID-19 coronavirus. What happens if you have a stay booked in an Airbnb though?

Starting out

Despite the numerous complaints and bad press Airbnb has received over the past year, they’ve been really solid when it comes to their COVID-19 policy.

Right off the bat, you’ll notice a huge banner on their front page stating the company’s commitment to the wellbeing of travelers. While this is starting to become the industry norm, some companies make it much less visible than others.

Airbnb’s Policy

According to Airbnb’s policy, certain reservations can be canceled without charges. This includes any fees Airbnb or hosts typically tack on at booking. Reservations that can be canceled include:

  • Guests who are travelling to or from severely affected areas
  • Hosts who are hosting in or welcoming guests from severely affected areas
  • Anyone who can’t complete their trip due to official travel restrictions, medical or disease control duties, flight or ground transport cancellation initiated by the provider due to COVID-19, or suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19

If your reservation falls under one of the major impacted regions (think China, Korea, and Italy), your reservation should show automatically an option to cancel penalty-free. For guests:

  • You will receive a full refund (including any fees)
  • Airbnb will refund all fees

And for hosts of bookings falling under Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy:

  • Hosts won’t incur any cancellation fees
  • Hosts can accept new reservations for those dates
  • Superhost status will not be affected

What if you’re visiting another impacted region?

Given the rapidly evolving nature of the situation, there are many more countries that could fall under these exemptions. In that case, Airbnb will handle each booking on a case-by-case basis. Other situations that may be eligible for a refund include guests that must change or cancel travel:

  • In order to comply with disease control restrictions implemented by relevant governmental or health authorities
  • In order to perform medical or disease control duties in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • As a result of flight or ground transport cancellations initiated by an airline or ground transport provider due to the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • In the event that they are diagnosed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19 by a medical or health authority.

We were recently booked to at an Airbnb property in Tel Aviv. Israel currently not allowing any international passengers without a 14-day quarantine, so we couldn’t enter the country even if we wanted to. After a five-minute phone conversation, we were issued a full refund. It was an incredibly easy and much faster than expected. Especially given everything that’s going on right now.

Final Thoughts

This is an incredibly trying time for both consumers and businesses in the travel industry. While I empathize with businesses right now, there’s no need to make the process more difficult for people than needed. Airbnb has really nailed the way they’re handling this one. Kudos, Airbnb.

What has your experience been with canceling Airbnb reservations lately?

Author: Stephen Hoechst

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5 Comments

  1. There really shouldn’t be a case by case situation here. If you don’t feel comfortable traveling in the next few weeks, you should be able to cancel, without fees, no matter where you’re coming from or where you’re going to. Period. Airbnb not being proactive about this is incredibly dangerous and reckless. I understand that some hosts make a living off Airbnb but everyone is feeling the repercussions now and the travel business has risks like this.

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  2. I’m guessing 70% of AirBNB customers trying to cancel reservations this month are actually saying “never again”. For me, I had a trip to Amsterdam and London next week. Hotel cancellation for Amsterdam took less than a minute online for full refund. AirBNB cancellation in London — “we’ll refund $100 of the $1600 booking”. Hmmm… which will I be more likely to use next time?

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  3. I completely disagree with @Ranova. AirBnB hosts are not hoteliers. They have one property and one property only. If it’s booked by someone who then cancels at the last moment, they have no opportunity to replace that lost income.

    If the guest needs to cancel for good reason, it will be covered by the guest’s travel insurance. If the guest does not take out travel insurance, then the risk should fall on the guest. Hosts are not in the business of taking that risk, incurring expenses ahead of visits and then receiving no income.

    AirBnB is increasingly moving away from its origins as a personal letting business for spare rooms or vacation homes towards trying to compete with hotels. But it’s being disingenuous with its customers about this change and pretending that it hasn’t changed to being very host unfriendly. I, for one, now charge more on AirBnB than competitor sites because of their policies, and I encourage all other hosts to do the same.

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  4. Does California count as a severely affected area?

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  5. I just canceled an AirBNB booking due to a canceled convention, and the host was kind to offer a 75% refund. However, AirBNB refunded ZERO percent of their 14.2% service fee. Some service! At least AirBNB will make their money, no matter what.

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