On May 1st, 2017, through Airbnb, we booked and fully paid for a beautiful property at Helensvale on the Gold Coast which perfectly suited our needs in order to spend Christmas with other family members who are residents there. On June 15th, the host withdrew the property for personal reasons. We received a perfunctory automated email from Airbnb that the property had been withdrawn, our booking had been cancelled, and a full refund had been initiated. Seven people were left with no accommodation and out of pocket to the tune of all the credit card costs.
We immediately emailed Airbnb to ask why we were not offered the choice of a refund or assistance to rebook a suitable equivalent property, as per the policy published on their website where it supposedly explains what happens if a host cancels. It took five days to get a response from Airbnb that this cancellation policy only applies in very specific circumstances and not to us. We asked Airbnb to refer us to where we could read and understand the specifics of this policy and how it didn’t apply to us. Airbnb refused to do this. We also asked Airbnb why they had immediately refunded us without consultation, again apparently in contradiction of their published policy. Again, Airbnb refused to provide an explanation.
In fairness to Airbnb, they did provide links to several alternative properties which they said “may suit our needs”. We had been very specific that we needed five bedrooms and large living spaces, even if it meant a higher cost. The alternatives Airbnb suggested were 2, 3, or 4 bedrooms and all entirely unsuitable, as though they had completely ignored our requirements. When we asked why Airbnb kept offering completely unsuitable alternatives which were in no way equivalent to our original booking, Airbnb refused to respond. When we tried to pursue the matter further, Airbnb effectively terminated the conversation saying they could offer no further assistance. Further emails to Airbnb have met with zero response.
The lesson from our experience is that Airbnb may work satisfactorily when things go well, but if there is a problem, such as the host cancelling, Airbnb will leave you high and dry. They are very difficult to reach to resolve an issue in a timely manner, they seem to apply their published policies arbitrarily, they refuse to respond to the specifics of a guest’s legitimate questions, and their responses are generalized as to what Airbnb “can’t” do rather than what they “can”. In summary, don’t expect any useful assistance when things go wrong. You have been warned.