Airbnb Exploitative Policies During an Epidemic

This was my first and last time using Airbnb. I live in Nagoya, Japan and wanted my parents to visit me this summer, from April 17th to May 17th. I booked an apartment for four people in Nagoya for more than $3000. I booked early in January thinking that the summer time would be the peak season of travel here in Japan owing to the Golden Week holidays.

Then last week the coronavirus struck the whole world and within days the situation in Japan also got worse. As a result of discussions with my family we decided to cancel the trip and the reservation two months prior to the actual check-in date.

Airbnb lists “epidemic disease or illness that suddenly affects a region or an entire group of people” as an extenuating circumstance and we are eligible for refund. Hence, we cancelled the reservation and surprisingly I only got $70 as a refund when I paid more than $3000 to book this place.

We decided to file a refund claim under extenuating cancellation policy. I called Airbnb customer care and was initially disconnected two times when I told my story and asked for a refund (I know the names of the representatives who disconnected me as well).

Finally the third time I got in touch with an Airbnb representative who was hellbent on proof of the coronavirus spread in Japan even though the whole world is aware of the situation in Asia. Hence we submitted links to the various government websites, travel advisories, and my parents’ travel itinerary to prove that they were traveling form India.

Still Airbnb asked for more proof, saying there was no ban in Japan. The epidemic is spreading and it’s in the news. This is apparent to the whole world but Airbnb will not consider it unless someone really dies or gets infected. They want to exploit people out of their hard-earned money even at the time of an epidemic.

Even after paying more than $3000 I got a joke of $70 back, which is completely unacceptable and unfair, whether there is an epidemic or not. This depicts a perfect picture of exploitation by Airbnb and their poor host cancellation policies which are screwing with people’s mental health and robbing them of their money.

The host says that he doesn’t know how the refund came down to $70, while Airbnb says they cannot override the host cancellation policy. Who knows which side is telling the truth.

I initially thought that they would settle this on humanitarian grounds considering the coronavirus situation in the world right now but they want more proof. What more proof do they want, when the epidemic has already spread to all parts of the world? There is no regard or respect for human life.

I work hard for my money and the fact that I am being exploited for money in the wake of an epidemic and constantly asked for proof of it as though I am making up the situation is causing me so much stress and sleepless nights. I reluctantly used Airbnb for the first time knowing that as a first time user and reading other guest experiences, I might run into some trouble and, as expected, had the worst experience.

I will not be using Airbnb again. When they do not have any morals or values even in the time of a crisis or an epidemic, no one can expect them to resolve your issues when the times are less tense.

Posted in Airbnb Guest Stories and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. An update !
    I was hopeful for the refund since Airbnb extended the refund window to all bookings till May 31st. Airbnb still denied refund citing that “I cancelled my reservation myself and longterm stays are not eligible for refund” !! Greedy morons !
    Even after submitting proofs of India lockdown and state of emergency in Japan Airbnb denied refund on senseless excuses.
    The Airbnb fools kept saying that I need to get the refund from my host.
    As a last resort I again talked to my host regarding the refund and he agreed saying that since the COVID situation worsened he will agree to refund the money and he himself contacted the Airbnb support. I am grateful to him.
    If the host wouldn’t have agreed to refund Airbnb would never let me have one !!!!
    Meanwhile while I was getting frustrated with Airbnb and made to wait on calls etc etc the host was unaware of the endless conversations and cases I tried to open for my refund. No one from Airbnb even bothered to contact him (confirmed it with the host).
    Anyway I am waiting for the refund to be reflected in my account now.
    After this experience I guess Airbnb is bad for guests as well as hosts.
    Let’s just boycott this inhuman company !!!

  2. Airbnb further extends refund window to May 31st and sets aside $250 million for hosts.Now my booking is eligible for a refund but still they are refusing a refund stating that I cancelled the booking myself. India is under lockdown as well but these people don’t want to refund my money at all.
    I wish Airbnb gets bankrupt !!

    • The customer rep handling my case told me the same thing too bec I cancelled in Feb before this crisis became pandemic. I do have to give them doctors notes bec some family members have medical conditions prompting me to cancel very early. Then thats when the rep re evaluated & I got the refund call.

  3. I have five different places in Spain, France and Italy this summer (2020) booked through Airbnb for 2 to 3 weeks each and have paid at least 50% deposits on all of them totaling almost $6,300. Airbnb is not answering their phones. Their extenuating circumstances policy online only goes out 3 weeks so I cannot cancel now without losing $6,300. They have been raking in our money for 12 years and now they take our money and disappear during the Covid-19 crisis. I expect them to disappear once this is all over because I will never use them again and will tell EVERYBODY how they stole our money. Airbnb is not a responsible company and deserves to go bankrupt.

  4. Same boat here. My Airbnb booking in Tokyo was for the Spring break April 4-11, 2020 for a family of 8. I had to cancel due to the virus. I paid more than $1000 as initial payment. I went through the same steps as you, was asked for all sorts of proofs, if Air China initiated the cancellation or was it me – it was me. I gave them Travel Advisory from the US embassy in TOkyo regarding elderly travelers (my mother) “to postpone nonessential travels to Japan.” Nothing worked – NO REFUND!!

    • After saying that travel advisories are not travel bans the airbnb people closed my case saying they cannot do anything unless the airline cancels the tickets or Japan declares a travel ban. More than half of my money is now gone !!

    • An update today came with good news. Due to the outbreak becoming a pandemic, Airbnb expanded their refund policy to include all bookings with check in dates before April 14. I got lucky bec my check in was for April 4, so i got a call from customer services giving me full refund. Its really too bad that you missed this new policy by 3 days.

  5. This morning at the post office, while I was in line, two people with masks entered. TOTAL PANIC!!! Then they said: “This is a robbery”…….and we all calmed down …..

  6. The host will be keeping the vast majority of the refund, Airbnb will be keeping their service charges. Get in touch with the host again, they will be aware of the payout they are due even though you have cancelled. I had this situation recently when a guest cancelled their stay through extenuating circumstances. I authorised airbnb to refund all the monies back to the guest, although I was entitled under the cancellation policy to keep the money. Get back in contact with your host and ask them to authorise the refund.

    • The host says he does not know anything about the payouts (doubted it from the start) and now he agreed to pay only 50% (that’s what the Airbnb representative told me). Also the Airbnb representative said we cannot override the host cancellation policy (which is utter rubbish).
      Nothing I can do when Airbnb and the host have decided to keep my money that I had been saving for 2 years to get my parents on a trip.

  7. An update on this situation.
    The host agreed to refund 50% of my money after constant discussions with this only one Airbnb representative who was kind enough to at least do something about the situation. Now they say for a full refund we will have to wait and see if there is a travel ban in Japan and then decide to refund or not. This clearly means there will be an indefinite wait time period and no guarantee of a full refund.
    So very frustrating that we cancelled 2months before because of an epidemic and we got 50% back… better than the joke of $70 though !!
    Never using airbnb again !!

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