I am trying to get Airbnb to refund my $3000 deposit for a house booking in London for July 3, 2020. The last of my 50-odd attempts to contact Airbnb was through its support email. It bounced back: “We’re writing to let you know that the group you tried to contact (support) may not exist.”
I had my four children at home at Christmas and as a gift I booked a house in London through Airbnb in order to give all my family a well-earned holiday after years of hard University study. As I am 64 years old, when the WHO declared a pandemic, I got scared and cancelled the booking on March 20 thinking I would get my deposit refunded.
Apparently according to Airbnb, the coronavirus pandemic is not an extenuating circumstance and I should toddle off to London in July with all of my family. We may all die; however this apparently is not a problem. Dealing with Airbnb for a refund has been the most frustrating experience of my life .
The information below is the gist of my submissions to Airbnb:
I am having great difficulty phoning or contacting Airbnb. I am receiving zero support and zero resolution.
In a nutshell I booked and paid for an apartment in London in December 2019 for July 3-8, 2020. I recently cancelled the booking because of the extenuating circumstance that the Australian government has banned overseas travel and because of my age I will probably die if I contract coronavirus.
The host has written to me and declined to pay back my deposit. She is “deeply sorry”. However, my $3000 deposit should ease her sorrow particularly in view of the fact that it is money for nothing. I would like to know where my money is and when it is being transferred to the host.
Although we are not directly covered by the specific COVID-19 policy we are clearly covered by the general extenuating circumstances policy on the following grounds:
- Government-mandated obligations – there is an indefinite ban on Australians travelling abroad under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and my son and daughter are government employees who cannot travel under order of government directives. We face imprisonment and other penalties if we breach the Biosecurity Order.
- Travel restrictions – the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has the following specific advice for the UK “We now advise you to: do not travel to the United Kingdom.”
- Transportation disruptions – at this time it is impossible to secure travel to the United Kingdom that is reliable. There have been endless cancelations and rescheduling. There is not a reliable way to book travel to the UK at this time
- Epidemic disease or illness – the WHO declared a pandemic; the Olympics have been cancelled for the first time since WWII and children in the UK are saying goodbye to their parents via video link as they die. The policy at the time of our booking clearly states that an epidemic declared by a credible organisation is sufficient as an extenuating circumstance.
The booking was for a house in Kensington. We chose this so our entire family could attend. The purpose of this accommodation was for my family to have a holiday together after my daughter’s wedding in Scotland.
Included in our party to arrive was my son and daughter. He is a medical practitioner and junior House Officer at Cairns Base Hospital. He is employed by Queensland Health, a state government department in the pediatric department while she is a teacher employer by the Department of Education.
At the time of lodging this request for a refund, both of them have “indefinite” bans on international travel. According to a COVID-19 team brief he has received, he has been requested by the QLD government health authorities not to go on leave, while schoolteachers are also banned by the Department of Education.
Please note that although our travel was for July, Australians are legally banned from travelling abroad indefinitely at this time. The Prime Minister announced a ban on Australians travelling overseas under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and this is in addition to the standing advice to not travel overseas by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This is effective indefinitely and our family risks imprisonment, fines and potentially quarantine on a remote island on our return.
This means that at this time we are legally prevented from travelling. The only logical way to read this policy is that if someone is banned from travelling to the country right now and indefinitely into the future they have an obligation not to travel and have an extenuating circumstance under this possible. Any alternative to this reading is not workable.
For example, if a person was not allowed to travel because they had been charged with a crime it is possible at some point in the future the charges may be dropped and the ban lifted. However ‘possibilities’ are besides the point. We are legally barred from travelling by the law right now. The Australian government has advised multiple times Australians should expect these measures to be in place for at least six months.
According to this news article, the following applies to international travel :
Thousands of Australians have been left stranded overseas as airlines cancel flights and countries across the globe shut their borders entirely in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Australians caught by closed borders, airport shutdowns, cancelled flights or soaring ticket prices say they are trying to heed the government’s advice to return home for the duration of the pandemic, but can’t.
At least 100 Australians are isolated in Peru after the government in Lima closed all borders and land crossings and stopped international flights in and out.
At this time it is impossible from any practical standpoint to book travel as international travel at this time is completely unreliable. This is further backed up by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which advises:
If you’re in the United Kingdom and want to return to Australia, check your route carefully with your airline or travel agent as a number of key transit hubs, including the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dubai), Hong Kong and Singapore are suspending flights, including transits.
Please note that our claim clearly meets the epidemic disease or illness under the current policy. However, the policy as it existed at the time of our booking in January was much more clear. It is this policy that formed a part of our contract, in which valid circumstances include:
- Urgent travel restrictions or severe security advisories issued after the time of booking, by an appropriate national or international authority (such as a government office or department)
- Endemic disease declared by a credible national or international authority (such as the US Centres for Disease Control or the World Health Organization)
The Australian Government has now advised every Australian not to travel overseas in light of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The WHO has declared this a pandemic. This happened after we made our reservation. Under the clear policy in place at the time we booked we clearly meet this circumstance. There was not a special review policy at the time of our booking.
The current policy, Epidemic disease or illness that suddenly affects a region or an entire group of people. This doesn’t include existing diseases that are associated with an area—for example, malaria in Thailand or dengue fever in Hawaii is also clearly met by the current circumstances.
My wife and I are over 60 and this places us in the most vulnerable group for overseas travel. The American Centre for Disease Control CDC has advised people over 60 and those with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus to stock up on supplies and avoid venturing out of their homes, except when necessary.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has made it impossible for my family to travel to London to take up accommodation in Kensington in July. I booked the house in order to give my family a well-earned holiday after years and years of hard University study.
My daughter (a state school teacher) was going to be married in Scotland and then we were travelling to London. The Queensland Government has now banned all State School Teachers from overseas travel. My son is a doctor and Queensland Health Department have banned him from overseas travel also. My youngest son was going to travel from Canada however he cannot get there as Canada has closed its borders. My eldest son is an Immigration Agent and Australia has now closed its borders and ended his business.
The Australian Prime Minister has made a statement listing new measures to protect Australians from Coronavirus. The Prime Minister says, “Australians should expect these measures to be in place for at least 6 months”. As of this writing there have been 472,529 cases and 21,305 deaths from Coronavirus.
Because of the danger, the travel bans and all the listed extenuating circumstances I am asking Airbnb to reconsider the $0.00 AUD refund and have my full deposit returned.
We were really looking forward to this holiday and I realise that Airbnb’s business will be badly affected on a worldwide scale. We have used Airbnb many times and may look at a new booking at a later date when it is safe.