Late Cancellation? Travel Insurance is a Must!

A good friend and I – both disabled vets – booked an apartment in Miami South Beach with an Airbnb host two months before our vacation days when prices were still affordable. We then booked cheap airfares – we both live on modest incomes – that could not be refunded.

Three weeks before our arrival date our reservation was cancelled by Airbnb with no reasons given. They offered us $129 as compensation for our inconvenience and invited us to re-book. We then looked at available bookings with the same amenities for January and they were now 50-200% more expensive than our original booking, which priced us out of the market.

With the $129 they attempted to fob off on us, one would be lucky to pay for one day of accommodations on South Beach; it wouldn’t cover our lost money for non-reimbursable airfares. This debacle occurred after yet another earlier booking was cancelled because the dates advertised as being available were not in fact available (or the host got a better deal with some other customer through another third party booking agency; or still yet, the host was perhaps racist and by tracking our emails on social media discovered that my veteran friend was African American).

We began to think that Airbnb is less a booking agent than an auctioneer. If hosts can cancel reservations a month after they are made without explanation to the customer one wonders if the room was rented to someone willing to pay more. In popular locations like Miami South Beach in January that is not an unreasonable suspicion.

I complained vociferously to the very polite Airbnb customer service representatives who duly commiserated with us over our misfortune at first, yet rendered no resolution. I was told to call back the next day, which is not what one wants to hear when someone has your money and has just cancelled your reservation a few weeks before arrival. Only after sending emails to their corporate headquarters in San Francisco threatening to file a breach of contract claim in Colorado courts did I finally receive a phone call from a manager of what appeared to be their customer service center in Idaho. She was a competent problem solver and she immediately offered to help with the increased cost of re-booking.

We luckily found a venue with similar amenities that cost $340 or about 30% more than our original booking. Airbnb covered the additional cost without making me jump through any hoops and we were satisfied. My warning to all is that a “confirmed reservation” with Airbnb is not the same as a confirmed reservation at a Motel 6 or a Holiday Inn. If you think you have a confirmed reservation and then feel safe to go and book an El Cheapo non-reimbursable air fare you are at risk of losing your accommodations and being stuck with a ticket to a destination without a room waiting for you. In peak travel season when the reasonably priced accommodations fill up fast your re-booking could be quite costly. Bottom line: reduce the risk by getting travel insurance.

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


  1. I’d like to thank the poster for sharing, as something similar happened to me as well. Airbnb bookings are completely unreliable and I dare say most people don’t expect this when making a “reservation”, which let’s face it under the unlisted rules you can’t even call it that.

    Airbnb allows hosts to cancel at any time and without giving a reason (while a guest needs to choose one from a given list. In my case, after 4 months my “reservation” got canceled with just weeks to go before my trip. Just received a matter of fact email from airbnb about having been refunded for the booking, under My Trips it just said “canceled” with no reason whatsoever.

    Even more confusing, the bed was still available for that date and for the same price but then I saw it: The host had now added a cleaning fee of 24% of their base price and airbnb had used that occasion to up their fee by 50% as well, resulting in a 25% total price increase.

    Imagine if airlines, hotels, rental car agencies start following this model and cancel your reservation booked months ago because they feel they left money on the table when you made your booking some weeks/months ago!

    Note to “Carole”: I don’t know what your problem is (maybe you are one of these hosts described on this site) but you totally missed the point: Obviously, most airbnb users do NOT get the message that these “reservations” can’t really be relied upon (I realize that most hosts do not cancel like this) and nobody makes back up reservations just in case. Also, insulting someone for being on a limited income and using airbnb says everything about you and nothing about the rest of us.

  2. Well, you clearly got the message that a confirmed booking on Airbnb is different from a confirmed booking at a hotel so why did you opt for Airbnb in the first place? Yeah, you sound more like a veteran cheapskate:)

    • Carole, it’s no secret that people opt for AirBNBs because they are significantly cheaper than hotels, so you are literally insulting yourself and everyone else who uses this website.
      Secondly, I didn’t take this post as a complaint, but instead a warning to people who are new to the whole airbnb thing. Believe it or not, a good majority of people have no idea how airbnb works as they don’t clearly advertise themselves as a “middle-man” for short-term rental properties. In fact, I always thought it was like orbitz or priceline until I stumbled upon an AirBNB horror-stories subreddit.

    • Carole you are as someone else mentioned a gas lighter and I’ll add an Airbnb shill. Or their bottom of the barrel attorney with little to do.

    • Carole is a troll who is a host for Airbnb while also working for them on the back end to negate consumer issues and place the blame back on the guest. She trolls all these articles along with “Mm” and a couple others. Carole, you’re clearly a dumb bitch who needs to go to hell. Bye Felicia

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