Lost $900 Because of Airbnb’s COVID Policy

I have tried getting Airbnb’s help over the phone, I’ve tried getting help from the host and I have messaged four senior executives, including the CEO. I have not received a positive response so far. So now I’m sharing my issue publicly, to see if the company does something about it.

I booked a trip to Istanbul from May 7 to May 12, and made a reservation with an Airbnb host for all those days. A few days after I made the reservation, the government in Turkey has announced their first full lockdown. Although tourists would still be able to walk around, I’m sure you can understand that traveling to a place that has just entered their first full lockdown is not ideal, for many reasons. The main one for me was the possibility of being locked in Turkey and not able to travel back to my country of residence, Dubai.

Once we heard the news, my husband and I decided to postpone the trip. I messaged my host and politely asked to change the dates of my trip. He refused. I then asked for a refund, as I spent $900. He refused. He refused any refund whatsoever… not even 10% or 20%. I lost $900.

With that, I called Airbnb, who informed me that they have an extenuating circumstances policy. It says that trips booked before March 2020 could fall under this policy, but since I booked my trip two weeks ago, I’m not entitled to it.  Obviously, Airbnb is entitled to define its cancellation policies, but in my opinion, I believe this extenuating circumstances policy is completely outdated.

During COVID, all the major players in the tourism business, like hotels, airline companies and travel agencies have implemented much more flexible cancellation policies to encourage people to continue traveling during the pandemic. Today, if I buy a ticket with Emirates for example, I can change the dates without no extra charges. If I book a hotel, I can most likely change the dates or get a refund.

I had no issues at all changing the dates of my flight to Istanbul, the dates of my flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia or canceling my hotel reservation in Cappadocia. None of them have charged me anything for it, because they all understood the situation in the country.  Only Airbnb couldn’t be flexible on their policy and its host couldn’t offer new dates or even a partial refund.

I don’t think this is fair. But more than that, I don’t think this is smart. I would love to hear something positive from Airbnb, to help me get my $900 back. Is anyone interested in helping?

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3 Comments

  1. I have been an Airbnb Host for the past 6 months. I think people don’t understand that as a host, you are trying to run a business. It seems that everyone now wants to use COVID as an excuse for everything. You are in the middle of a pandemic. Before March 2020, it was unforeseen that COVID existed in a global scale. This is why the Airbnb policy started for bookings prior to March 2020.

    For bookings after March 2020 guests know that there is a pandemic and that the rules and borders can change it anytime. It should be ba surprise to people that country borders can get closed off at anytime. As people who are running an airBNB business, the policies are there to make sure that the host does not lose money. I’ve had a couple people already who have had try to cancel the Airbnb booking the day before claiming that they have been exposed to covid.
    It looks like you booked with a strict No refund policy, and also travelling internationally. As a guest you have to know the risks which traveling during a pandemic, and look the the policies hosts and companies have in place.

    If you decided to travel, esp as tourist, you have to be ready for these types of scenarios. You cant just say “COVID” last minute. It is impossible for host to get another booking when people cancel last minute. It is not AirBNB who has the policies, it is actually the Host who make the policy of flexible, strict, whatever. For many people Airbnb is their livelihood. Even when Airbnb issued a global refund in 2020, Many host were left stranded without any income from guest. Airbnb can take the hit, but host can not. I can understand circumstances, but it up to the guest to review the travel restrictions, refund policies and then take the risk if they see fit.

  2. 1. You booked a trip during a pandemic. Based on the dates you provided Canada had closed their borders and the USA was implementing stay at home orders. Both are big international news items. You knew the risk a lockdown could occur.

    2. The host’s short term rental cancellation policy applies. Sounds like you booked under a strict no refund policy.

    Airbnb is a booking platform. Hosts control how their rentals are run. Because each rental is different, Airbnb does not control refund policies of hosts. The refund of reservations made before 3/20/20 was a one time event as everyone tried to figure out what was needed

    You booked during a pandemic, knew travel restrictions were occurring, and didn’t take out travel insurance. A kind host would’ve refunded but you agreed to the no refund policy.

    You made an expensive mistake.

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