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to define its cancellation policies, but in my opinion, I believe this extenuating circumstances policy is completely outdated.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?

Customer Service? Airbnb Doesn’t Know the Meaning

I joined Airbnb in 2020 but had to cancel all my trips due to the pandemic. Now that the EU is considering opening up to fully vaccinated Americans, I thought I could re-visit Italy. Having had a good experience with the different hosts on a previous trip (booked by my traveling companion), I made the (terrible) decision to join.

I made my first reservation and that was accepted. When I tried to make the second, a dialog box showed up saying “we can’t let you pay as your account is under review.” This was the start of the nightmare customer service saga. Service cannot be used in the same sentence as Airbnb as it’s a complete oxymoron.

The first line of representatives you reach on the number, which is deftly hidden behind multiple tabs, leaves you feeling frustrated, angry but most of all, powerless. Here’s some of what the representatives told me about my account review:

  • They were carrying out background checks on me. I’ve been in various government jobs that required those. I didn’t know registering on Airbnb required a background check.
  • From Jan. 2021, all Airbnb customers not only had to inform their banks about potential transactions with the company, but in fact, had to get in touch with Visa and Mastercard to let them know that reservations would be made on this platform. Didn’t these representatives get the training memo that it’s actually banks that block/unblock transactions because Visa and Mastercard supply the plastic and technology that makes our life simple with credit cards?
  • I had to get in touch with the potential host I was going to stay with in Italy because apparently, her software hadn’t been linked to Airbnb and this was what was stopping me reserving with her. Don’t they have an IT department to do that? Isn’t that their responsibility?
  • I did actually contact the host in Italy. She took the trouble to contact the Italian customer service platform and they were scathing in their response. They laid the blame squarely on the U.S. side saying that tech support was clearly able to help me and should do so without pushing blame on to the host. Sound familiar?
  • The trite sentence of “I’m so sorry. I know how you feel.” No, you don’t, so stop trying the empathy game with me. If you were really sorry, your IT team would stop faffing around and could have fixed this block on my account already.

There will be customers who have had a flawless experience with their hosts, as I did on my previous trip. My particular experience isn’t one I’d wish on my worst enemy. I have to agree with a review I read in that their representatives do seem to follow a script. It can’t be great for them to have to put up with aggravated, stressed and livid customers but if their management put robust resolution protocols in place, namely timely responses and updates to customers’ email, then perhaps 90% of this could be avoided.

What seems patently obvious from my dealings with Airbnb is that no supervisors are around to handle calls in the moment. Their procedure is to “escalate” and this gets attention within 24 to 48 hours. In the meantime, you get zero communication.

The other horrendously annoying aspect of dealing with this company is the multiple security checks that take place. If you phone from a number that isn’t on your account or if you log in from a laptop/desktop and not the app, you get a string of emails/texts asking you to confirm. Can’t somebody tell their Information Security Officer that security is only good when it doesn’t interfere with legitimate users?

That is the paradox of this company. Their engineers have crafted multiple security checks on users yet they still haven’t put in place a system to communicate with their customers that they are dealing with technical problems that hamper customers from using their accounts. How could they have not seen the importance of keeping customers informed?

It really seems to be a company that has little regard for treating its customers with a modicum of respect. My experience has shown that timely responses are not something they do. There is no communication about the progress of problem resolution and some of their representatives are clearly out of their depth. I’m just annoyed at myself for having joined such a thoughtless, uncaring company.

Airbnb Literally Endangering People’s Lives for Profit

After making the responsible choice last year to cancel all reservations when the pandemic hit and subsequently not receiving any compensation, I received $25. I took it as an opportunity to review my cancellation policy to better protect myself to reflect the new realities of travel.

Fast forward a year later and I made my place available for the month of April and received three bookings, two of which my guests responsibly cancelled due to the lockdown in the province of Ontario. The third one admitted her travel was unnecessary and that she was coming to walk around with her boyfriend. Now she booked a non-refundable option but would not cancel the reservation because she did not want to lose the money despite her choice to book a non-refundable option. Again being responsible, I chose to cancel and the guest was refunded.

I am not the brightest, but I am failing to see how after I adapted and my guest booked a non-refundable option, how she is still being refunded. At first I was upset over the money but at some point it’s not about the money. It’s about the safety of my community and I couldn’t believe the position Airbnb put me in. They refunded some person who booked a non-refundable option and did nothing to respect my cancellation policy or do the right thing and cancel all reservations in Ontario.

This didn’t sit well so I asked them to donate the money to Black Lives Matter (I am a Black person so figured this money could go to some good) instead of refunding this low life guest. They refused, stating their policy. I was laughing at their “support” team. The guy clearly was in no position to even have a conversation and was reminiscent of a robot, programmed to repeat the policy and failing to understand what “human” is.

Companies like these are greasy and hope the collective group robot think pushes your billion-dollar company to higher profits while putting the lives of people at risk. The fact that they are allowing hosts to operate in Ontario at the moment is baffling. They are literally putting profits before the public good and this goes for housing as well. Simply ruining communities.

Barbados Nightmare and $4,500 Taken During COVID

I rented a place through Airbnb in Barbados on Jan. 13 for one month to start on Jan. 20. The price of the rental was $4,500. On Jan. 17, I flew to Barbados and went to a COVID-holding hotel as required. Barbados required that we needed to stay at one of those hotels until we tested negative on the island for COVID and then we could move to our final destination. The Barbados website said that tests were taking about 24-48 hours so we booked the hotel until Jan. 20, adding a one-day buffer.

When we arrived, we were told that the COVID tests were taking up to 12 days to come back, if we could even get a test. They said the island was so behind because the demand was so high and they only had one testing lab on the whole island. We had prison-like wrist monitors on and we were not able to leave our hotel room under any circumstance until this test came back or we’d be fined $6,000 each. This was going to be our lives for up to 12 days and we were paying for it. We could not even go for a walk or get any exercise during this time. Getting food was super hard as well. It was nothing short of prison.

While we were trying to sort all of this out, we learned that the U.S. changed its travel regulations on Jan. 17 and that the new policy was to go into effect on Jan. 20. The policy said that if traveling outside the U.S. we must have a valid negative COVID test that was no older than three days and if we could not effectively rely on getting one we should get home immediately. The U.S. Embassy in Barbados put a warning up and called all American travelers home before Jan. 20 if they could meet the new travel restrictions.

With the slow response time for test results effectively we could not get onto the island and we were not going to be able to get home. We decided that the safest thing to do was abide by the embassy warning and go home. We wrote the owner of the house who had our money for a 30-day stay and told them we needed to go home and shared that it was related to the change in U.S. travel restrictions. I generously and thoughtfully offered a week’s rental money not wanting to inconvenience the owner, but the owner refused to give any kind of refund, fully knowing the circumstances were out of our control and kept our full $4,500.

Airbnb told me that no one had requested a rental with this owner since we had, four days prior, and that my offer was generous, but sometimes they had “stubborn and greedy” owners that were unable to work with their renters. They told me that my reason for needing to cancel was valid and they understood my need to go home, but oddly they told me they could do nothing to get my money back. I provided their policy that had just been put into place that said if there was government policy change, put into effect due to COVID, that interrupted any stay after Jan. 20 the renter would be entitled to a full refund. Even with that policy and knowing our circumstances, they did nothing to give us our money.

Additionally, Airbnb has a cancellation period where you can cancel up to 7 days prior to your stay. I tried to use that policy to say that if we pay for the first week, we were essentially cancelling 7 days prior for the other 21 days and they said no to that as well. We sent our claim to the bank. They read all our paperwork and said that this was clearly “unethical and unscrupulous behavior” and that it was clear this owner had “scammed” us and that it was essential for us to fight to get this money back, but that under Visa’s policies they could not reclaim the money due to a technicality based on a bank error.

We are working with the BBB because we are still trying to recover the money that was unethically taken from us. I am also trying to find a lawyer. If anyone can recommend one, I’d appreciate it. There was absolutely no way that we could use our rental.

We showed them their own policy that if there was a government policy change put into effect that interrupted any stay after Jan. 20, the renter would be entitled to a full refund. Even with that and knowing our circumstances, they did nothing to return our money and continued to say that this was the “owner’s decision.” Though they stated and agreed many times that it was unfair and that it was a lot of money, they could do nothing about it. I still have never seen or gotten a copy of the owner’s agreement and I am perplexed why it is a different policy than Airbnb’s.

We need help recovering the money that was unethically taken from us. We showed proof of the embassy warning, the U.S. policy, Airbnb’s own policy, what the hotel was telling us about getting negative test results and our airline tickets home but no one would help us. We offered to pay for one week which would mimic a 7-day cancellation for the remaining time. This owner unethically kept $4,500, provided no service, was given fair notice and did not follow the company’s policy.

As the representative between the owner and myself, Airbnb has a responsibility to mediate this fairly and or rectify the harm we have received. They did not. We need help reclaiming our money.

Airbnb Host Accuses Guest of Having COVID

I was staying at an Airbnb location in New York City at the height of the pandemic in April 2020. Fifty three days into a 60-day stay, the host contacted Airbnb and accused me of having COVID-19. I had no symptoms and have since tested negative with the swab nasal test and the antibody test.

Just after 9:00 AM on a Friday I received a text from Airbnb that the host accused me of exposing her to coronavirus and I had to leave within 90 minutes. Not only was my reservation cancelled but Express Booking was disabled and I was told that I would have to call and get permission to stay with another Airbnb host.

I refused to leave and the host called the police three times, but first she changed the locks. Just before calling the police for the third time, she began throwing my personal possessions onto the street. While all of this was going on Airbnb was threatening penalties, although they did not specify how much.

Airbnb refused to refund a subsequent reservation at another location and only refunded a fraction of the pro-rated charges for the first reservation. Ultimately, I did use my second Airbnb reservation at my next stop without a problem. Airbnb did apologize, but this situation was so over the top and the pandemic is still raging I would warn all guests.

Also during the three police visits, nine officers were dispatched. It was very intense with the officers. I am not exaggerating when I say I could have been killed, but thanks to connections I had I was able to get through to the commanding officer of the precinct to give him the facts directly.

The host is still being investigated. The owner of the property is being investigated. The police were investigated and my complaint was found substantiated and is now awaiting departmental trials. Finally several agencies are involved in investigating Airbnb at the state and federal level.

Penalized for Cancellation due to COVID Exposure

My friend and I booked a week in a New York state lake house for August. Five days before the vacation was to begin, her roommate was exposed to COVID, and said roommate wasn’t aware of her exposure until three days before our trip, at which point she informed my friend.

Out of an abundance of caution, concern, and unwillingness to potentially spread COVID, we made the painful choice to cancel our trip. The host was immediately rude, behaved like we’d set out to screw her out of money intentionally, and mocked us for believing COVID to be a concern. Airbnb was zero help, and didn’t seem to give a damn about the fact that we were operating under extenuating circumstances while trying to be good members of our national community.

We managed to get half our money back after extensive time spent publicly confronting Airbnb on various social media channels, but the entire thing was disgraceful, and cemented the distrust I’ve always had for Airbnb (I mean, what with destroying rental markets, pricing locals out of their communities, and the racism far too prevalent on their platform). I will never book through them again.

Airbnb and its Hosts’ Unethical Practices

In November I booked a stay at an Airbnb one bedroom condominium in Palm Springs listed as for mid-February to late March. Per Airbnb requirements, I paid a total deposit of $3,135 for this to Airbnb. At the time, COVID-19 was declining.

Then in December 2020, the COVID situation turned worse in California and on Jan. 6, the California Department of Public Health issued a travel advisory stating that “non-essential travelers from other states or countries are strongly discouraged from entering California.” The official state document issued by the governor’s office, referenced in the travel advisory, also included a restriction that stated for “hotels and lodging: allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.”

Based these conditions and further recommendations by Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health professionals that the COVID-19 crisis was still on the rise in California and not likely to see a reduction soon, and that Riverside County (home to Palm Springs) had one of the highest infection rates in the country, I cancelled the reservation in mid-January and told both Airbnb and the hosts that I would be willing to use my refund amount to rebook at this property at a later date and suggested specific dates in April and May.

The host told me they (and Airbnb) agreed to this in January and told me “they would contact Airbnb to find out how to allow me to book for these new dates using the $3,135 I already paid” for the reservation in February. During the next two weeks, I kept asking them when they would do this. They kept saying “we are busy and will do today” but they never did.

After two weeks of pleading with them to follow up on their agreement to allow me to rebook using my deposit for the original reservation, and still no action on their part, I had no choice but to realize they never intended to allow me to rebook using my deposit. When I contacted Airbnb, they told me “the host was refusing to release my deposit” to use for a booking in the future. When the host finally did respond, after I repeatedly complained to Airbnb, the host told me “it was really Airbnb that was not allowing them (the hosts) to use my deposit to rebook at a later date.”

So now the hosts were blaming Airbnb for this debacle. I’m stuck in the middle of the hosts saying Airbnb won’t let them rebook my new dates using my deposit, and Airbnb saying the hosts won’t allow a refund. Both Airbnb and the hosts were blaming each other. In the meantime, the hosts rebooked guests into their property during the time I originally booked so they are receiving payments for the new bookings and keeping my deposit. Essentially making twice the price for the time between mid-February and the end of March while I’m out $3,135.

While this may not be illegal, I certainly think it is unethical and wrong. Then to top this off, the host tried to get me to put an additional deposit down for future dates and saying they “would release my original deposit when they received additional deposits for future dates.” I told them they must think I’m a fool if they thought I would give them more money while they still had my original deposit and would not use it to rebook. How these hosts can maintain their status as “Superhosts” while consistently lying to me is unbelievable. How Airbnb sanctions this wrongful behavior is equally unbelievable to me.

Greedy Airbnb Host at Apartment in Hobart, Australia

February was proving to be a tough month in Perth. Effective from 6:00 PM Jan. 31 until 6:00 PM Feb. 5, the Perth metropolitan area, Peel and South West regions entered a lockdown. At the same time, out of control bush fires were raging in the Perth hills and 86 homes were lost.

I had booked a much needed holiday in Hobart for Feb. 4 and was going to catch the bus up to see my dear friend in Burnie, Tasmania, on the 11th. I had to cancel all my reservations for Airbnb accommodations and sightseeing tours, and every vendor returned my money with a full refund.

With only one community transmitted case of COVID initially reported, the lockdown was immediate. We have had an almost honeymoon period, without any community transmitted cases of COVID-19 in Western Australia for ten months due to fast and strict measures by our state government.

As a mental health professional, I had been feeling I was approaching burn out and was finding the large influx of domestic violence cases had recently deeply affected me. I was waiting for a break. It looked like with no new cases had been reported we would be returning to low risk status, or so I thought.

Knowing the importance of self care, I booked five days at an Airbnb in Hobart and was going to travel to see my friend in Burnie after that stay. When I checked the cancellation policy, which was not upfront when I booked, the link took me to a long legal written description of exemptions for COVID-19. As every other vendor had given a full refund I was lulled into a false sense of trust.

I wrote the host when I booked, briefly explaining my situation and saying I wasn’t sure if restrictions would be lifted in time to travel on the 11th. I would never have booked if I knew it was a no refund property. An honest person would have messaged back that this was a no refund property and let me change the booking. I cancelled the booking one day later, after it became clear that Wester Australia’s status as a high-risk state had not changed.

That’s when I found out the host would only return the cleaning fee of $25 and was keeping the $466. I feel so enraged by this, not just the loss of the money but the lack of compassion and greed behind it. How can the host justify keeping my money under these circumstances? What else could it be but greed?

I contacted Airbnb and their representative was very gracious but the decision is the host’s to make and he would not refund my money. I am a kind and compassionate person and enraged that people like the host get away with taking advantage of others. A belief in justice is naïve and I choose to be an open-hearted person. Writing this post was a helpful outlet to let go of feeling like a victim to the host’s greed.

Airbnb Host Will Not Allow Us to Reschedule

My family and I booked a home for five days in Sedona, Arizona through Airbnb. We were so excited to go and learned, after our booking, that our sons, who serve in the United States Army, could not travel due to COVID restrictions. We asked Airbnb to reschedule our date (they were very nice) but the policy, as they explained eventually — six emails and three calls later — states that the host ultimately decides if you can reschedule your trip or not. He would not allow us to reschedule our trip under any circumstances and thus we are out $2,800.

It amazes me that we were not informed of this policy prior to our booking and that we were told, due to COVID, we would be able to reschedule if needed. Ten of us are out of a family vacation, one that we were really looking forward to. Disappointed to say the least.

Stripped of My Superhost Title Through No Fault of My Own

Just two days ago I was notified by an email from Airbnb that my Superhost status had been removed, and my many years of hard work and continually abiding by the rules had been cancelled from my Airbnb listing. On investigating the listing, it is true that as of March 20, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had no accommodation sales from Airbnb (in fact it is the same for all our suppliers: Expedia, Agoda, Booking.com, etc).

Our 14 Airbnb bookings were cancelled until January. This was somewhat like “a kick in the guts” or “a kick when you are already down in the gutter.” My accommodation business has had zero guests since March, resulting in no income. I have supported Airbnb for many years, and Airbnb supplies my accommodation business (as they do for many others in Bali) with possibly 80% of our clientele. I am grateful for that.

Bali, being one of the largest tourist resorts in the world, has been closed to overseas tourists since March, and has only just opened in September to its domestic market. Obviously, your automated system is unaware of what is going on in the world, and shows no compassion to many of your clients who have supported you for so long. Even though we have had no guests since the middle of March, I have endeavored to keep all my seven staff employed and on full salary, not forgetting dealing with their emotional issues and trauma  as well as my own caused by this damming virus.

Indonesian citizens receive no financial support at all from their government, unlike the U.S. and many western countries. Life is tough, and in addition to fighting the virus, people are hungry. We are hoping the vaccine is developed quickly and hopefully the Indonesian overseas tourist restrictions will be lifted soon. It is then we will be able to try to get back to some normality.

I am therefore asking Airbnb to consider placing the Superhost title decision on hold until the restrictions from the pandemic are eased, and start to show some compassion to the clients who have supported them so well in the past. It might be of benefit to review the situation, rather than acerbate and remove rewards that clients have worked so hard for (COVID-19 is no fault of their own). This would not only be of advantage to the client (in this case, the Superhost and possibly other related issues) but also be of advantage to Airbnb in rehabilitating a stricken industry.

Airbnb’s demotion email has affected me greatly. Such a shame after such a good association.