My two-week trip to the UK with my family had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The country is in lockdown so domestic travel is prohibited, restaurants and tourist sites are closed, my return flight was cancelled by the airline, hotels I had booked are closed, and my own country (Canada) would require a 14-day quarantine if I did make it home. So it was pretty obvious that the trip couldn’t happen.
Airbnb is refusing my request for refunds for two bookings that were part of the trip, allegedly because I don’t qualify under their Extenuating Circumstances policy, although I clearly do qualify under any rational reading of the policy.
Initially, they asked for ‘proof’ that the trip had to be cancelled in spite of virtually everything mentioned above being all over the press and in various government announcements. Within about 24 hours after making that demand, while I was considering how to respond to it, I received another email advising me that my claim was closed, presumably because I hadn’t responded in time (although no time limit was specified and 24 hours is ridiculously short). When I complained, I was told that the decision was ‘final’. I’ve rarely seen such heavy-handed, arrogant treatment.
Adding insult to injury, Airbnb directly lied to me the first time they denied my refund request, claiming that it was actually the hosts who denied the request. I contacted one of the hosts directly and was told that they had nothing whatsoever to do with the decision and they fully expected that I would receive a refund from Airbnb.
I learned at that time that it is Airbnb that holds reservation deposits and not hosts, so hosts actually have nothing to refund. It is completely disingenuous to blame hosts for Airbnb’s decision, undoubtedly motivated by greed. That they are doing this during a major global health and economic crisis is truly reprehensible. They are pretending to have a sensible, fair, customer-friendly policy to deal with current conditions but this is just smoke-and-mirrors. They just want to keep the money.
That will prove to be a very short-sighted decision for them. I have been a regular Airbnb customer and am in my prime travel years. They are not the only private rental platform out there. What a disgraceful company.