In response to the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic, Airbnb adopted an extenuating circumstances policy for travelers. The WHO’s announcement was on March 11, so Airbnb chose March 14 as the threshold date for its policy, as we describe below.
These policies are current as of the April 9, 2020 update.
Reservations made on or before March 14, 2020
Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and May 31, 2020, may be canceled before check-in. Guests who cancel will have the option to receive travel credit or a full cash refund. Also, hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status, and Airbnb will either refund, or issue travel credit in an amount that includes, all service fees.
Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date after May 31, 2020, are not currently covered for COVID-19-related extenuating circumstances. For those reservations, the host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.
Reservations made after March 14, 2020
Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made after March 14, 2020 will not be covered under Airbnb’s policy, except where the guest or host is currently sick with COVID-19. It’s worth noting here that Airbnb’s policy does not specify how guests or hosts must show that they are sick with COVID-19.
According to Airbnb’s policy, COVID-19-related circumstances not covered under the policy include: transportation disruptions and cancellations; travel advisories and restrictions; health advisories and quarantines; changes to applicable law; and other government mandates—like evacuation orders, border closures, prohibitions on short-term rentals, and shelter-in-place requirements. In these cases, the host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.
As explained in the policy, Airbnb’s rationale for excluding reservations made after March 14, 2020 is that after the WHO’s declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, COVID-19 and its consequences are no longer unforeseen or unexpected.
While that may be true, it’s interesting that Airbnb capped its policy for stays up until May 31, 2020. Considering how many major cities across the United States and the rest of the world are shut down with no end date in sight, it would be nice for Airbnb’s policy to cover reservations beyond May 2020. We hope Airbnb extends their policy as appropriate over the next several weeks.
Airbnb’s full COVID-19 policy is available on Airbnb’s website.
Airbnb’s policy falls short of the cancellation policies announced by the major hotel chains in light of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it must be recognized that Airbnb operates a much different business than hotels do. By serving as the middle-man between guests and hosts, Airbnb is responsible to two groups of stakeholders with interests that sometimes differ from each other. On the other hand, hotel brands’ relationship with property owners is much different than that of Airbnb and its hosts. As such, hotel policies need only address their guests rather than property owners and managers.
We hope Airbnb updates its policy to cover reservations for stays beyond May 31, 2020. After all, a lot of folks plan their travel months in advance, so a family may have booked a stay for November 2020 long before the WHO declared coronavirus to be a global pandemic in March.
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