Hosts shouldn't bear the entire burden of "extenuating circumstance" cancellations

Status changed to: New

I've brought this up before, but will (gently) bring it up again.


We just had a guest, who we sympathize with completely, get a 100% day-after-checkin refund from AirBnB because of (completely legitimate) extenuating circumstances. (Massive weather system in the midwest resulted in widespread flight delays and cancellations). We're even the ones who suggested to the distraught guest that they contact AirBnB and use the "extenuating circumstances" reason to ask for a full refund. Because, as I said, we fully understand the guest's unavoidable situation.


That said, we, as the host, end up with $0 for a now-unbookable, lost reservation.


When these situations arise, there are TWO victims -- the guest, who certainly shouldn't be on the hook for the entire original charge, and the host, who likewise shouldn't suffer the loss of the entire original booking (unless they're able to quickly rebook all/most of the lost dates, which is almost always impossible).


What I suggest is that AirBnB come up with some simple formula (for the guest refund) that kicks in a day or two AFTER the original start date. If the host has been able to fill some/all of the original dates, then the guest refund could be based on that. If the host is completely unable to refill the dates, then the guest refund basis would reflect that.


Yeah, there are some complexities here, but some simple rules or guidelines could be worked out. For example, using our latest cancellation (a 3-night booking, which we were completely unable to refill after day 1 was already past), perhaps the guest might've been charged for 1 night out of 3. Or a flat fee, perhaps some percentage of the entire booking or of the first night. Something like that. Basically, something better than exactly $0.


My larger point is that even when truly "extenuating circumstances" occur, there are two parties affected, and two "victims" -- the guests *and* the hosts. Neither should bear the entire burden or reap the entire benefit. That seems so simple and so obvious.

Daylesford, Australia
Level 10

And maybe offer insurance as an added extra for guests?

Berlin, Germany
Level 10

As a frequent traveler and guest, I know that circumstances beyond my control will sometimes intervene in my plans. I also know that I have many options at my disposal for minimizing the losses without passing them on to an innocent third party. I can take a couple minutes to purchase a travel insurance policy online that covers payments to Airbnb. Or I can choose listings with flexible cancellation policies. Or I can travel off-season and book accommodation and activities upon arrival. One thing I don't believe I have a right to do is override the contract I've made with a host because I failed to utilize any of these options.


Airbnb could replace Extenuating Circumstances with an optional add-on charge for trip cancellation protection, subject to the same standards of evidence the current policy supposedly requires. This is effectively an insurance scheme, just one that doesn't cover anything outside of Airbnb. In the event of emergencies, guests who choose to pay into the fund would receive a reasonable refund, while hosts uphold their cancellation policies and receive the appropriate compensation.  Both parties leave the transaction satisfied.

Level 10

Agree with Dede's last paragraph--neither to bear full burden,  Sandra's suggestion could be taken on board by Airbnb, surely an underwriter can be found to cover at small cost/night for such a large business as Airbnb? My recent travel insurance via well-known insurer for US trip for Unlimited medical cover in US, cancellation of flights/prepaid other travel costs if ill before travel, & various other small covers like Lost luggage, Lost mobile etc at only $AU 14.50/day so on the basis of the millions of bednights sold, Airbnb should surely be able to find cover to sell for $1 per night's booking to cover cancellation for Extenuating circumstances so there is no liability/loss to guest or host. Compared to a claim for US medical expenses or RTW airfare, a night's airbnb claim is a drop in the ocean should it arise so accordingly insurance for this could be a drop in the ocean re guest insurance fee via Airbnb.

Richmond, VA
Level 10

Travel insurance is easy and cheap. Including information about getting travel insurance would be helpful, as would partnering with a company that offers travel insurance so Airbnb can offer it as an option. Hosts should not have to bear the financial burden of "extenuating circumstances" when there's a perfectly acceptable alternative available to travelers. I have used Allianz almost exclusively. Rick Steves offers tips on travel insurance on his website. AAA also offers it. One can read reviews of trip cancellation insurance on reviews pointcom slash travel-insurance.

Level 10

The trouble, Fiona and Keith, is young people especially do not do travel insurance as they have invincible nothing will happen attitude because young. True if can't afford the insurance then can't afford to travel. In general conversation I have polled younger guests if they have travel insurance for health costs after guest needed medical attention & was horrified to find he had to pay for it. Had to call home for parents to arrange urgently. Only 1 in 10 of my guests have had insurance, then they start talking to me about renting cars & horrified to find excess can be up to $4000 per incident & that a relatively cheap travel policy would have covered it instead of expensive nil- excess cover offered by car hire companies which they are then forced to take as few of them have $4000 spare if an acccident. They don't know all this beacause they ARE young.

So a dollar a day ins. by Airbnb to cover "extenuating circumstances" would mean both parties are happy.

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