Open discussion - Moderate Cancellation Policy

Open discussion - Moderate Cancellation Policy

Recently I posted a Host Voice request to modify the Moderate Cancellation Policy to be stricter now that there are so many opportunities to cancel penalty-free by the guest. My reason for asking to modify it was due to the large uptick in cancellations we've been receiving since the "3 free" policy went into effect. Since it didn't get the requisite amount of upvotes from other hosts to be moved to "popular", it was archived.


So I would like to open a discussion about cancellation policies, the moderate policy in particular.   My original Host voice post is below.  Is my request for change unwanted by other hosts?  Did I miss something in my request? Please add your 2 cents.  


Original Host Voice request:  Now that Airbnb has provided a number of options for "risk-free" cancellations before a reservation - including 48 hours to cancel, 3 free a year, the Extenuating Circumstances Policy, split payments, delayed payments, and making the guest agree explicitly to the cancellation policy prior to booking - it's time to modify the middle cancellation policy to be more strict as the date of the reservation is pending.  Today the end of the grace period is at 5 days.  Even your algorithym admits that open reservation dates with less than a week to go are a detriment and Smart Pricing drops those open dates to the minimum long before then.  So a cancellation at 6 days will likely go unfulfilled and the host, after holding that reservation for weeks or months, will receive nothing.  With all the options for the guest to cancel prior to 5 days out or penalty free if they have a legit issue fitting the Extenuating Circumstances policy, the penalty phase of Moderate cancellation should start at 14 days.  2 weeks prior is plenty of time to know if you are not going on a holiday and want to cancel penalty-free.  It will also protect hosts who are popular and could book in advance had the guest not blocked the time.  2 weeks to try to rebook is a reasonable amount of time to get another booking so if the host should, indeed, rebook, the guest would get a full refund, otherwise they would be partially penalized as they are today. 

23 Replies 23
Level 7
Branson, MO

I think Airbnb is coming at this from their historical roots as a place to sneak a stay on someone's couch or something like a hotel room rather than an expensive whole-home vacation rental (historically VRBO/HomeAway's turf). Flexibility is expected by guests and understood by hosts of low-budget living rooms or studio single bedrooms; the lost investment/opportunity isn't much. But an expensive house or even a full apartment is a different story, and cancellations can materially impact the host's ability to do things like pay mortgages and electric bills and things. If Airbnb is going to continue to go after the whole-home market, they need to implement cancellation policy options that work better for that market. 


One person upthread suggested a sliding scale that lets hosts customize the cancellation policy. While that would be nice and actually wouldn't be too difficult for Airbnb to implement, I understand the desire to keep things simple and avoid having too many options for guests to analyze. Simply adding one more policy--call it "semi-flexible" and make it more like VRBO's standard policy (30 days=100% refund, 4 days=50% refund)--wouldn't be hard at all.


It's past time for Airbnb to address this!

Level 2
Visby, SE

The current cancellation policies are inadequate for the typical holiday rental. There should be an option to offer full refund up until 4-6 weeks prior to check-in. That's the timeframe needed to get a new guest reservation. The current 'Flexible' and 'Moderate' options are essentially the same from a host perspective while the 'Strict' one is on the other extreme. It doesn't make any sense!

Level 4
Santa Monica, CA

I am distressed that with all the programming and algorithms going on, hosts can still not customize their cancellation policies to their own needs.  I just got a Christmas booking (its only September) but she sounded like she was mostly trying to hold something while she kept looking so i would like to be able to tell her that we have a 14 day policy for Christmas and New Year's so I at least have a shot at getting another guest if she flakes.   Why can't I?  This is a tech platform, flexibility and responsiveness are the whole point!


Incidentally, my calendar showed a much higher holiday rate a few days ago but since i raised my minimun a few bucks, being heavily booked, and ignored their "tip" to halve my rate, they dropped my holiday rate by roughly 30%, so this guest got a crazy low rate, besides...

Level 2
England, United Kingdom

I agree there should be a cancellation policy pitched somewhere between Moderate (Hopeless for Hosts) and Strict (Grim for Guests).  I switched to Moderate for a short while thinking it might improve bookings etc, only to be hit by people who were obviously hedging their bets, making multiple bookings and then cancelling with impunity 6 days before the start date.  5 days is not long enough to find other guests for a cancelled booking and guests who cancel at such short notice should not be able to get a refund at all frankly. 

I learned my lesson and reverted to the Strict policy, but it is not ideal.  For example, I have had an enquiry for 18 months ahead for a wedding party - I quite understand that the Strict policy is rather a worry to them - at this stage the wedding could easily be called off, and this policy makes the guest unwilling to book.

Is there any way a host can override the cancellation policy when he/she wants to, and tell Airbnb that in a particular case the host would be happy to make a full refund, eg up to 3 or 6 months before the booking date?  Can this be effected in the Resolution Centre? 

Meanwhile, can Airbnb please look at this matter and create a better cancellation policy that spans the gap between Moderate (which should be re-named Lax) and Strict. 

Level 2
Denpasar, Indonesia

I agree completely - sorry I just seen this post - I think 5 days should be 14 days.

Level 2
Los Angeles, CA

Hey Alice and Jeff-- I agree with your suggestions. I'm interested in this conversation, but I'm coming at it from a different perspective as someone who has mostly stuck with the strict option for both of my listings. In spite of the risk of cancellations, I've considered switching back to moderate on the theory that the low number of cancellations will be outweighed by the extra number of nights booked (and not cancelled) by guests who like the moderate policy. I've been able to keep my listings at 84% occupancy with a strict cancellation policy, but I've had to keep my prices lower than other similar listings with moderate cancellation policies.


Assuming you've tried both strict and moderate policies, do you have data on how each have affected your business? How many cancellations per year did you experience with the moderate policy? Did you notice a significant decrease in reservations when you switched to strict?

@Carrick0 - We have never turned to Strict because we don't feel that it is appropriate for our type of listing or our area.  Our guests are typically here for a purpose - wedding, interview, event of some sort - not a vacation spot per se (typically a stop en route to somewhere else when people are on vacation).  Every year we've been doing this our cancellations have tripled and now we're seeing a big uptick in cancellations on night 6 - the last day that the guest can get a full refund.


Given the timing, we suspect it is the problem of any number of things: (1) a guest wants to make sure they have a nice listing and are willing to hold it up until the last minute while they continue to shop other listings - especially as the price drops and drops and drops via Smart Pricing: (2) as more hosts come on board all the time because they think it will be easy money, a property that wasn't even in the search results may suddenly come on line - at a cheap introductory price - and since the host isn't experienced, guests can take advantage or worse, complain when the host is in over their head (read: discount or free stay);  (3) there is no down-side except losing their Airbnb fees for doing this (which they now get 3 freebies a year!) - no impact on their reviews, no impact on their profile, no downside to the guest at all; (4) the vast majority of guests have no idea what the impact is on my small family business when they leave us high and dry - we're not a hotel, we only have 1 bedroom to list and when a guest holds it for weeks or months and then cancels 6 days before - they've pretty much screwed us (because, as I've said, we're an event-driven location and anyone attending said event typically doesn't wait until day 5 to make a booking).  Not to mention, as we have all experienced, a last-minute booker can frequently be a problem guest - so the cancellee has screwed us 3 times - price, quality of guest, and opportunity cost.


For those guests that do know the impact on a cancellation, we've had 2 extortion cancellations this last year too which is horribly disturbing.  One guest held a week-long booking for 5 months on the 2nd busiest week in Durham (Duke Freshman move in)  only to write me on day 7 to say, "Oh, I forgot I also had a reservation at the hotel in town.  I'd hate to cancel and impact your business but the convenience of being near my friends means I won't have to pay for as many Ubers. We're moving to Uganda and the budget is very tight. And we'd still like to come by and see the space since we'll be traveling to Duke often to see our daughter and will need a place several times a year."  Um, NO, I'm not going to beg you to stay with us or try to explain that we're not any farther away than the hotel, and I certainly am not going to start discounting my location because you are "promising" additional bookings.  I actually had to fire this guest and tell her we wouldn't accept a reservation request from her in the future because Airbnb has eliminated the feature where I could have blocked this guest from booking with me in the future. BTW, it's not lost on me how "tight" the budget must be to send your daughter to a school where the estimated cost of attendance is more than $75,000/year and you are already planning multiple flights from Uganda to visit her.  My request for a paultry $335 for a 5-night stay when I KNOW the hotel is going to charge you $150/night is not a good choice for your "budget". No thank you! 


We recently had an Airbnb employee stay with us who asked what Airbnb could be doing better and this was my #1 suggestion - a better cancellation policy for Moderate and the ability to change the policy granularly on the calendar.  So for big events like Graduation Weekend (the #1 busiest), we book a year in advance and that should absolutely be a strict cancellation weekend.  Actually, for us, since we book up our weekends so far in advance, I would love to have EVERY weekend at a different cancellation policy than during the week but I think Strict would still be too strict for this. 


Personally, ideally, I'd like to see a "sliding policy" of cancellation refund at 6, 4, 2 weeks and 6 nights) before reservation start.  Cancel 6 weeks prior to reservation start: 100%; Cancel 4 weeks before: 75%; Cancel 2 weeks: 50%; Cancel before 6 nights before start: slight modification to what it is today - First 2 nights non-refundable and 50% on the rest.  But I'd be really happy with the Moderate policy pushing out the date to cancel for 100% to 14 days prior to give us 2 weeks to rebook.   

Level 2
Keswick, United Kingdom

I completely agree that the moderate cancellation policy needs to allow hosts more time to re-let their place if a guest cancels.


I have no desire to punish guests who have to cancel if they do so with plenty of notice so I can re-let. 


But 5 days is nowhere near long enough! So I've been forced to select the strict policy. But then I feel bad having to charge 50% when they have given plenty of notice. Much better would be a moderate policy that allows a full refund if there are 4-6 weeks left before check-in date.


The "moderate" and "flexible" cancellation policies are too close, we need one in the middle.

Level 10
Chicago, IL

I would love a model where guests refund is tied to me rebooking.  I am now being forced to moderate policy to appear in business collection and I cannot stomach a five day policy. It would be great to have two weeks and if I rebook- the guest gets money back depending on how much I get up to the full amount they paid. I do not need to make money on both guests, just want to get my rate. In other words, if a night is $200 and policy is 14 days, guest cancels a week prior and I rebook for $100- cancelled guest gets $100. I rebook for $200- cancelled guest gets $200. I don’t rebook- guest gets nothing. I am pretty sure it will be considered too complicated and not implemented. Just wishful thinking... 

Level 10
Como, CO

With is being so easy to get a full refund under EC it is not something I get particularly worried about.


My first question would be if your HV post did get enough votes and was not archived, what did you expect to happen?

Level 2
San Francisco, CA

I have asked numberous times for a change in cancellation policy something between strict and moderate. I agree the HomeAway/VRBO policy is right: more than 14 days full refund, less than 14 days 50% refund. Let's get everyone to submit a request here for the additional cancelation policy:

Level 7
Branson, MO

Totally. I wish there was something between "Strict" and "Moderate."

Moderate is way too liberal for me--as the OP said, I can't rebook within 5 days without steeply discounting. But I'm perfectly happy to give a 100% refund with 30 days notice (matching my HomeAway and TripAdvisor policies) and might even consider it with 2 weeks' notice, but 5 days is too little.


Airbnb has driven me to choose "Strict" even though it's too strict for me, because it's the least-bad option. But I'd gladly loosen my cancellation policy if Airbnb's options better fit the vacation rental owner's needs.

Level 10
Florence, OR

@Alice-and-Jeff0 - YES YES YES! Do you have a link to your original post in HV? I have never been comfortable with this 5 day arrangement but the 'Strict' is too strict for me, even as a host. VRBO/Homeaway's cancellation policy for 'Moderate' is 100% refund if cancelled within 30 days and 50% refund if cancelled within 14 days, and that one I can live with far more comfortably. As far as I am concerned, Airbnb's policy as written now is not 'Moderate', it is 'Extraordinarily Lenient To Guests And Unfair To Hosts'. Did your original HV post get archived? Or...?


On a related note: I am perplexed in general about how the HV posts work. For example, I posted about the need to change the 'Animal Assistance' policy (I think you commented on that) - It has 11 pages of comments and lots of 'thumbs up' and I have never had an Admin comment on it, even to say 'Forget it, it ain't ever going to happen'. I thought Admins comment on our HV ideas if they get a lot of comments and 'thumbs up'. Am I wrong?

Level 10
Crewkerne, United Kingdom

@Alice-and-Jeff0I've been lucky, one cancellation in 9 months, and that rebooked (I think ABB did some promotion, not sure how, to help). But, I do support a move to a longer period for the moderate policy. I don't want to go 'strict' but would if we started to get more guests cancel.


With smart pricing and free cancellations, I have started to wonder if some guests make a booking, any booking, early on then wait until nearer the time to see if other properties are cheaper. Then the guest can cancel for free and re-book a different location. Am I being cynical?

Level 5
Portland, OR

thanks so much for continuing this conversation!!
Airbnb now has the big corporate standards where the hosts are getting boxed into what airbnb wants us to do by the "Search algorhythms" . So much of the time, with big corporations, staff has to justify their postition by creating some new feature on the website, like “Free Cancellation”.
  i certainly have never had any problems getting bookings over 290 days a year with my strict policy….but now i, and other hosts, that don’t want to be jacked around, are not even showing up in a search, unless they opt for a "FREE Cancellation" policy....
moderate is a step away, and seems like it still won't get you preference in search listings.  you can look at all the first pages of listings....even if you have Instant Book, and are a superhost, like i am, we no longer get any preference. the algorhythms seem to be set against any hosts that have a mind of their own. 
 Airbnb tries to present to hosts that they care about us, when they show us time and time again, they only care if we conform….. what made airbnb special in the first place, was the unique quality of the listings, and the personalities of the hosts. 
Level 10
Kraków, Poland

@Kelly149 Yes, I've been on a 14-day cancellation policy on and generally it works fine for me. I've been lucky so far with (very few) guest cancellations but still support the idea of changes.

// "The only person you can trust is yourself"
Level 1
Austin, TX

Yes, I agree.  Seems like such a common sense modification, I'm perplexed that no action has been taken

Level 10
La Quinta, CA

@Jeremy144 @Alice-and-Jeff0 Imagine a business model where the bulk of your ‘customer service’ inquiries are handled by volunteers? Now this business doesn’t have to develop any service division.

The basic customer contacts are with mega call centers in India and the PI. 

A quick look at the available job listings will show you that about %90 of the available positions are in tech. The customer service is not being developed. The company is obviously winging it along the way and it’s clear there is no balance. A hospitality booking business that doesn’t know anything about hospitality?

The Admins on this forum also “shadow post” content. They hide post of interest and keep promoting the basic entry level questions over and over. The good and interesting content gets buried so New Host only see the few topics that are most relevant to New Host, “how do I get paid?”, “I had a horrible guest”, “before and after pics”.

Keep your eyes wide open. 



‘You know it’s hard out here for a Host’

Level 10
Austin, TX

@Alice-and-Jeff0 And to your question, yes, 5 days is too little notice. 14 seems like a good minimum 

Level 10
Nashville, TN

I think 21 days is more like it.

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