After bungling refunds and angering both guests and hosts in
the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, Airbnb is now revamping its policy with
sweeping changes that eliminate many covered circumstances while adding others
not included before.
The new “Extenuating Circumstances Policy” will apply to accommodation
check-ins and experiences on or after January 20, 2021.
The new cancellation policy will no longer cover guests’
personal situations that prevent them from traveling, such as “unexpected
disease, illness, or injury; government obligations like jury duty, court
appearances or military duties; travel advisories or other government guidance
(that fall short of a travel ban or prohibition); cancellation or rescheduling
of an event for which the reservation was made; and transportation disruptions
unrelated to a covered Event like road closures, as well as flight, train, bus
and ferry cancellations.”
What is covered under the new policy includes unexpected changes
to visa or passport requirements; government-declared emergencies such as the
COVID-19 pandemic; government-imposed travel restrictions; military action or
acts of terrorism or civil unrest; and natural disasters, except those that are
common in certain location such as hurricanes during hurricane season in
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In addition, the
new policy states that guests impacted by a covered event can receive “a cash
refund, travel credit and/or other consideration.”
When asked who decides which
of those the guest receives – Airbnb or the host – the company replied in
email, “Airbnb will make a decision on the options
provided based on the facts of the event, industry practice, and applicable
law. And as mentioned before, our practice has been to offer only cash refunds,
but we added the option of travel credit for some guests during the current
An Airbnb spokesperson says the company made
these changes based on host feedback “to help provide more balance in the two-sided
marketplace, increase transparency and align with best practices in the travel
In addition, Airbnb says host cancellations
always result in a refund to guests, whether or not they fall under the policy.
One thing noticeably missing from the new
policy – any mention of death, which is the first item in the current
extenuating circumstances policy.
When asked if the death of a host or guest is
covered, Airbnb replied that death is not part of the new policy but “Airbnb will provide refunds at
company discretion, based on appropriate documentation being submitted. This
refund is not part of Extenuating Circumstances and would not affect any
potential payout to the host, according to the reservation's normal
Airbnb says the majority of its listings have policies that provide
full refunds for cancellations made at least five days prior to check-in,
regardless of reason, so in general the Extenuating Circumstances Policy is
intended for cancellations within the five-day window or for those properties
with more strict cancellation policies.
The policy does not apply to reservations
for Airbnb Luxe properties, which have a separate refund policy.
Currently, Airbnb has a separate policy for COVID-19-related cancellations that is only for stays through October 31, 2020. The company says if that policy is extended, it would supersede the Extenuating Circumstances Policy.
Airbnb says it will also soon announce a
partnership with an insurance company to offer trip protection to guests, initially
for properties in the United States and then expanding to other countries.