Some travelers frustrated over Airbnb refund policy during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 7:03 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 03:19:09-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Travel plans for millions of people have been disrupted as we deal with this health crisis.

Michael Carino was excited to go to Comic-Con this summer.

“It would be my second time going and the first time for two of my friends, Carino said. He lives in the Bay Area and booked an Airbnb in January to ensure he had a place to stay in San Diego.

“I figure if we book early, we can get decent rates,” Carino said. When news broke that Comic-Con was canceled due to the pandemic, he was devastated.

He tried to cancel his Airbnb and get a refund on his 50 percent deposit, which came out to $383.16. The host told him to contact Airbnb first. On its website, the company has an “Extenuating circumstances policy” related to the Coronavirus. It states that reservations made on or before March 14th and May 31st “are covered by the policy and may be canceled before check-in.” Airbnb will then refund or issue travel credit.

Since the host was not willing to cancel Carino’s reservation and Comic-Con was scheduled for July, Carino’s reservation did not fall within the timeframe and “the host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.”

“It’s not fair to restrict this limited time frame,” Carino said.

In a statement to Team 10, a spokesperson said:

“Our global Customer Support team has been working around the clock to help both hosts and guests throughout a situation that has been challenging for the entire industry. We firmly believe that travelers should not have to choose between safety and money, and our Extenuating Circumstances policy aims to strike a balance and protect the well-being of both hosts and guests. For travelers with bookings made on or before March 14, 2020, for a stay after May 31, we ask for your patience as we continue to monitor the situation -- on May 1, we will be providing updates about coverage under our Extenuating Circumstances policy. We are committed to doing everything we can to support our community in these difficult times, and we want to thank all of our hosts and guests for their understanding.”

“The representative told me, your best bet is to wait it out and maybe Airbnb will extend that coverage for refunds,” Carino said.

VRBO, another popular short-term rental site, also has a policy related to COVID-19. It is offering refunds on the “travel service fee” for bookings between March 13th and April 30th. The company is also encouraging property owners and managers to issue at least partial refunds, although it is not required.