Airbnb has made major steps to allow hosts and travelers to cancel reservations without penalty, including giving full refunds for any upcoming stay or Airbnb Experience worldwide – now for any reservation with a check-in date on or before May 31. Meanwhile, Airbnb is also rolling out more flexibility for future bookings.
They're the latest move to give anxious travelers more flexibility as the coronavirus pandemic grows. Airlines and hotel chains are also offering free change and cancellation for upcoming travel that was previously booked as well as new reservations for future travel.
In Airbnb's case, cancellation policies are typically set by each Airbnb host, ranging from fully refundable to completely non-refundable. But by updating its Extenuating Circumstances Policy, Airbnb is now allowing free cancellation for limited dates, regardless of the host's policies.
For reservations for future travel, Airbnb is adding incentives for more hosts to offer more flexible, refundable cancellation policies – while making it easier for travelers to find these homes that allow full refunds.
Here's a look at the new updated policies.
Cancel All Bookings with Reservations from March 14-May 31
With the updated extenuating circumstances due to coronavirus, any booking, stay or Airbnb Experience, with a check-in date between March 14 and May 31, can be canceled with no penalty. The only hitch is that these reservations must have been made on or before March 14.
Hosts are also able to cancel bookings made for these dates with no penalty to their Airbnb ratings.
Any reservations made on or before March 14 with stays after May 31 are not covered under this policy unless if the guest or the host has contracted COVID-19.
Future Bookings with Airbnb
Airbnb has changed its policy and platform in an effort to generate more listings with fully refundable cancellation policies.
Airbnb says it will promote hosts who adopt these more flexible policies, and those hosts will be able to directly authorize cancellations to eliminate red tape.
In addition, there is also now a search function that allows you to filter for the cancellation policy: flexible, moderate, or strict.
For bookings made through June 1, Airbnb will refund the “Airbnb Guest Service Fee” if guests need to cancel and the host doesn't allow for a refund. It will refund as a travel coupon to be used on a future stay.
What About VRBO?
While Airbnb has issued an expansive cancellation policy, VRBO is doing much less for travelers with upcoming stays.
VRBO is leaving it up to homeowners to decide whether to allow cancellation and issue full refunds. Customers have to work with the provider they booked with, rather than VRBO directly. The rental platform has asked homeowners to follow their COVID-19 emergency standards and offer a minimum 50% refund on stays between March 13 and April 30 if different stay dates cannot be agreed upon.
“We are asking partners to offer a full credit for different stay dates within the next year (at no additional cost),” VRBO said. “If you are unwilling or unable to accept the credit, we advise working with our partner on an acceptable refund, and we have incentivized our partners to go above and beyond their standard policies.”
This approach protects homestay providers who list their property on VRBO, but for customers, it might mean only a 50% refund – or less if the partner does not comply with VRBO’s request.
Kudos to Airbnb for giving travelers a chance to cancel their travel plans without losing hundreds of dollars on lodging. While it's still somewhat – only reservations within the next month (or less) are eligible – it's a good move. Keep your eyes peeled for more announcements and future extensions.