As COVID-19 has upended travel over the last two years, Airbnb has revamped its cancellation policy: They've incentivized property owners to offer refundable stays and made it much easier for travelers to find rentals with flexible policies. With uncertainty still clouding travel, the homeshare platform is taking another step.
On Thursday, Airbnb announced a brand new COVID Support Program, allowing travelers to get a voucher for part of their rental cost if new travel restrictions or border closures would scrap an upcoming trip. Keep in mind that many Airbnbs already offer full refunds so long as you cancel before a certain deadline. But this new policy offers another avenue for travelers to recoup some of their expenses.
Plus, Airbnb is also working on its own travel insurance offering for guests, with plans to launch this coming spring. Keep reading for more details on these latest Airbnb changes.
Need more info? Check out our guide on the Airbnb Cancellation Policy!
Cancel An Airbnb, Get a Voucher
Airbnb's new COVID Support Program is already live. In fact, it applies retroactively.
Thanks to $20 million in funding, this new option will help guests whose travel plans were ruined by surprise changes to travel restrictions, including:
- Border closures, lockdowns, or shelter-in-place orders in the destination
- Border closures, lockdowns, or shelter-in-place orders in the travelers' home country
- New or extended travel restrictions that would require a traveler to quarantine upon arrival in their destination
In these situations, Airbnb's new program provides financial relief in the form of a travel coupon for 50% of the cost of the unrefunded portion of the reservation. Bookings through Airbnb Luxe, Airbnb for Work, and Airbnb Experiences are ineligible.
Plus, this new option applies retroactively to reservations with a check-in date on or after Dec.1, 2021, and had to be canceled by the guest due to border closures, government mandates, and certain other Omicron-related travel restrictions not in effect at the time of booking.
Read our guide to picking the best Airbnb, no matter where you're going!
Travelers who are eligible for a travel coupon can contact Airbnb Community Support with the details of their reservation and travels. Airbnb has added all the details of this new Guest COVID Support Program, including information on how to file a claim for reimbursement, on their help center.
Let's look at an example. Let's say you booked a $500 nonrefundable Airbnb stay for January in Amsterdam a few months ago … only to wake up to the news that the Netherlands now requires even fully vaccinated Americans to quarantine for up to 10 days upon arrival. You'd be eligible for a $250 Airbnb coupon.
But this new program will only cover half of your unrefunded expenses. So let's say that same Airbnb had a cancellation policy that allowed for a 50% refund. In that case, you could get a $125 Airbnb coupon.
“Over the past month, we’ve seen the stress and challenges spurred by Omicron, and we’ve stayed close to our community, which includes both Hosts and guests,” Airbnb said in a statement. “Travelers have been hit hard, particularly with sudden travel restrictions and border shutdowns. We also know that many travelers who may be wary of crowded hotel lobbies during this Omicron spike are increasingly viewing short-term rentals booked through a trusted platform like Airbnb as a safer travel option for family and friends.”
Airbnb Guest Travel Insurance
There's more to come.
As a part of this announcement from Airbnb, the company said they plan to launch their own custom-built travel insurance product that will be available exclusively for Airbnb guests.
Few details were shared about the new travel insurance product, but Airbnb says they will be creating the product in partnership with a reputable insurance carrier with plans to launch in spring 2022.
Airbnb changed travel. But as travel has changed throughout the pandemic and forced travelers to value flexibility above all else, Airbnb has changed, too.
That's been more complicated with Airbnb than big-box hotel chains: Individual hosts are able to set their own cancellation policies. Airbnb has encouraged hosts to do more to offer flexibility to travelers, and they've largely succeeded: The company said Thursday that almost two-thirds of all properties have moderate or flexible cancellation policies.
Still, there's room for Airbnb to do much more. So it's great to see Airbnb stepping in here and allocating funds to guests who have been caught up in the unfortunate travel situations COVID-19 and the Omicron variant have created.
Customer-friendly policies like this are a step in the right direction to competing with the big hotel chains in the COVID era.
Airbnb is doing even more to help travelers whose trips get upended by COVID-19 and travel restrictions. Starting today, those travelers can get some of their expenses back in the form of an Airbnb coupon.
And later this year, Airbnb will roll out a new custom-built travel insurance add-on for Airbnb guests, too.
Airbnb was terrible and not flexible at all last year. I had multiple places in Scotland booked and had to cancel within the “fully refundable” period. The small print that most people do not notice is that if you canceled more than three times in one year, you had to pay a service fee for each additional cancellation and that rate varied. We were not able to get into Scotland because of their lockdown (not my choosing). When I saw the fees, I spoke to two different Airbnb associates who would not budge at all on this policy and was charged the fee. I contacted the properties to see if they would refund the money and they told me that “Airbnb is lining their pockets, they got nothing from this fee”. I asked Airbnb to consider giving me a credit and they said flat out “No”! After this experience I am trying my best to book without using them for this very reason. Many other places I then used to rebook (Vrbo and Booking.com) are much more customer friendly and have better cancellation policies during this time. Please make your readers aware of the “small print” and that fully refundable is not accurate.
Yes, VRBO is much more understanding about the Covid environment and I found many properties at VRBO vs AIRBNB that were pretty flexible with cancellation policies up to about 30 days before arrival.