Booker Beware: Airbnb’s Cancellation Policy
Booking Gone Wrong #
I made the reservation. I put in the dates. I clicked “Book”, and then less than an hour later I realized that I had selected the wrong weekend. I needed to cancel.
Airbnb hosts have the option of selecting a cancellation policy. This host had selected “Strict”, which stipulates:
Strict: 50% refund up until 1 week prior to arrival, except fees.
If the guest cancels less than 7 days in advance, the nights not spent are not refunded.
Even Delta (an airline!) allows travelers to cancel a reservation within 24 hours without penalty. My reservation was for 6 weeks hence, but when canceling less than an hour after booking, I was going to forfeit $310 (the total was $500 + Airbnb’s $60 service fee). Airbnb keeps their service fee which does nothing to encourage the booker to go search out another host and book something else.
I contacted the host, and while they were amenable to the situation, they were unable to cancel the reservation without a penalty. They were also understandably eager for me to cancel if I was not coming so that another traveller might book those dates.
Customer Service Required #
The biggest problem in this situation is that both parties were willing to cancel the reservation, but there was no way for us to do so without the intervention of Airbnb support. After this back and forth, both of us were frustrated, not to mention the fact that I will be appreciably more anxious before next pressing that reservation confirmation button. I doubt this is what Airbnb wants. They could aleviate this issue with a couple of small tweaks:
- Allow a 24 hour grace period for booking cancellations.
- When searching listings, allow users to filter by cancellation policy.
In the end, both the host and myself agreed to cancel the reservation, and with the assistance of a very friendly Airbnb support rep, we were able to do so with a full refund including fees. If we had been able to accomplish this on our own, it would have saved us both a bunch of time and stress. Now I just need to find a new place to stay.