Doing the right thing re rapid cancellations

Case study:

Guest books on 1 March for 23-27 March (so, spanning a weekend). Guest reaches out today March 4, change of travel plans, can she have a full refund. We have firm cancellation policy so in theory we don’t have to refund anything. But it was such a recent booking so that doesn’t seem fair…

Is it reasonable to say ‘go ahead and cancel immediately, we’ll be highly likely to rebook the weekends and we’ll reimburse you promptly if that happens’. Which means they’re likely 2 days out of pocket. Or , would you refund in full.

Policies exist for a reason including the financial protection of the host.

The policies that the guests are agreeing to when they book are stated in the listing.

Why would it be up to me to ignore the policies that both parties agreed to?

We just had a similar situation where the guests supposedly reserved for business reasons. Only to cancel a few days later explaining that their employer cancelled the trip despite having agreed to it in the first place :man_shrugging:t2:

If so, take it up with your employer to get the refund or book a place with a cancellation policy that matches your needs.


I would offer to refund only days that are rebooked. I’m looking at Airbnbs right now and checking the policies, paying extra for the “refundable” option, etc. So it’s on the guest. OTOH, I try to treat others as I want to be treated and if I rebook, I have no problem refunding. We aren’t hotels and I like to bring the personal touch to my in home businesses. Others have a different model so only you can really answer the question.

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I’d either refund in full or stick to my policy and be done with it.

Anytime I’ve tried to do that “we’ll reimburse you if we rebook” thing it’s turned into a lot of extra work and a lot of extra annoyance. I’ve never once had it go well. Once you tell a guest that they tend to contact you too often and ask about it. They also tend to get CS involved who then calls you and harasses you about it too. Then if you don’t rebook or rebook for less than they booked for they’ll bother you about that too.

That being said, I’ve always used the moderate cancelation policy so if they’re losing anything it means that they’re canceling less than 5 days before the stay and will get 50% back anyway. It is a very late cancelation and they get half and I get half so I don’t feel bad about it because it seems fair or at least equitable to me anyway.

I know that a lot of other hosts like to use the refund-if-they-rebook system and maybe have better experiences with it but it isn’t worth it to me to work extra and deal with extra annoyance for a guest that isn’t paying me anything and isn’t leaving review.

Guests not only like but seem to expect or even demand the refund-if-they-rebook system too for obvious reasons. It’s so common and so expected now that I think it should be an option available in the system maybe with an upcharge of some sort. I’d be more likely to consider it if I could charge a $50 fee or something, like how a lot of stores charge a restocking fee. Though 99% of the guests I’ve tried it with were too much trouble for even the $50. Ymmv.


If one is doing it primarily for themselves then an option is to not tell them. Or try making it clear that they shouldn’t bother you about it or they risk pissing you off. :wink: They won’t get their refund until the new booking happens and the money is in the bank anyway.

I don’t get these kinds of cancellations often enough to have a saved message but if I did, it might be something like this:

“Sorry we won’t get the chance to host you. As you know, this reservation is not refundable. However, if we rebook all or part of the days from your reservation we may refund you that portion from the new booking, minus a $50 rebooking fee. Please don’t contact us about any possible refund as we can’t refund until the replacement booking is completed and the money has been sent to us. If our time and flexible policies aren’t respected, we can’t honor this offer.”

At my low rate of pay, $50 is worth the time. But the wise business practice is to set a cancellation policy, follow it and forget it.


I also use the moderate policy and the few times I’ve had a guest cancel after the 5 day refund cut-off, I haven’t offered to refund, mostly because I have never had the dates rebooked on such short notice. And not had the cancelling guest bug me for a refund, probably because my nightly rate is low, so they aren’t losing hundreds of dollars.

It seems like the hosts who get guests bugging them about refunds are those with strict and non-refundable policies.

I once offered to, and did, refund a guest who had booked 5 nights, but only stayed for 2. She didn’t realize how hot and humid it is here in the summer, and was suffering from the heat. She didn’t ask for a refund, I offered it, but that was because I almost never get bookings at that time of year, so it wasn’t like her booking had prevented others from booking.

I feel like it is up to the host to judge the circumstances as to whether to refund, but I wouldn’t be inclined to offer refunds to those who were pushy about it, and I also think we shouldn’t give guests the idea that they can push for refunds outside the cancellation policy.

One thing that I really dislike is when a host tells a guest they will refund if the get another booking, just to get the guest to cancel asap, then reneges on that promise. I have read a lot of guest posts over the years who had hosts do that to them.

I also think hosts shouldn’t refund in full even if they get a replacement booking, as we have usually spent time on the cancelled booking, communicating with the guest. The policy of deducting a “rebooking fee” is good- guests need to realize that our time isn’t free.

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no, it is not reasonable to offer a refund. It is unethical because you are not keeping your word. The ethical thing to do is keep the payout because that is what you agreed to do.

We have been brainwashed into thinking that guests deserve refunds… they only deserve what was agreed upon.


That’s almost three weeks in which to get a booking. I’d definitely refund and work at filling the dates.

It’s entirely up to you and depends on the chances you think it will rebook.
I’m on abb strict cancel.
If a guest changes their mind within a few hours on a reservation that is a month out, my listing has only been blocked a short time and probably didn’t hurt my chances of booking those dates, I would just refund them in full and hope they book again in the future.

But they blocked your dates with their reservation for 3 days. So do you think that hurt you?
If you aren’t sure (cuz no way to really know) just tell them to cancel and if you can rebook it you will refund whatever amount those dates get booked for minus a cancel fee (if you want) for your time. Then tell them to contact you at the end of the cancelled date range to remind you to let them know if they are getting a refund. It’s better than nothing from their POV.

The nice thing about strict is it puts the host in the driver’s seat to decide. You can be as lenient as you want.

I really don’t understand hosts who refuse to refund a guest who cancelled within a very short period of time for a booking that isn’t imminent. To me, it gives the whole platform a bad name. I’ve read posts from guests who accidentally entered “April 5-9th” instead of “May 5-9th”, realized their error quickly and cancelled it within an hour, explained their oopsie to the host, and the host refused to refund. Unless the guest made the booking for the following day, and the host is accustomed to getting last minute bookings rolling in all day, it just seems so intransigent and wrong.

Sure, we’re running a business, but part of running a successful business is considering how never bending an inch can affect your future business (of course that guest is never going to book with you again, may post some warning on social media about anyone else booking with you, or even using Airbnb, and will tell all their friends and family).

If we want guests to cut us some slack when the water heater goes on the blink, but we got it fixed within an hour or two, instead of the guest demanding a full refund for a minor inconvenience, and writing a bad review, we also need to cut guests some slack when it’s obvious they weren’t trying to pull a fast one, and just accidentally screwed up.

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Here is my reason - a guest can decide to book at any time; even in the 5 minutes that the soon-to-cancel guest reserved the airbnb. They don’t come back the next day or even the next hour, they will usually just move on to another listing. Thinking that they will is the kind of magical thinking that puts hosts into debt and allows airbnb to put pressure on a host to ‘do the right thing’.

I am happy to tell a canceling guest that if I do rebook, I will refund some of their money - but the time they held my calendar, whether it was an hour or a week, was a missed booking or more. I refuse to be guilted into a refund.


I still don’t understand that reasoning, unless, as I mentioned, you are accustomed to getting bookings rolling in at a fast and furious pace, and believe it likely that a guest cancelling after a few minutes or an hour has prevented another guest from booking.

If a guest made a booking for 12 days from now, and 10 minutes later, sent a message saying “I’m so sorry, but I messed up the dates I wanted. I meant to book those dates in May, not April, but I see the dates in May are blocked on your calendar, so assume they are already booked?” I would refund them, even if it contradicted my cancellation policy, because the likelihood that I missed out on another booking in those 10 minutes is extremely slim and goodwill and forgiving someone an accidental error reflects my attitude and values.

Now if it took them a week to realize they input the wrong dates, or they were rude or demanding, that would be a different story.

I will generally say that I was in the opposite position last week - a guest booked 2 nights that I’d committed for family and had accidentally left open - I spotted it instantly and took it up with guest and with customer center within 5 minutes, to ask for a cancellation - and nobody showed me the slightest forgiveness. I was held to the same standard as if I’d moved to cancel after a week had passed.

A booking can happen any time 24/7. If that guest at that time cannot book me they will go somewhere else. At the very moment they search for the specific day(s) is when the sale happens. Bookings ‘roll in’ when they are ready - and that booking you miss might have been the only one in that time slot that could have worked.

What if you ‘lose’ the repeat guest of your dreams? Or the ‘good’ guest is unable to book you but after it is cleared, the ‘bad’ guest shows up to book? The scenarios are not based on YOUR needs but the guest’s. And someone holding your calendar hostage is simply doing the wrong thing.

This is a great question and I’ve encountered this only a couple times in my 14 months with Airbnb. Each time was a different case and I handled each one slightly different. I have a firm cancellation policy.

In your case, if you think there’s a good chance of rebooking dates, I’d send a nice message saying you were sorry to see they were cancelling but if the dates get rebooked, you’d offer a refund. I’d offer the full refund but be sure you’re able to book the dates at the same rate.

I’m in the eclipse path and had a woman just cancel her reservation that fell during that time. Her email asking for a refund was the first time I didn’t believe the circumstances she stated. I sent her this reply:

"Dear ***, I was so sorry to read your message. First off, please accept my condolences for your Mom’s passing.

I’ll look at the calendar and see if opening the days is possible for re-booking. We have our own eclipse plans in place, which were planned around our Airbnb schedule.

If I can rebook another guest at a comparable rate, I’m happy to do that and then issue a refund to you. I’m not one to “double-dip”.

I’ll keep you posted on what transpires.

Sincerely, Heidi"

I haven’t received a reply from her yet but I did get a new booking, for better dates and more money. So I’ll refund her the full amount.

I agree with @KKC and I try to treat guests the way I’d want to be treated.

I had one guest cancel at the last minute and I didn’t want to have the days rebooked. It was a few hundred dollars. Once I got past my annoyance, I decided to just refund the whole amount. They sent me back a very kind email and I felt content with my decision.

Life isn’t black and white and I prefer to be flexible to each situation. I have the policy to fall back on, if need be, but there’s nothing unethical about giving a refund if I want to.

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I can’t agree that a guest who contacts a host 5 or 10 minutes after they booked, explaining an accidental error they made, like entering the wrong dates, is “holding your calendar hostage”.

To follow your reasoning, what if you lose “the repeat guest of your dreams” because you insisted on keeping their money when they caught their error a few minutes after booking?

I try to live by the Golden Rule. And if a host refused to refund me for a booking I had made in error 5 minutes before, I would consider that host an a**hole.

And how did that make you feel? Just because we may get treated in a way that feels unfair, I don’t see that as a reason not to show forgiveness to others. Wouldn’t it have been so much better if the guest said, “No worries, we all screw up sometimes. If you’d cancelled on me 2 weeks from now, I wouldn’t have been understanding, but 5 minutes? No big deal. Happen to know of anything comparable to yours in the area?”

And that guest may decide to book with you in the future, or tell their friends about your place, saying, “She seemed like a really good person”, whereas if you’d decided to be hardnosed about it, that would never happen.

I agree that it’s totally up to the host to decide, depending on the circumstances. For hosts to tell other hosts they should never refund, or always refund if they get a replacement booking , or whatever, means we think everyone should be comfortable with what we feel comfortable with. Nothing wrong with asking for, and offering advice, as long as it’s not on the basis of everyone else’s circumstances mirroring ours. Just because I don’t depend on my Airbnb income to pay my mortgage, which may effect my refund decisions, doesn’t mean other hosts don’t rely on the $, or vice versa.

I think there are general guidelines, though, like not refunding a guest if they are being rude and demanding about it, or if they are trying to get a refund over some bogus issue, or extorting you for a good review, because that just tells them they can do this again to another host, and rewards unacceptable behavior.

I had a guest call Airbnb asking them to ask me if I’d give her a full refund, one day before her check-in, when her booking had blocked my calendar for over a month. She had been a real pain to deal with in her messages, so I was quite happy she cancelled, and no way was I approving any refund beyond the terms of my cancellation policy.

“Strict” on AirBnb allows a guest to cancel and get a full refund within 48 hours of booking IF the guest booked more than 14 days before arrival. You don’t get to decide whether or not to give those cancellations a refund.


I tell them I will give them a “pro rata“ refund that will be adjusted for number of nights re-booked and rate. (Edited for clarity). We’re a high-priced listing in a fly-to location and sometimes can’t get all the nights rebooked or have to offer a discount to get rebooked - or both.