Extenuating Circumstances Policy

On Saturday, I received a message from our guests who had booked our cabin for the New Years holiday. They regrettably informed me that they needed to cancel, because " our 94 year old Grandma is not doing well and with COVID my family and I feel it’s best we stay quarantined as much as possible for her".
She made no request for a refund. (We have a strict cancellation policy and she would have only been entitled to a 50% refund.) About 30 minutes later I received a notification from AirBnB that they had refunded her in full, due to the Extenuating Circumstances Policy.

For context, our rental is located in the Big Bear, CA. The State of California has put out restrictions on gatherings of more than one household and non-essential travel. It also states ‘Nothing in this Order prevents any number of persons from the same household from leaving their residence, lodging, or temporary accommodation, as long as they do not engage in any interaction with (or otherwise gather with) any number of persons from any other household, except as specifically permitted herein.’

AirBnBs own Extenuating Circumstances Policy states: COVID-19 related circumstances not covered include: transportation disruptions and cancellations; travel advisories and restrictions; health advisories and quarantines; changes to applicable law; and other government mandates—like evacuation orders, border closures, prohibitions on short-term rentals, and shelter-in-place requirements. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.

The way I see it, it’s simple: Was this guest entitled to a refund based on AirBnB’s current policies and my strict cancellation policy? NO. Did AirBnB unilaterally and without my involvement or consent give a full refund? YES
AirBnB has overstepped it’s bounds. Not the guest’s fault, not my fault, 100% AirBnB’s fault.

My question is, how do I speak to an actual person at AirBnB who understands their own policies? The person that I have been dealing with thru messaging keeps sending me back the same statement about this being a government mandated restriction (which, BTW, is not covered, under their own policy.)

Note: this is not a question about my moral or other responsibility to refund this guest their money - it is about AirBnB’s involvement in the situation.

Thanks in advance for input.
(Sorry this is so lengthy - I wanted to present all of the info to prevent a lot of back-and-forth.)

The CS defines the EC policy- nothing you can do.

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I don’t have any advice to you about getting Airbnb to change their refund and send you the money. But I wanted to say that I empathize with you. Even before covid no policy of Airbnb’s was more reviled than the extenuating circumstances policy.

The best advice (for the future) is to cut Airbnb out of the deal completely by setting up your own website and hustling for direct bookings.

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Tweet and facebook. Short and sweet, for example "My guests don’t have COVID, just decided to cancel to protect family bubble. Airbnb refunded 100% instead of 50%, contrary to my cancellation policy AND to Airbnb’s EC policy that “cancellations related to COVID-19 will still be excluded unless you or your guest are sick.”

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Hi - I’m not familiar - what is the CS?

Customer services …

Basically the only person you can talk to at AirBnb is a Customer Service representative. You you don’t like that person’s answer, tell them you want to speak to the Supervisor, and keep on pushing. Don’t let them “call you back” tell them you’ll stay on the line.

Also be aware that who you speak to (which CS office in which country) depends on what time of day or night that you call, and many of the non-US people are very poor at interpreting rules and making decisions.

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  1. I agree with you’
  2. I think the EC policy is pure manipulation and the luck of the draw as to who applies it. It should not exist at all. We are not insurance companies.
  3. However…and trust me I still agree with you…the state policy i read and interpreted from the state of California is not exactly the same as what you printed. So if these people come from out of state, or if other stuff can be twisted to apply to the restrictions, then they probably can get CS to apply EC. Also CS is across the world and has no idea which part of california is where.
  4. This just stinks

I had the same problem - our rental in San Diego had guests booked from out of state for New Year’s Eve weekend, and they cancelled due to travel restrictions to California (clearly stated in their EC policy due to COVID as not eligible for a full refund), and Airbnb overrode their own policy and gave them a full refund despite my Strict cancellation policy. 50% of the booking would have been over $2000 - so Airbnb essentially took this money and refunded it without even consulting me.

I have spoken with 3 service people on the phone in addition to emails. The first 2 appeared to be low level reps at overseas call centers.Neither understood there were 2 different EC policies - one for COVId related and one for non Covid. They followed the non Covid EC policy. I have been trying to point out the mistake to everyone I encounter, but they dance around the issue. I’ve continued to ask to escalate the matter, but now I’m being ignored. Case is not closed. If anyone has more advice, please let me know. This is like a repeat of earlier this year but this time they’re breaking their own policy!

Is Airbnb still responding to customer service requests via Facebook & Twitter? Is they don’t respond to calls maybe six is al media an option?

It’s a lot easier to get another booking than worry about ‘AirBnB’s involvement in the situation’.

My understanding is that if post the problem on
Air’s Twitter page they will want to deal with it quickly.


Did they book before or after March 14, 2020? We are in a similar situation. A guest who booked March 2 had a reservation for all of January (about $2,500 payout). They waited and canceled within the maximum 45 days of their arrival (actually was about 3 weeks before) which gave them a 100% refund option (supposedly) and $0 for us. However, AirBnB applied the pre-March 14 COVID policy to us to withhold our entire payout, then turned around and applied the post-March 14 policy to the guest, giving her only the option of our cancellation policy (lose the first month) OR credit for future stay with AirBnB (not just us) OR provide documentation that they indeed have contracted COVID themselves from a doctor. So basically AirBnB tweaked it so that we get nothing and she is not offered a full refund – having it both ways that benefits them.

Had I realized I had this one month-long booking that was a liability still (booked before March 14, thru AirBnB and not yet to arrive) I would have asked the guest to cancel and re-book if she wanted to keep the reservation so that the booking date would be AFTER the March 14 COVID cut-off date and she could not cancel last-minute for a full refund as she did. We are losing $2,400 now.

Did yours book before March 14 as well?

In theory you can fight it - and blast Air on their FB and Twitter pages. You may win. You may not. You SHOULD win - they are in the wrong. But Air will default to protecting Guests and figure that most of the time the hosts will bend over and take it.

Mid-Jan, they are rolling out a new policy but we don’t expect the reality to be any less Guest-Centric.

With the IPO, they will only care about shareholder value and keeping guests on platform.

Last week I read the newest extenuating circumstances policy. It references offering travel vouchers instead of refunds. The cancelled-on host gets nothing. I’m guessing the host booked with voucher receives payment. In the meantime the guest does doesn’t receive a refund.

You know all travel vouchers won’t be rebooked or used in full. It’s all about preserving cash

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As an Airbnb stockholder I approve this new policy. LOL.


And as per usual, it also contains the caveat that the final decision as to whether a guest qualifies under the EC is up to the discretion of Airbnb.

I had a similar situation in November - guest claimed they were unable to travel “due to lockdown” in my city and an Airbnb case manager fully refunded them. However, 1) the current “lockdown” specifically allows existing STR bookings to remain in place, and 2) the Covid policy specifically says that travel restrictions/lockdowns are not a valid reason for a refund. I raised this with the case manager and provided links to their own policy and the current government rules (I had to be quite persistent, but of course polite) and eventually they paid me out for the 50% I was eligible for. I believe that money came out of Airbnb’s pocket.

The group that booked were pretty dumb to plan a cross-country trip in the middle of a pandemic, I’m not sure how exactly they planned to make it work in the first place.

I have spoken to 3 different Customer Service representatives - I have patiently read their own policy to them, and forwarded the policy to them in writing. I am told that it has been sent to the “Regulatory Response Team” - but I still have not heard back from them. Do you know the AirBnB number that you called? Thank you.

A reason that I don’t open my calendar that far in advance. I opened Jan-March 2021 just after Thanksgiving 2020. Currently most of January and all of February has booked up; mostly people looking to escape the cold. Good luck!

As an aside, Jackson Barrett (car show) has postponed its 2 week event from January to March because of Covid. That has probably led to some cancellations in Scottsdale / Phoenix.