Guest cancelled and wants a full refund as her friend's husband is ill (Strict policy)

Dear Hosts,

This is the first time that this happened and I would like your feedback as to how you would handle the situation.

The guest was due to stay with her friend for 3 nights in the end of October. This morning I received a message that they have to reschedule to next spring as her friend’s husband has fell ill and they will not be able to travel in October. As per the strict cancellation policy ( 50% refund up until 1 week prior to check in) they automatically received 50% of the payment as soon as they cancelled. At this point there is no guarantee that my apartment will be available for their dates in spring.

Now they sent me a request so that I send them the difference, implying they want a full refund (I am assuming they have no idea that the payment is still held by AirBnb). How would you handle this? These are the scenarios that came to mind:

A. This is purely business, they occupied my calendar for a whole month and now its not my problem to solve, they should contact AirBnb.
B. Be sympathetic and seeing that their stay is more than a month away I could give them a refund as a nice gesture.
C. Offer them a discount if they book again.
D. Tell them I will be willing to give a refund if their dates are re-booked by someone else.

How would you handle this?

How do you know they’re telling the truth?

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People do lie about those things sometimes.

A combo of your options.

Tell them any refund will be handled according to your cancellation policy via Airbnb and you will consider a full refund if you are able to rebook those days at the same or higher price. Be very nice and solicitous of the friend’s husband’s illness but it’s not your problem. They should have bought travel insurance.

As you know you have no money to give them so you can’t refund anything. Step one, they cancel via Airbnb. I wouldn’t offer a discount on future stay.


D. I’d tell them that if the dates re-book I’d be happy to refund them additional money.

Airbnb gets really generous with their Extenuating Circumstances policy, so I’d do whatever I could to sound reasonable and that I was working to get them a full refund. If they go to Airbnb with “one of the travelers is ill” they’ll refund the entire amount under EC.


Do you exclude the service fees from the refund?

D) best option for everyone. You may find Airbnb refunds them anyway, just FYI.

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Thanks to your feedback I’m leaning towards option D:

What do you think about this wording?

"I am really sorry that you will not be able to travel due to these unforeseen circumstances. Please do send my regards to ***, I hope her husband recovers soon.

Since this is a cancellation, AirBnb should have issued a partial refund as per their cancellation policy. As a courtesy I’d be happy to offer you a refund in case your cancelled nights are re-booked by other guests (excluding service fees).

Should you wish to stay in the future please get in touch, you will always be welcome in my home.

Kind regards,"


I would cut out the part about it being airbnb’s policy, and all references to airbnb, that will send them to airbnb who may offer them a full refund and you will be out more money.



And just for added ‘heck’ I usually include a note about checking with their travel insurance as they might cover this and that in case they paid with a credit card they might have travel insurance through the card.

Now in this case …I doubt any travel insurance would accept a month away preemtive claim, but stranger things have happened.

If you really want to raise your karma level, offer ‘D’ and direct them to Airbnb mentioning that they might qualify under their Extenuating Circumstances Policy.

I had an Emergency nurse booking for a stay almost last minute (like 1 or max 3 days away) asking for a full refund because she contracted pneumonia and spent the night before the flight in the ER. I guess she never qualified for it even though I did direct her to it.

I don’t refund the amount Airbnb charged in service fees.
I refund them what I would have been paid, minus my own $40-60 administrative fee (basically, this causes me extra work and I should be paid something for that). In this kind of case where they could flip to an EC cancellation, I’d skip it.

The less you can harp on illness or anything that might strengthen their case for an EC refund the better. I’d say something like:

"Dear Guest,
I’m so sorry we won’t be able to host your visit this fall. I hope we’ll get a chance to see you in the Spring!

Upon your cancellation, Airbnb will have begun the refund process. Per the Strict policy you’ll be refunded 50%, which you should see come through soon, though it can sometimes take a few days. The dates are now open on our calendar and as a courtesy we’d be happy to refund any additional amount we’re able to recoup when the nights re-book.

All the best to you,

Also, don’t count your eggs before they hatch. Don’t refund the guest as soon as you get a new booking, as sometimes the new booking can fall through. I refund the first guest after the payout has come on the replacement guests.


“Sorry – I have a Strict Refund policy for a reason. You are already receiving a 50% discount, but I have probably lost the ability to fill the dates you were going to stay.”


Good reminder. I get so many last minute bookings/so few cancellations that I don’t usually have to worry about the replacement booking also being cancelled. Now, will I remember this tip the next time I need to?

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Such helpful advice! Thank you so much.

I don’t really care what excuses or reasons guests give me. They might be true, they might not but if they don’t want to stay here for whatever reason I’m okay with that. I don’t want people here who don’t want to be and I don’t want to spend time back-and-forthing with them.

So I simply say that I’m sorry to hear the Fred’s bunions are playing up or whatever and let them know that Airbnb hold their money until after check in - therefore they have to contact Airbnb regarding any refund. That’s always been the end of the matter.

And luckily, I’ve always managed to fill the cancelled dates with other guests so no problem.


I wouldn’t mention their credit card. This might trigger the idea to dispute the charge, and voila, unpredictable Airbnb involvement.

Tell them this… NO! NO! NO!

SO MUCH THIS! Ken H, you are right!

Is the default option under all circumstances. If there is something truly grave, like a death in the immediate family, then the guest can apply for extenuating circumstances through Airbnb.

Are you Daddy Warbucks…with his money…and feeling exceptionally generous to complete strangers? Then, NO

Why? So they can feel even more entitled to take advantage of you a second time?

Only if they continue to pursue the issue, and/or if you rebook at the same rate. Either way, wait until after the date has passed. (Could have another cancellation).

We give a rote reply stating that we’d be happy to refund if we are able to rebook the dates. If the rate is lower, then that’s what we refund…but only when they press the issue. The rest of the time, we just have them cancel…and then forget about it.