Just talked at length with an Airbnb case manager who explained their new approach to hosts who have instant book enabled and who cancel a reservation within 24 hours. The new approach is to assess all of the penalties, and then rely on the host to call in and contest the penalties and explain why it was a legitimate cancellation.
I asked why they hadn’t communicated this new “approach” (ie, policy) to hosts, and he said they assumed that conscientious hosts would call them upon seeing the penalties applied.
In my case, I had a guest who said she was going to have a party, and so I told her to cancel. She called Airbnb to complain, and they read the transcript and cancelled the reservation. They sent me an email saying no penalties would apply, AND THEN THEY APPLIED ALL OF THE PENALTIES!!!
I further learned that only a case manager from the trip team can remove the penalties. The reason for this change in policy was that “many” hosts were “abusing” the 24-hour cancellation procedure, so they want to make sure the cancellations are “legitimate”. So I guess you can’t cancel for just any reason.