Newbies - booking cancellation problem

Only just started as hosts, so on a steep learning curve. We were very fortunate with our first couple, they were 5star, and liked our place. We have several more bookings in place, and in each case, they contacted us before booking, we discussed their needs and then took the booking. All fine.

Then, the other night, we noticed someone had booked, and then cancelled? How could this happen, without our being involved?
Almost immediately afterwards, another party ‘booked’, right up to the day before another booking started. (We had stated clearly to Airbnb we needed at least 2 days between bookings, for cleaning etc), and this wasn’t convenient for us - so we immediately contacted our proposed guest and said sorry, we can’t take your booking. They quite understood, and said they would look elsewhere.

That’s when the problems began…
Our guest went to cancel, and was told they had to pay a penalty. Or, if we cancelled, we would be liable.

This is unfair and unreasonable. We didn’t know about this Instant Booking, and would never agree to it (it appears to be default setting). Our previous bookings didn’t work this way, so we wonder if it switched to default unilaterally?

Support has, naturally, been no support at all. We had a peremptory message saying get in contact forthwith or we’ll make our decision without further reference to you. We immediately replied, and since then - silence.

Meanwhile, both the guest and we are stuck. It’s not our fault, and not hers.

Not impressed with Airbnb so far!

Yes, AirBnB is notorious for making changes to listings without warning!

I am intentionally closed but they unsnoozed me and let someone book in February, but he willingly cancelled.

Best way to get their attention is to send annoying tweets to the AirBnB Twitter account. They don’t like having their problems public. The other thing is that with the pandemic Air laid off their US staff and hired Filipino contractors who are skilled at reading scripts, and lack both authority or expertise to do more.

I don’t expect anything from Air but a well advertised booking platform and payment collection. Their performance is high level mediocre at best, but for my market segment I don’t have much choice.

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Actually, it is.

That’s a bit harsh on the basis that your problem was caused by you, not Airbnb.

How a guest books is one of the most important aspects of any OTA, and if you weren’t aware of the differences between Instant Book and Request to Book, then it suggests that you’ve signed up to something without doing any prior research or even reading the starter guides to hosting.

To be frank, if you’d said that you had IB turned off I’d have some sympathy for you, as it’s not unknown for Airbnb to “turn things on and off” without reference to the hosts.

My advice would be read the How to get started on Airbnb section of the web site, make the necessary changes to both your Pricing and Availability and Policies and Rules sections within your listings and this should stop the problem arising again.

As a new host, you’d be far better working out how to accommodate the new booking than cancelling, as if you do it will affect your performance on the site and make you liable for the cancellation charge (I think, as I’ve never been in this situation!).

Easy money this STR gig, eh?


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Pretty sure we didn’t go with Instant Booking initially, but how to check? Is there a historical log one can refer to?

All our initial bookings went as we expected, when we were given time to Accept/Decline, and had conversations with our prospective guests before accepting.

Then these two came, overnight, while we were asleep. One which said booked, then cancelled, and this second one which said she had booked. We thought, how has she managed that, without talking to us and going through The Procedure?

It’s a relief to know from others that Airbnb DOES sometimes change the settings without reference to the host, as that seems the most likely explanation. We have gone to Settings and changed it manually to Vetted, ( let’s hope it stays there!), and will have to wait for Support to get back to us.

We have offered to honour the booking, but it looks as if the guest has now booked elsewhere - so somehow we have to sort this out! No difficulty between the two sides, it’s just AirBnb’s hefty penalty is the problem.

Yes, it’s a learning curve especially with Instant Booking. I made the same mistake , not once but twice. Needless to say, I turned off instant booking.

If I recall you can click on “I feel uncomfortable with this booking” and you can cancel it penalty free. I think you’re allowed to do this twice, not sure.

I suggest you turn off instant booking to avoid more issues.

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Thanks very much for that - will have a look for that feature.

There is a way to set your calendar so that your “two days” between bookings is automatic. Haven’t had enough coffee yet this AM to try and go into details…

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That could be very useful, if one were using Instant Booking - essential, in some cases. Hopefully, if we’re going to be on Vetted, we will be able to continue to do this manually.

No and it’s annoying. I’m sure Airbnb has a log, but we don’t have access to it.

The Airbnb customer support is spotty. Obviously all the people who get through easily and get their issue sorted quickly don’t go trawling the internet looking for a way to share their experience. Those who have problems do and some end up here as you did. So don’t let the negative stories here unduly put you off from using Airbnb. The majority of hosts don’t have frequent serious problems.

You have found one of the best sources of information about Airbnb, aside from the Airbnb site, here in this forum. If you can stand all the finger and tongue wagging here you can learn a lot that will help you avoid future problems.

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Thanks for all the words of wisdom. Airbnb is a labyrinth!
I’m pleased to say it has now been sorted out. The mediator did get back in touch today. If she had called back yesterday, after her sharp email and our immediate response, it would have been better - but never mind.
I explained the problem, and she accepted this was a case where both parties should be released from the contract without penalty.(Presumably, she looked at the hidden log, and could see just what had happened…).
She promised to write to both sides to confirm this ( not arrived yet), and that we would have no black marks on our record.
One positive from this is that Support did at least come back to us as promised, and put some effort into solving the problems.


Glad to hear that it got worked out. We have had people book and cancel before we send them notes or after. It is their perogative and always better when guests cancel rather than you.

What does that mean, exactly? There is a setting for your listing called “preparation time” that you need to set to 2 days. Is that what you did? It certainly would be problematic if Airbnb changed that on you, but it also wouldn’t be surprising.

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There is no setting called “Vetted” so not sure what you are referring to. You need to go into your booking settings and check “Guests must send a Booking Request”.

Instant Book is turned on by default on new listings. You have to turn it off.

To have 2 days between bookings, go to your Availability settings, then Prep time, and choose “Block 2 days before and after each booking.” That sounds like it would block 4 days between bookings, but it doesn’t- it blocks 2. Also advisable to check an advance notice setting.

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As someone that started on Air 6 years ago for 3+ years and is now starting again, I sympathize. Things have gotten much more complicated in setting your account up. IB didn’t used to be automatic and their stupid Smart Pricing that you kind of have to fight to get rid of and feel like a criminal if you do.
I’m not nearly as fond of all of this as I was 6 years ago, but having only had a few guests and more to come, I have confidence I’ll get in a groove and attract people I want and hopefully not run into too many problems.

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Thanks everyone. Gradually getting the hang of this (I think!). We’ve now included Preparation Time, and ‘Guests must send a Booking Request’ (I think ‘Vetting’ is a much more succinct description!), so all seems well.

Onwards to the next problem!


Go to the Availability section. You can auto block days before and after bookings