Airbnb Broadens Cancellation Policy For Travelers Affected By Coronavirus Pandemic

The largest vacation rental company in the world is broadening its cancellation policy to offer refunds to worldwide travelers with stays and experiences booked in between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020. In a statement released on Saturday afternoon, the new missive from Airbnb says that “in response to the extraordinary events and global disruption to travel caused by COVID-19, today we are announcing updated coverage under Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances policy.”

Airbnb already had a policy in place that affected coronavirus cancellations under the Extenuating Circumstances umbrella; this weekend’s updates now extend the policy to include travelers from around the world.


As of this weekend, the policy now applies to existing reservations and experiences around the world that were booked “on or before March 14, 2020, with check-in dates between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020.”

Airbnb has been facing increasing pressure from the travel community to broaden its cancellation policy as the worldwide industry bows to pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. Already, airlines and hotels across the industry have issued waivers and modified cancellation policies to allow most consumers to cancel travel through mid-spring. Up until recently however, Airbnb hadn’t rolled out a worldwide policy.

Part of the complexity that Airbnb was forced to consider — which may have led to a delay in issuing a blanket policy — is the way in which the company earns revenue. Compared to a traditional travel provider, most of the revenue from rental bookings on the Airbnb platform goes to third-party hosts instead of the company, so creating a global cancellation policy would directly affect how users within the community earn cash.


Airbnb also has sensitive revenue numbers to maintain in a year in which it was supposed to go public. Now, many sites such as Skift predict that the home sharing and experience company will have to push that filing to a later date.

As recently as March 11th, Airbnb tried carefully to balance the push and pull between travelers and hosts, leaving it to the community to decide how reservations should be handled. In a release that day, the company said that “because of this two-sided model, when a crisis like COVID-19 hits, we know that it doesn’t just impact us as a company, but also the individual stakeholders within our community: the hosts who rely on their Airbnb income, and guests whose travel plans have been disrupted,” adding that “we are committed to doing everything we can to fairly support both parties, consistent with how this two-sided marketplace works.”

As of this weekend, however, the company is taking more liberties with its cancellation policy and letting worldwide travelers cancel with full refunds across the board. In the most updated statement, the company said that “we understand that this announcement will impact hosts around the world, many of whom depend on the economics they generate on Airbnb,” adding that “we will be working in the days and weeks ahead to identify tools and initiatives to support our hosts during these very challenging times.”


Irrespective of the financial pressure, it was clear that Airbnb had to take company-wide action around cancellations. With air travel and hotel bookings down significantly and rolling travel bans surfacing around the world, many travelers simply can’t make it to their destinations over the next month. Now, at least those travelers can get a basic refund.