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Our coverage on COVID‑19

COVID-19: What happens when you need to cancel your Airbnb?

[ UPDATE 13/03/2020 18:53 ]: An Airbnb representative has explained that the cancellation policy filter function is not available right now. However, the feature should be rolled out in the coming days or weeks.

The spread of the COVID-19 outbreak has undoubtedly thrown a spanner in the works as far as travel plans are concerned. The Malaysian government’s recent travel ban for travellers coming from Italy, Iran, and South Korea is a prominent example of this, while the MWC 2020‘s cancellation also resulted in empty flights to and from Barcelona during that period. Now, Airbnb has announced a new “flexible” reservation policy in light of the outbreak.

Essentially, Airbnb’s redesigned policy is to help hosts and guests cancel their bookings without bearing too much of a loss. For bookings made until the 1st of June 2020, Airbnb will now waive the standard 3% host fee as a reward for hosts who are willing/able to offer refunds on cancellations that would otherwise have been subject to charges.

Meanwhile guests that have cancelled their bookings and are not eligible for a refund of the Airbnb guest service fee will get a travel coupon in that value.

More Flexible Reservations

Ever since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a global health emergency—since updated to pandemic status—the team at Airbnb has apparently been working on a new policy. “More Flexible Reservations” is essentially Airbnb’s way of offering travellers more peace of mind, and also to inspire confidence enough to ensure an increase in reservations.

But it’s worth noting that not every booking will give you refunds. Hosts still have the option to set their own cancellation policies, which means that you’ll need to search for a “Flexible” booking if you want to take advantage of Airbnb’s new policies.

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To do so, guests now have the option to filter search results by cancellation policy: Flexible, Moderate, or Strict. However, I can’t seem to find the filter option on PC or iOS, so I’ve reached out to Airbnb and will update this post with more information soon.

Extenuating circumstances policy

There’s also an “extenuating circumstances” policy that covers “severe and unforeseen” circumstances, where guests who are not eligible for a penalty-free cancellation may request a full refund, subject to eligibility. According to Airbnb’s eligibility requirements, these circumstances include:

  • Unexpected serious illness or injury
  • Government-mandated obligations
  • Unforeseen property damage, maintenance, and amenity issues
  • Transportation disruptions
  • Train, bus, or ferry cancellations
  • Open Homes reservations
  • Natural disasters, terrorist activity, and civil/political unrest
  • Epidemic disease or illness
  • Travel restrictions
  • Safety and security threat advisories
  • Essential utility outages
  • Changes to visa or passport requirements

For now, it’s important to practice good hygiene—even if you aren’t travelling. Remember to regularly sanitise your hands, and to avoid crowded places. If you feel the onset of symptoms, visit your nearest healthcare provider. For more details on Airbnb’s new policy, click here.