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Airbnb ending refunds for guests who get COVID-19

April 30, 2022
4 min read
Airbnb ending refunds for guests who get COVID-19
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A case of COVID-19 will no longer allow Airbnb guests to get a refund if they have to make a last minute cancellation, starting May 31.

Airbnb announced the changes Friday as part of an update to the home-share site’s extenuating circumstances policy. Under the new rules no refunds will be issued when a member of the traveling party gets sick with the virus.

Airbnb said the changes follow other similar steps in the travel industry, and said this is part of adjusting to a “new way of living” as the virus “becomes part of our world.”

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“Some in the travel industry stopped this type of policy months ago, while others didn’t provide it at all,” the company said in a statement Friday. “After consultation with our medical advisors, as well as our community, we feel the time is now right to take the same step.”

(Photo courtesy of Airbnb)

While much of the travel industry allowed guests extra flexibility for changing or canceling reservations during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous companies have moved away from total flexibility in bookings.

Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy during the pandemic included provisions that allowed guests to get a refund if they or a member of their traveling party came down with COVID-19 just before their trip. The rules often required the guest to provide documentation verifying the illness. Likewise, hosts could cancel a stay last minute without having their Superhost status impacted.

Related: What to do if you show up to a wrecked Airbnb

These policies will end with these changes taking effect in late May. Airbnb told TPG the changes would only apply to cases where someone comes down with COVID-19. So, in accordance with the company’s extenuating circumstances policy, you could still get a refund if the pandemic led to your travel to the region being restricted for some reason.

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Airbnb noted, though, nearly two thirds of its active listings continue to offer a moderate or flexible cancellation policy.

For instance, take a look at a property I’m considering for my family’s summer vacation starting Aug. 20. I can cancel as late as Aug. 15 and get a complete refund. I could even cancel up until 4:00 p.m. on the day my stay would start and get a significant portion of the cost refunded.

(Screenshot courtesy of Airbnb)

Numerous hotel chains have similar policies in place. The rules can differ from property to property, but as long as you don’t pay in advance, you can usuallycancel at no charge up until a day or two prior to booking.

Related: How Airbnb saved the day

Take a random Marriott Bonvoy property, for example: I picked the JW Marriott in Miami, and plugged in a week-long stay starting Memorial Day weekend. The normal rate if I do not pay in advance comes to more than $3,200 for the week. However, I have flexibility to cancel at no charge up until 11:59 p.m. the night before I check in.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy)

The one caveat is if I choose to pay in advance. I save a few hundred dollars on the booking, but would only have a grace period until the next day to cancel for a full refund.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy)

Bottom line

As travel begins to look more like it did in pre-pandemic times, companies – including Airbnb – are continuing to move away from some of the flexibility they offered to travelers during the height of COVID-19.

The omicron surge in the winter of 2021-2022 served as the most recent reminder to travelers that flexibility can still come in handy, and plenty of companies continue to offer at least some degree of flexibility.

As you book travel, be sure to closely review both the company’s overarching cancellation policies, and in the case of home rental reservations and hotels, also review the individual property’s policies so you make the right booking choice to ensure flexibility.

Featured image by The lofted ceilings make the space feel large and inviting. (Photo courtesy of Airbnb)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Pros

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  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more