Airbnb introduces updated policy for disruptive events

  • Airbnb has outlined a new cancellation policy for major disruptive events.
  • This policy gives guests and hosts the ability to cancel a reservation without penalty should there be a public health emergency, a natural disaster, or another disruptive event.
  • Unfortunately the regular cancellation policy will still apply for most things such as cancelling because a guest is ill.

Accommodation platform Airbnb has announced that as of 6th June 2024, a new policy will come into effect that specifically deals with cancellations in the event of major disruptive events.

When cancelling a stay on Airbnb, the platform’s general cancellation policy applies, but sometimes there is good enough reason to cancel and get every cent you spent back. To that end, Airbnb has updated its policy specifically for major disruptive events.

“In the rare circumstances that large-scale events prevent or legally prohibit completion of a reservation, the Major Disruptive Events Policy (the ‘Policy’) may apply. When this Policy applies, guests can cancel their reservation and receive a refund, travel credit, and/or other consideration regardless of the reservation’s cancellation policy, and Hosts can cancel without fees or other adverse consequences, although their listing’s calendar will be blocked for the dates of the canceled reservation,” notes Airbnb.

The “major disruptive events” defined by Airbnb and which qualify for this include:

  • Declared public health emergencies and epidemics. Government-declared epidemics, pandemics, and public health emergencies. This does not include diseases that are endemic (for example, the flu) or commonly associated with an area (for example, malaria in Thailand). COVID-19 is not covered under this Major Disruptive Events Policy.
  • Government travel restrictions. Mandatory travel restrictions imposed by a governmental agency, such as an evacuation order. This does not include non-binding travel advisories and similar government guidance.
  • Military actions and other hostilities. Acts of war, hostilities, invasions, civil war, terrorism, explosions, bombings, rebellions, riots, and insurrection.
  • Large-scale outages of essential utilities. Prolonged outages of essential utilities, such as heat, water, and electricity, impacting the vast majority of homes in a given location.
  • Natural disasters. Natural disasters and other severe weather events. Weather or natural conditions that are common enough to be foreseeable in a given location—for example, hurricanes occurring during hurricane season in Florida—are covered only when they result in another Event covered by this Policy that prevents completion of the reservation, such as a mandatory evacuation order or large-scale outage of essential utilities.

Instances not covered by this policy include:

  • Events that impact a guest or their ability to travel, but not the reservation location.
  • Unexpected injury or illness.
  • Government obligations like jury duty or court appearances.
  • Non-binding travel advisories or other government guidance that fall short of a travel ban or prohibition.
  • Cancellation or rescheduling of an event for which the reservation was made.
  • Transportation disruptions unrelated to a covered Event, such as airline insolvency, transportation strikes, and road closures due to maintenance.

At first blush, this looks like a good policy, but it does appear as if Airbnb itself will determine whether this policy is activated or not. The firm says that it will activate the Major Disruptive Event policy after it does an assessment. While we’re sure this assessment will be guided by advice from governments and other experts, that advice could quite easily be ignored. Airbnb will also determine the area and timeframe that the event will be impacting an area so this may differ from directions issued by the government in the region.

“Reservations outside of the defined area and timeframe may not be eligible, though Hosts may still be able to cancel without adverse consequences if they are unable to host. We continuously monitor these situations and adjust coverage as needed to reflect changing conditions,” the platform outlines.

Airbnb, much like other gig-economy platforms does still appear to be taking a hands-off approach with any refunds that aren’t related to the major disruptive events policy which is incredibly frustrating. Even this policy looks weak with many loopholes that we’re sure unscrupulous hosts and guests will try to take advantage of.

With that having been said, at least there will be a policy that helps those who have to cancel their accommodation because of extenuating circumstances.


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