Gephardt: Why Airbnb Won’t Pay For Refunds On Vacations Canceled By COVID

Feb 3, 2021, 6:39 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 10:02 pm

HURRICANE, Utah – COVID-19 has shattered travel plans, leaving thousands of Americans fighting to get refunds.

When the pandemic first hit, Airbnb asked its hosts to provide refunds due to extenuating circumstances. But as the pandemic has worn on, Airbnb refunds are now up to the hosts — you might be in luck or you might not. So when a Hurricane woman stood to lose thousands of dollars on her Airbnb reservations because of COVID-related travel restrictions, she contacted the KSL Investigators.

“It just looks like a great place to vacation,” said Staci Glazier as she showed KSL the Airbnb listing for a huge home in the Ala Moana district in Honolulu, Hawaii.


It was to be her family’s first trip to Hawaii. Her parents and brothers’ families were coming too, so they needed a large place for their seven days in paradise.

“It also had a private pool, which with all of the kids and everything — that was a big thing that we were looking for,” she added.

Glazier booked the Airbnb home in July, paying over $5,800. But by Christmas, it was as clear as the Hawaiian waters that the pandemic wasn’t going away. So when COVID-19 forced the family to cancel their plans, she asked the Airbnb host for a refund — repeatedly.

“Please let me know if you will refund 100% and as soon as we are able to travel again, we will look for your property,” she read from one of her many emails to the host.

But the host never responded — ever.

Airbnb told Glazer that a 100% refund is strictly in the hands of the host. Airbnb also reached out to the host repeatedly, and even they could not get a response. With that, Airbnb said they could only give Glazier half of her money back.


“I feel like I’m being taken advantage of,” she told KSL. “I’m going to lose $3,000 just because someone won’t respond.”

Frustrated she was getting nowhere, Glazier decided it was time to call the KSL Investigators.

We reached out to Airbnb on her behalf and got a bummer of a response. Hosts decide how much to refund guests. And hosts are not required to give full refunds on bookings canceled by COVID-19 if those reservations were made any time after March 14, 2020 — because that’s when “COVID-19 and its consequences were no longer unexpected.”

Those consequences include any sort of lockdown and travel restrictions.

The KSL Investigators also tried to reach the Airbnb host of the Honolulu property, and he wasn’t talking to us either. It got us wondering, “Why would this guy not respond to anybody?” So, we dug deeper and found something fishy.

We found the photos of the Honolulu home’s Airbnb listing were the same ones used about a year earlier on a real estate website. They appeared to have been lifted to create the Airbnb listing. Also, the property had only one review in at least six months of being posted.

So, we went back to Airbnb, saying, “This listing appears like it might have been made by a fraudster.”

They investigated and agreed and pulled the property off its website.

What does that mean for Staci Glazier? Well, Airbnb does back up their customers when they find a listing to be fraudulent. So, just like that, she got a full refund.

“I work very hard for my money and I look forward to a vacation,” Glazier said. “And I never realized that scheduling a vacation would be such a headache.”

To avoid getting scammed, watch out for listings with few reviews and are short on details or photos. And if full refunds are important, look for listings with a “flexible” cancellation policy. That gets you a full refund if you cancel at least 24 hours before check-in, no matter what.

Here is Airbnb’s full statement regarding cancellations during the pandemic:

  • The majority of listings on Airbnb have flexible or moderate cancellation policies, both of which allow for full refunds of the nightly rate for cancellations made at least 5 days prior to check-in, regardless of the circumstances. (Flexible policies allow for full refunds for cancellations made at least 24 hours before check in, while moderate policies allow for full refunds for cancellations at least 5 days before check in).
  • We introduced a new search filter earlier this year, so guests can filter listings by flexible cancellation policies when searching.
  • Airbnb is a people-to-people marketplace and we are committed to doing everything we can to fairly support the hosts who rely on their Airbnb income, and guests whose travel plans have been disrupted.
  • Our extenuating circumstances policy is intended to protect guests and hosts from unforeseen circumstances that arise after booking.
  • After the declaration of a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, COVID-19 and its consequences were no longer unexpected, including the risk of continued or new travel and movement restrictions.
  • For any reservations booked after March 14, Airbnb has continuously provided a specific alert to travelers about their applicable cancellation and refund policy before they complete and pay for their accommodation reservation.
  • This message explicitly states the cancellation and refund policy that applies to the specific reservation, which is determined by the host and can range from “flexible”, “moderate” or “strict”. It also states that the Extenuating Circumstances policy does not apply to reservations made after March 14 for COVID related circumstances other than actual sickness. We include this warning on the payment pages for every booking so that guests understand the policy.

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Gephardt: Why Airbnb Won’t Pay For Refunds On Vacations Canceled By COVID