0 min left

Airbnb and VRBO Try Two Very Different Coronavirus Cancellation Policies

Coronavirus COVID-19 continues to expand across the globe, and travelers are facing an overwhelming amount of canceled flights, lodging, and plans. And some companies seem to be handling it better than others.


Airbnb recently expanded guidelines to offer a comprehensive cancellation policy to travelers, offering free cancellations and full refunds for nearly all lodging reservations. Only China is exempt, as standard cancellation policies will reinstate in the country starting April 1. The reservations must have been made before March 14, with stay dates between March 14 and April 14. Either the host or the guest can initiate the cancellation. The cancellation policy also extends to AirBNB Experiences, the tours, classes, and workshops available to book. When travelers or hosts go through the cancellation process, an automatic message should appear allowing them to cancel without a penalty; if the message doesn’t show up, they can submit a request for a refund within 14 days.


Vrbo is taking a different approach. The company isn’t offering any cancellation fee exemptions due to COVID-19. Instead, the vice president of the company has asked travelers to reach out to their hosts to try and figure it out, CNN reported. Vrbo does, though, encourage hosts to offer a full refund to affected travelers through a letter on their website:

“Homeowners and property managers who list homes on Vrbo have been encouraged to adopt more flexible cancellation policies in light of COVID-19 and offer full refunds to those who wish to cancel for concerns of their own well-being.”

The company then provides tips on how to handle current reservations to increase the chances of getting a full refund.

Hosts Aren’t Happy

As guests are missing out on exciting travel plans, hosts are suffering, too. They’re losing thousands of dollars in income because they suddenly have no guests at their properties. The problem largely affects hosts on Airbnb. Host GPO, a short-term vacation rental group purchasing organization, called on Airbnb to address the problem in an open letter:

“Extending refunds to practically everyone through April 1st,” they said, reported by CNN, “will be absolutely devastating to hosts. … To prevent hosts from losing their livelihoods, it’s important to make sure that hosts survive the unprecedented onslaught of cancellations.”

Xrayman March 29, 2020

This COVID19 state of affairs will be relatively short lived (even if it continues for several more months). However, I would say that consumer memories will be long lasting. When running a business as all the owners placing property on these sites are doing, running a business comes with risk. All business’ in this environment are hurting and so are their employees and the downstream effects upon their consumerism. Although the host or in this case the business may not be contractually obligated to provide a “full refund” minus some reasonable administrative costs, the manner in which a business treats its customers has a high correlation on how customers respond with future continuing business relationships. I suspect that owners that don’t work on a reasonable alternative with the customer may be at risk (if their business survives) with reviews and posting of the customers experience. That being said, the customer also has to be understanding and Appreciative for reasonable alternatives or administrative fees. I would feel that permitting a credit for future rebooking is a fine alternative if both parties can agree.

nancysturm March 29, 2020

I had an very good experience with both AIRBNB and VRBO- I had 4 rentals in Italy starting May 1st all fully refunded my money and 1 rental for May 20 in California that I only 3 or 4 days before they all were very very accomodating and I will rebook those same places as soon as possible for March and May 2021. No one can ever assume the party owning or renting has enough money only hope that those who can afford try to do whats best.

Richard Parris March 26, 2020

Actually, VRBO hid their explanation of how to get a full refund including their ridiculous 20% service charge in an information page to Property Owners NOT in FAQs for the traveler, requiring the owner to specifically mark it was for "Corona Virus Concerns" and this they did not provide as an option for several days after announcing this to the owners ONLY. The traveler had to do Much research to find this and then beg the property owner to do the cancellation to get their money back. Any cancellation done by the Traveler came back that it was not within the one month cancellation policy to get Any refund. All the while posting to travelers that answers to their concerns for cancelling reservations made before the pandemic could be found under FAQs when it was not. Next, after the property owner made the cancellation an email was sent out by VRBO as being an email from the owner that the owner was unaware of. This email stated that a full refund would be forthcoming while another email was sent out afterwards by VRBO telling the traveler the cancellation did not meet guidelines and none would be issued. Then after making travelers wait half an hour after navigating a maze of telephone menu options to speak with a live representative they found themselves talking with a person arguing all the above realities were not occurring. And THEN after a very lengthy hold were finally told yes a full refund was being issued and instead of the posted 48 hour time frame on the VRBO website regarding refunds it would be in 5-7 days. Further the email stating no refund would be made was simply automatic (my Facebook comments to VRBO on why they couldn't reprogram their system to stop this auto response for Covid-19 concern cancellations along with describing all the above has gone unanswered by them.) It has now been Seven Full Business days going on Ten days and no refund has been made to my bank card.

Disneymkvii March 18, 2020

I hardly feel bad for the AirBnB hosts after watching how they've operated the last several years. All take and no give. They have renters lined up and if you don't bow to their renting power, they just blow you off and move on to the next one. Well, Blow this off!

cairns March 18, 2020

I never, ever rent from VRBO. Their fees can double the cost of a rental. And their selfish "work it out" policy just underlines how greedy they are.