Hurricane Maria and Airbnb Puerto Rico Cancellation

Old Sep 19, 17, 7:48 am
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Hurricane Maria and Airbnb Puerto Rico Cancellation

My son has an Airbnb reservation for next week in Puerto Rico. The cancellation fee is 50% one week out and he is still outside the window. Given hurricanes Irma and now Maria, he is thinking it is not the best bet to head to PR for a vacation.

He has contacted the host but has not heard back. And of course we don't even know the damage yet, it any. Of course, he doesn't want to eat the 50%, especially if there is loss of electricity and/or major damage. Any tips on what he should be doing 10 days out? Thanks.
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Old Sep 20, 17, 8:59 am
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Host agreed to cancel. No issue. Hope the hurricane damage is not devastating.
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Old Sep 20, 17, 3:14 pm
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Originally Posted by OB one View Post
Host agreed to cancel. No issue. Hope the hurricane damage is not devastating.
Although I don't see anything on Airbnb's home page about the hurricanes, I did dig this up:

https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/...stances-policy

A few posts in this thread confirm Airbnb is refunding people (and overriding hosts' cancellation policies) who are canceling their trips to affected hurricane areas: https://community.withairbnb.com/t5/...ts/td-p/104926

Frankly, I think that's pretty shoddy of Airbnb. Hosts still have to pay the mortgage, electric bill, TV/Internet, HOA fees, etc., and that's the entire reason that some hosts select fairly strict cancellation policies. Other sites (VRBO, etc.) handle this much better: at several steps throughout the booking process, they advise you that nonrefundable reservations are 100% nonrefundable, and you should purchase travel insurance to reimburse you if you (or Mother Nature) encounter the need to change your plans.

That said, sounds like you had a nice host, and I'm glad you were able to get it resolved. (I just think it should be an issue between the guest and the host and the guest's travel insurance company, not anything Airbnb should step in and force on hosts.)
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Old Sep 20, 17, 4:31 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
A few posts in this thread confirm Airbnb is refunding people (and overriding hosts' cancellation policies) who are canceling their trips to affected hurricane areas: https://community.withairbnb.com/t5/...ts/td-p/104926

Frankly, I think that's pretty shoddy of Airbnb. Hosts still have to pay the mortgage, electric bill, TV/Internet, HOA fees, etc., and that's the entire reason that some hosts select fairly strict cancellation policies. Other sites (VRBO, etc.) handle this much better: at several steps throughout the booking process, they advise you that nonrefundable reservations are 100% nonrefundable, and you should purchase travel insurance to reimburse you if you (or Mother Nature) encounter the need to change your plans.
As a consumer, I think that Airbnb is unquestionably doing the right thing here. I would expect the same of any hotel, even with respect to bookings under a nonrefundable advanced-purchase rate, when a hotel is located in an area hit by a recent natural disaster.

I try to keep an open mind, but based on what you've described, I'm not sure I'd be willing to even consider using VRBO if they would enforce cancellation penalties in the event of a natural disaster.
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Old Sep 20, 17, 9:17 pm
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Originally Posted by mikew99 View Post
As a consumer, I think that Airbnb is unquestionably doing the right thing here. I would expect the same of any hotel, even with respect to bookings under a nonrefundable advanced-purchase rate, when a hotel is located in an area hit by a recent natural disaster.

I try to keep an open mind, but based on what you've described, I'm not sure I'd be willing to even consider using VRBO if they would enforce cancellation penalties in the event of a natural disaster.
Keep in mind VRBO started out as, in effect, a classified listing site of accommodations. All actual payment and contracts and everything were strictly between the guest and the owner.

It's only been somewhat recently that HomeAway (now owned by Expedia and owner of VRBO) has started to adjust their business model to be more like that of Airbnb (an actual booking service), but the mindset is still that a booking is a legal agreement between the guest and the owner--just like a traditional offline vacation rental you might have booked 20 years ago by phoning the owner. In fact, with HomeAway, owners don't even need to use HomeAway's payment processor and can still collect money offline (some owners even only take checks). As such, HomeAway isn't even able to get in between guests and owners. (It remains to be seen how far towards Airbnb's model Expedia can get away with pushing things.)

Now, back to my view:

If Airbnb owned the accommodations, they could refund as many people as they wanted. But unilaterally doing so unfairly deprives the owner of income they were counting on (and, in many cases, cannot reasonably replace). Whether it's an "unexpected" illness (see the thread I linked) or an ice storm in the guest's home city preventing them from traveling or even flooding limiting access to the owner's area is immaterial. Those are situations that people can (and should, and many do) purchase travel insurance for. A guest's failure to maintain adequate coverage for travel incidents should cause that responsibility to be thrust upon the property owner.
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Old Sep 21, 17, 8:16 am
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We have a HomeAway (same as Airbnb) for San Juan November 13-18. Likely that we will need to cancel? Not sure that there will be much to do or see (assuming that our rental in Old San Juan has electricity back by then).
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Old Sep 21, 17, 2:55 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
If Airbnb owned the accommodations, they could refund as many people as they wanted. But unilaterally doing so unfairly deprives the owner of income they were counting on (and, in many cases, cannot reasonably replace). Whether it's an "unexpected" illness (see the thread I linked) or an ice storm in the guest's home city preventing them from traveling or even flooding limiting access to the owner's area is immaterial. Those are situations that people can (and should, and many do) purchase travel insurance for. A guest's failure to maintain adequate coverage for travel incidents should cause that responsibility to be thrust upon the property owner.
I understand and respect your opinion, even if I don't agree with it. I think it's worth distinguishing between situations that primarily affect the guest (such as illness) and situations that affect the property's viability as a destination (natural disaster in the property's location or nearby flooding that prevents access to the property).

If I were the business owner in a hurricane-affected region, I hope I'd be empathetic with a guest who decided not to visit, and I doubt I'd enforce a cancellation penalty in this case. Also, it might not be the best business decision for the owner to say, "Sorry, I won't refund your money. Yes, the area was ravaged by a hurricane, but the property is fine, so that's not my problem." That standpoint might be legal but it loses the PR battle. I suspect that's where Airbnb is coming from.
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Old Sep 21, 17, 9:18 pm
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Originally Posted by mikew99 View Post
I understand and respect your opinion, even if I don't agree with it. I think it's worth distinguishing between situations that primarily affect the guest (such as illness) and situations that affect the property's viability as a destination (natural disaster in the property's location or nearby flooding that prevents access to the property).

If I were the business owner in a hurricane-affected region, I hope I'd be empathetic with a guest who decided not to visit, and I doubt I'd enforce a cancellation penalty in this case. Also, it might not be the best business decision for the owner to say, "Sorry, I won't refund your money. Yes, the area was ravaged by a hurricane, but the property is fine, so that's not my problem." That standpoint might be legal but it loses the PR battle. I suspect that's where Airbnb is coming from.
A valid point, and I definitely think there is merit to the argument that those situations should be distinguished.

But note that Expedia and Priceline and similar sites don't have the right to unilaterally cancel and refund airline tickets without applicable travel waivers being issued by the airlines. Neither do they, for that matter, offer the ability to cancel prepaid hotel reservations without the permission of the hotel. For example, this is from Business Insider:

Hotels
If you prepaid a nonrefundable hotel room—through Hotwire or Priceline, for example—each hotel decides whether to allow you to change dates without forfeiting your prepayment. Both Hotwire and Priceline told me that if you call, their customer service agents will try to negotiate something for you, but with no promises. Both agencies also recommend buying travel insurance.
I guess I don't see why Airbnb should be any different than that. For the cases where there's an uncooperative owner, there's always travel insurance (I spend a couple hundred bucks a year to protect myself, so I don't see why others can't do the same or buy cheaper individual per-trip insurance).
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Old Sep 23, 17, 12:22 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
Although I don't see anything on Airbnb's home page about the hurricanes, I did dig this up:

https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/...stances-policy

A few posts in this thread confirm Airbnb is refunding people (and overriding hosts' cancellation policies) who are canceling their trips to affected hurricane areas: https://community.withairbnb.com/t5/...ts/td-p/104926

Frankly, I think that's pretty shoddy of Airbnb. Hosts still have to pay the mortgage, electric bill, TV/Internet, HOA fees, etc., and that's the entire reason that some hosts select fairly strict cancellation policies. Other sites (VRBO, etc.) handle this much better: at several steps throughout the booking process, they advise you that nonrefundable reservations are 100% nonrefundable, and you should purchase travel insurance to reimburse you if you (or Mother Nature) encounter the need to change your plans.
This works both ways, however. If I show up at property, I expect it to be 100% as described in the listing. There must be no damage to the inside of the apartment or house. Electricity must work. Water must run. The roof cannot leak. The cable must work. If just one those things isn't as described in the listing, I will get a refund according to Airbnb.
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Old Oct 8, 17, 10:33 pm
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Arrow A little late to the discussion

JetBlue waivers program goes out to people who booked Puerto Rico up until beginning of April.
JetBlue is giving free itinerary changes destinations, dates, or credit good for one year to use toward travel.

Impacted Cities: BQN, PSE, SJU
Waiver Code: WXB6INKS17
Original Booking Date: on or before Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Original Travel Date: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 through Monday, April 2, 2018


I would think any airlines that services Puerto Rico would have something similar in place. That April date is very disturbing.

Punta Cana by example had a waiver for travel up until Sept 26th for travel with Jet Blue.

Airbnb has not posted official policy but they are not charging services fees and from what I understand letting people cancel and get 100% back even when there is an original strict cancellation policy.

Remember unlike Homeaway where you paid the host and need to negotiated funds back directly, AirBnB is the party paid by you in advance. The AirBnb host only gets your payment for "current use" 24 hours after you have checked-in. Btw, this is why you really need to complain about a bad space immediately. You have 24 hours to complain and for AirBnb to withhold payment to use towards another space for you asap.


regards,
W.K.
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