You are a planner. You don’t wait until the last minute.
It’s been a long year and you are really looking forward to that holiday. In March you booked and paid for your flight. Hotels cost a fortune, so you found a stunning accommodation on Airbnb that is just perfect. You check the availability and the price and instantly book it before it is snapped up by someone else.
Now, all that you need to do is count down the months until year-end-break….
But there is a problem.
Two weeks before your magical holiday is about to begin you are notified that the Airbnb host has decided that he would rather use the accommodation himself and promptly cancels the booking. You now have to scramble to find alternative accommodation for a family of six which is scarce and at the last minute any accommodation you do find cost a fortune.
This has just happened to a family from Johannesburg, South Africa who received an SMS saying the accommodation in Plettenberg Bay has been canceled leaving them and their family who will fly to South Africa from overseas stranded.
Dena confirmed that when she received the SMS, she called the host to get more information “the host was incredibly rude, said he needed the house and hung up the call. There was no apology from the host nor was there any offer to help find alternative accommodations.” Dena confirmed that Airbnb refunded her money but she felt frustrated as there was no way to contact Airbnb to report the host’s behavior. Dena also tried to call Airbnb but could not find a telephone number on the site. Thankfully she found another accommodation to accommodate their family of 6 over the busiest time of year.
This is not an isolated incident as others report a similar incident such as this tweet:
Kobus did confirm that he did find another accommodation that same day and the process was disappointing but painless. Kobus also confirmed that the host was “host wasn’t very helpful. I found a new accommodation on the app pretty easily they refunded me the difference between the rates (the new one is slightly cheaper) on the same day. Super impressive Airbnb also responded to my tweet to ask if they can help almost immediately”
I reached out to Airbnb to understand how they protect their guest from such negative experiences.
How Airbnb protects its users
“Over 60 million guests have stayed on Airbnb, and on our peak night this summer nearly 1 million people were staying with Airbnb hosts worldwide. Cancellations are incredibly rare but we know there can be circumstances where a host needs to cancel a guest’s reservation” Airbnb replied in a statement to my list of questions.
Of course, Airbnb is only the facilitators as each property is run and managed by the “host” however, due to the negative impact a cancellation has on a guest’s trip, Airbnb has implemented a number of measures around cancellations:
- If a host cancels any reservation within seven days of check-in, they will be charged a $100 fee. And if they cancel more than one reservation within a six-month period, they will be charged $50 per cancellation.
- If a reservation is canceled, an automatic review is added to the host’s listing page to say that they have canceled one of their bookings. The host has the ability to respond and explain for future bookers the reasons for the cancellation
- Hosts that cancel a reservation will not be eligible for super host status and the benefits that bring for one year after their most recent cancellation
- The host’s listing calendar will be blocked for the dates the canceled reservation was due to take place and they won’t be able to accept another booking for the same dates
The fact that the calendar is blocked for the canceled reservation date is a great way to ensure that host do not cancel a guest’s accommodation as they think they are able to sell those days at a higher price to someone else.
What about the money?
When it comes to the money, Airbnb protects is users by holding the money and it does not pay it out to the host until 24 hours after the guest has checked in. Therefore, if the host cancels or the listing is not what a guest expects, the money can always be refunded directly from Airbnb and no fights need to be had with the host.
If a guest does find that their host has canceled their reservation, they have two options:
- Transfer their payment to a new reservation and if the new reservation is less than they originally paid, Airbnb will refund the difference.
- Receive a full refund of their payment.
“Guests can contact our customer services team at any point if they have concerns about a reservation or need help finding somewhere new to stay in the rare event of a cancellation. The contact details can be found on their booking itinerary and our customer service team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a variety of languages.”
1. Read the reviews from travelers that have already stayed at the listing. Airbnb’s review system provides in-depth information about listings, graded across six criteria: accuracy, cleanliness, check-in, communication, location, and value. And keep in mind that unlike some other sites, Airbnb’s reviews are all authentic: travelers can only leave a review of a place after they’ve actually stayed there. You can also see in the reviews if the host has previously canceled a booking.
2. Look for the “Airbnb logo” watermark in the top right corner of the listing photographs or the phrase ‘Verified Photo’ underneath the images. This means that a professional photographer has been to the listing and taken the listing images so you can be reassured that the listing is as described.
3. Only book and pay through Airbnb. Airbnb gives peace of mind by handling all transactions and communication through its secure platform. When you pay through Airbnb your money is protected and the payment is not released to the host until 24 hours after check in so you have recourse if the accommodation isn’t as advertised.
4. Get to know your host (and their home). The Airbnb experience is unique and authentic because you’re booking with a local person. That means every home will be different. Take advantage of the many tools Airbnb offers to get to know your host (and their listing) before you book. Read their description thoroughly, including house rules and amenities. Check their cancellation policy and see if there is a security deposit. And go to their Host profile page to read more about them, including where they went to school, where they work, and what languages they speak.
5. Communicate with your host using the Airbnb messaging service before and after you book. That way you can ask any questions about the property and let the host know any special requests you might have. You can exchange messages either through the website or use the iOS or Android app.
Extreme Bonus Tip: Book a hotel at the same time that you book your Airbnb accommodation but choose a hotel that offers 100% money-back cancellation fee. Most will do that if you cancel within a few days before checking in. In the event that your Airbnb host decides to cancel, you have a backup plan at a rate you are happy to pay.