Now Is a Good Time to Cancel Your Airbnb Stay

Illustration for article titled Now Is a Good Time to Cancel Your Airbnb Stay
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Perhaps you’ve heard of covid-19, as it has likely caused the cancellation of many things you once enjoyed, like sports (all of them), having faith in our healthcare infrastructure, or spending time within arm’s length of other human beings. It’s easier than ever to stay home, do nothing, and feel lousy about it! Which is why now is also a great time to frictionlessly bail on any vacation plans you maybe thought you’d be enjoying in the near future.

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“How could sequestering indoors for the next month or five be any easier?” you ask. Announced in newsroom post today, Airbnb has changed its policy: from having cancellation fees, to... not having them, broadly speaking.

Any stays booked before today in mainland China, Italy, South Korea, and the entire United States with check-ins up to April 1 will have these fees waived, because realistically no one could have predicted we would be in the midst of a global pandemic that would crash the stock market. Cancellation fees may be a shrinkingly small concern in the scheme of [gestures broadly to the state of the world], but I’ll take it.

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Airbnb’s post adds that the policy change “also applies to travelers coming from the United States who have reservations in the Schengen Area of Europe,” which, in case that’s an unfamiliar term, comprises France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Finland, and 21 other countries that have unrestricted border crossings between them. In other words—most of it!

Yes, now does feel like the best of all possible moments to disappear into the woods and never come back—or at least take a weekend hiking trip and fantasize about the simplicity of living off the fat of the land—but we’ve all been told to limit non-essential travel. You don’t have an excuse anymore. Stay the fuck home.

If anything positive at all has come of this debacle, it’s been the growing awareness that while we may be woefully underprepared for natural catastrophes, much of the unhappiness we inflict on each other is totally optional. Evictions, water shut-offs, data caps, incarceration for minor offenses, student loan debt payments, and yes, cancellation fees are phantasms the rich and powerful summoned to enforce their wills, and which they’re absolutely free to dispel at any time. Now, for instance. And hopefully, after this pandemic is finally behind us too.

But goddammit, I really wanted to go hiking.

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Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bgmwrites@gmail.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/

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DISCUSSION

bubbaprog
Timothy Burke

The real question will be if AirBnB cancels the insurance hosts pay against people canceling in the form of nonrefundable booking discounts.

As it currently works, hosts can surrender between 10 and 15% of the nightly rate in return for a guest booking the stay as nonrefundable. The problem, of course, is that AirBnB holds that money in escrow. So hosts don’t get it until the time the guest is actually checking in. If AirBnB decided to null the nonrefundable bookings, people could get refunds after all—and hosts would get nothing for the hundreds of dollars they gave up in order to secure the reservations in the first place.

It would alienate a huge number of hosts, but AirBnB regularly makes decisions to the benefit of guests and the detriment of hosts.