Airbnb announced today that the lodging company would no longer issue refunds for COVID-19 related cancellations starting May 31, 2022.
“As a result of this new way of living, beginning 31 May, we are updating our Extenuating Circumstances policy to no longer cover COVID-19 related circumstances as a reason for a refund for bookings made on or after this date,” the company said in a press release. This updated policy doesn’t apply to reservations made in South Korea and China. Airbnb quickly pivoted to say that other companies in the travel industry also rolled back similar policies earlier this year, or didn’t provide one at all. While Airbnb did not specify which of their competitors they were referring to, Vrbo, a similar service, has also recently updated its guidelines related to COVID-19 related cancelations, saying a property’s cancelation policy may apply even if a reservation is impacted by COVID-19.
Airbnb did say that two-thirds of the listings on their site offered guests the chance to cancel a reservation no less than 5 days before check-in for a full refund. Some listings even offer full refunds for cancellation up to 24-hours before check-in. So, there’s still a chance you could get your money back if something comes up.
The news comes after yesterday’s companywide announcement that Airbnb would be moving to a hybrid work schedule, which would allow employees to live and work wherever they want, de-centralizing the office from the company’s culture. While this shift to a permanent hybrid work configuration doesn’t seem to be directly due to the current state of COVID-19 (which Dr. Anthony Fauci claimed is no longer a pandemic in the U.S.), it is clearly fuelled by the shift to remote work that began in March 2020.
“Two years ago, the world was turned upside down. Our offices closed and we found ourselves working from our bedrooms, basements, and home offices,” CEO Brian Chesky wrote to Airbnb employees in an email. He continued:
The right solution should combine the best of the digital world and the best of the physical world. It should have the efficiency of Zoom, while providing the meaningful human connection that only happens when people come together. We have a solution that we think combines the best of both worlds.
While the pandemic normalized the ability to work remotely, it also kinda gave people a ‘get out of jail free’ card when it came to cancelling plans — including vacation reservations. While COVID-19 will soon no longer be a valid reason to get a refund from an Airbnb cancelation, the impact of the pandemic will still be around when it comes to the ability for their employees to work remotely.