How to get a refund from Airbnb during the pandemic

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By Christopher Elliott

Elena Lopez wants to know how to get a refund from Airbnb during the pandemic. She had to cancel her stay in London and thought she could get her money back. Is getting an Airbnb refund impossible? 


My husband and I have a COVID-19 refund situation different from those you have featured that we hope you can address. We must cancel an Airbnb reservation in London due to the coronavirus. It meets the newly extended date parameters.

Online exchanges with Airbnb staff say a full refund is available, and our host said the same thing. But when you go to the “cancel” screen on, first you get a choice of a trivial refund, following the host’s regular policy, or a credit.

You can choose to ask for more information about cancellations, which takes you to a drop-down menu. When you choose COVID-19, it asks you to upload documents, stating that travel advisories are not acceptable. These documents are subject to some internal review. Without providing documents, you only get a credit.

I have seen reports that the internal review process is dubious. More importantly, this is an obvious Catch-22: Travel advisories are the reason no one is traveling, and disallowing them as justification precludes the refund that they say you are eligible for.

This is shockingly dishonest. We have called this to their attention, and they say the website should work to provide a full refund. But nothing has changed. Can you tell me how to get a refund from Airbnb during the pandemic? — Elena Lopez, Mountain View, Calif.


Airbnb sure isn’t making it easy to get a refund, is it? I think applying for one of those Paycheck Protection Program loans might be more straightforward. That’s not hyperbole. I had to navigate that form recently. It’s no fun.

Airbnb’s policy is pretty generous. If you have a reservation made before March 14 that begins anytime on or before May 31, you can cancel the reservation and get a full refund or a travel credit if you’re affected by COVID-19 and can’t travel.

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We have more information on how to get a refund during the pandemic on this site.

This is how to get a refund from Airbnb during the pandemic

Your London rental definitely qualified. But that doesn’t mean Airbnb will fork over your money. First, I recommended that you review the entire extenuating circumstances policy as it relates to coronavirus. You can find it on the Airbnb site.

Note: Airbnb’s policy has since been extended to reservations for stays made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and Oct. 15, 2020 (Policy updated Sept 1).

Airbnb has been asking for copies of government warnings relevant to your cancellation. To get a refund, you need to fill out the form with a link to the appropriate document, such as the U.S. State Department’s recent “Level 4” advisory to stay home. That’s all.

And one more thing: You need to be patient. Airbnb is processing thousands of these refund requests. If for some reason your request gets lost in the shuffle, you can always reach out to one of the executive contacts at Airbnb, which I list on this site.

I recommended you resubmit your claim, which you did. A few days later, Airbnb refunded your money.

By the way, we’ve been getting flooded with angry emails from Airbnb’s hosts who say the company’s refund policy goes too far. What do you think?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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