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Air BnB

We are planning to arrive in Vienna on December 14 and then take a train to Budapest on December 18. As of right now, I am feeling less confident that this trip will happen, after seeing the news about the new variant today. Our Air BnBs have a no cancellation policy and I have reached out to them, just to touch base about a potential change of plans. They are both holding firm to their no cancellation policy, and Air BnB has said they will not refund due to us literally not being able to enter the country (should that be the case on the 14th.) Has anyone had issues with Air Bnb refunds during the pandemic, that they were able to successfully resolve? I understand the Air BnB hosts do not want to lose money, but if we have to cancel because we are not allowed into the country, it makes me so angry they would be firm to their cancellations.

Posted by
2354 posts

In these times of uncertainty, booking any travel expenses with “no cancellation” is a huge risk. There are too many reasons you might need to cancel, including the entire country being shut down. This is not the AirBnB owner’s burden to carry. You accepted the risk when making the reservation. Hopefully you hedged that bet with cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance. Otherwise it’s an expensive lesson.

Posted by
18499 posts

In the case of the Vienna apartment, ask if AirBnb imposes any penalty on the landlord (better to research it yourself) and if they do, offer to pay it, and ask if you can have your payment be a deposit on a change of the arrival date to within, say 90 days, after the country reopens (might work; if I were the AirBnb owner I would think that would be better than a bad review).

For the Budapest apartment, well, Budapest is open and according to PM Orban will remain open as long as the hospital capacity holds up (he has set up a COVID only hospital in anticipation of the need and his attitude and the capacity looks promising); and besides, they opened the Christmas Markets and it would be pretty devastating to have to close them half way through (they stay open until January 1st).

Again, you might ask to hold your payment on deposit for a future date, but nothing is keeping you from going now so you have less leverage.

These guys want good reviews, it is the backbone of the business, so if they do give you some leeway, you need to post that with appreciation.

While Austria is closed to tourism, you might be able to transit (even by car or plane), so check that out and you can save hassles with your flight tickets.

My first trip back to Budapest after it reopened was on Turkish Air and initially I could only enter Hungary by land so my flight was into Zagreb and I was going to drive from there; but then Hungary opened to air traffic and it cost about $200 to change my ticket from Zagreb to Budapest (maybe you can do that with your tickets; change Vienna to Budapest - think Lemonade)

Posted by
5901 posts

I've booked an AirBnB for spring and made sure I could cancel up thru February. Times are just too uncertain. It be nice if the Airbnb would cut you a break, but they don't have to. You might consider determining what they would be willing to do for you, if anything. For example, would they consider giving you a credit?

Posted by
3879 posts

Thanks for posting your experience. It is instructive to others.

I totally understand your frustration. Few things are more maddening than losing money on a service that you are unable to use, especially since the thing causing it -- COVID-19 -- is out of your control. I'm really, really sorry you are in this position (and hopefully you know I really am).

The challenge here is that AirBNB and the hosts are following AirBNB's published policy. Its Extenuating Circumstances Policy was updated in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. AirBNB made everyone with reservations made on or prior to March 14 (2020) whole due to COVID-19 being an unexpected event at that time. BUT it also established that, going forward, COVID-19 is a recognized risk for travel, and AirBNB specifically excluded nearly everything related to COVID-19 as a reason to alter a host's cancellation policy -- from cancelled transportation to government action closing borders. There are two exceptions: the guest has COVID-19, the host has COVID-19.

The policy is not apparent at all on AirBNB's main webpage (only a couple of links at the very bottom of the page under "Support": a "Cancellation Options" link that takes you directly to the policy and a "Our COVID-19 Response" link that takes you to a page that has a link to the policy). Pretty obscure.

When I walk through a "dummy" reservation on the website, though, I reach the page for payment and making the final request to the host. While I don't know what was on that page when you made your reservation, that page today includes the following:

Cancellation policy

XXXXXXX [cancellation policy for dummy booking]
XXXXXXX. Learn more

Our Extenuating Circumstances policy does not cover
travel disruptions caused by COVID-19. Learn more

The second "Learn more" link takes you to the policy I've linked above. The blurb on the payment page definitely could be more descriptive (and more prominent), but it probably counts as a good faith effort to make people aware of the policy.

I think your best hope is, as James suggests, further dialogue with the hosts. I don't think AirBNB the company is going to be of any help to you due to their published policy and due to this Guardian article. As an aside, I also don't think they are going to allow you to rate the host/site without staying at the property, so I would not use that as leverage with the host. Maybe they can give a credit (or partial credit) toward a future stay?

I'm not sure whether transiting through Austria to Budapest is something you would even want to do in your situation, but the Austrian Embassy in Washington's website indicates that transit through Austria is still permitted, including a change in mode of transportation (see Section E on the website). That's something I would verify directly with the Embassy, though, as rules have been changing quickly in Austria.

Once again, yours is a maddening situation. I'm sorry you find yourself in it.

Posted by
18499 posts

Dave, thanks for all the hard research but I cant believe there is no issue between AirBnb and the Host if the Host does the cancelation as that would be counter to AirBnb's reputation to be able to strand someone.

So, why not offer then the 14% and ask for later rental date? That might work; if I were the Austrian Host, I would do it.

And for the transit through Austria, I wouldn't count on the flight not being canceled; safer to change the flight to Budapest.

In the future know that most of the short-term rentals are on multiple platforms; so shop around for price and for terms (i just looked and my favorite short-term rental is on no less than 17 platforms).

Posted by
116 posts

I cancelled an airbnb in Salzburg, because I misread the cancellation policy- I thought I had free cancellation until Dec 9 (turned out it was Dec 19, after the lockdown). The host was incredibly nice and offered to extend the cancellation period until after lockdown. Because i had already cancelled it, I just told her I would re-book if by some miracle our trip could happen. She was very understanding.

In the last year, I've noticed more listings have a much more generous cancellation policy (free cancellation period is longer, etc). I know this doesn't help you now, but it's one of the main things I consider before booking. For our upcoming trip, everything can be cancelled except for two concerts (one in Salzburg and one in Vienna). I opted for the insurance that does not cover lockdowns, just if one of us were to come down with COVID. I never in a million years thought we'd be back to lockdowns. Lesson learned, I guess.

Posted by
2004 posts

Every Airbnb host has set a cancellation policy which is stated on his website describing the apartment.

Airbnb hosts are reprimanded when cancelling a guest's reservation, so they won't do it. Even if a guest wants to compensate a host for this, the host's offering will then be shown way down when searching for an accommodation.

When a guest cancels an Airbnb reservation the host receives a notification email which contains a button for waiving the cancellation policy, i.e. it is up to the host whether the guest gets back all his money or not. Airbnb's commission is never paid back.