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'This is unfair': Surrey man frustrated with Airbnb refusal to refund Hawaii booking

Last Updated Mar 29, 2020 at 10:40 am PDT

FILE - An Airbnb logo is pictured on Feb. 22, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eric Risberg

Airbnb has a COVID-19-related cancellation policy but one man trying to cancel a trip says it is unfair and unrealistic

Andrew Nguyen is frustrated with one host's refusal to give him a refund given that travel to the U.S. is banned

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Travel to the U.S. is banned and large gatherings like weddings are similarly forbidden in cities around the world, and a Surrey man trying to cancel a trip is frustrated by Airbnb’s limited refund policy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In October, Andrew Nguyen booked two places for his friend’s Hawaiian wedding set for mid-May. Now that wedding has been cancelled and one host is refusing to give Nguyen a refund.

According to Airbnb, the company allows for a refund when a cancellation is mutually agreed upon.

One host was accommodating.

“She cancelled, no issues,” Nguyen explained.

The other has proven intractable, and Nguyen said if a refund is ultimately refused he will be out around $1,200.

“I told her this is unfair. Obviously we want to go to Hawaii but we physically can’t leave the country. We’re barred from leaving the country or entering your country,” Nguyen said.

“It’s frustrating because it doesn’t cost her anything to cancel. I actually looked the host up. That person has 10 properties in Hawaii. If you have 10 properties, you’re doing pretty well. It’s kind of upsetting where there’s some people out there just taking advantage of the situation.”

‘If you think this is going to be resolved in a month, you’re kidding yourself’ 

The company introduced a COVID-19-related cancellation policy shortly after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a global pandemic.

But it only assures a refund for a one-month period, and Nguyen said the company told him his mid-May booking is not covered.

“Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020, may be cancelled before check-in. This means that guests who cancel will receive a full refund, hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status, and Airbnb will refund all service fees,” according to the Airbnb website.

Nguyen said when he called the company to ask them to intervene he was told their COVID-19 policy does not apply to his trip.

But he thinks a one-month window is both unfair and unrealistic.

“I assumed a multibillion-dollar company like Airbnb would understand the situation,” Nguyen said.

“If you think this is going to be resolved in a month you’re kidding yourself. You have people dying left right and centre, people sick. We’re recommended isolation. Italy is on complete lockdown.”

A cancellation assures a 50 per cent refund and Nguyen said he suspects some people will get desperate enough to settle for that if they find themselves in a situation similar to his.

For now, Nguyen is waiting for a policy-change from the company and working on getting his credit card company to reverse the charge.

He keeps getting a busy signal.

“I can’t get through to them, I assume everyone is doing the same thing,” he said.

The experience has soured him on booking through Airbnb in the future and the vastly different experiences with the two different hosts has shown him not everyone can be relied upon to do the right thing.

“It shows different sides of society. One is like wow, pure greed. It doesn’t cost you a dime to cancel this. You might be losing out on something but like you still have your property, you can still rent it out but I physically can’t go and use your service that I’m paying for. You can lose a little faith in humanity.”

NEWS 1130 has reached out to Airbnb for comment.