Tourists Denied Refunds After “Trying to Do the Right Thing”

Airbnb says mitigating circumstances include states of emergency, but not travel advisories or government guidelines.

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Travelers who cancel their accommodation reservations after being ordered not to enter wildfire areas in British Columbia are now denied refunds or only offered a partial refund.

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“We were trying to do the right thing,” Joe Rino said Tuesday. His family, including his wife and two young children, had a week-long reservation at an Airbnb in Fintry, on Lake Okanagan, last week. Before leaving Calgary, they called their Airbnb host, asking them to cancel as the area was on evacuation alert. They were told they would lose half of their $ 2,700 prepaid fee.

“The host of the property told us that if we were actually put on an evacuation order, we would get 100% of our missed vacation back,” Rino said.

An evacuation order was issued the first night of their stay in Fintry, but the family did not receive a full refund.

“We found out that this (full refund) was not true for the service charge and the post-evacuation cleaning fee. Airbnb takes a third of the initial cost with their fees.

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The history of the Rino family is not uncommon. Dozens of people have posted similar experiences on social media.

Many of those who received refunds were only able to do so because their Airbnb hosts voluntarily waived the stated cancellation policies. But Airbnb did not reimburse the additional fees charged for listing the accommodation.

Judy Weinstein said Airbnb would not allow her to cancel a reservation in Kelowna because, she said, “the city was operating normally and the fires are not affecting the area.”

After angry customers like Weinstein and Rino posted their stories to Facebook and Twitter, Airbnb appears to be changing its policy.

In a written statement, the vacation rental company told Postmedia: “Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy has been activated for bookings in affected areas of British Columbia. Hosts and guests with qualifying reservations can cancel without penalty through this policy.

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The policy states that “Customers who are affected by an event covered by this policy may cancel their reservation and receive, depending on the circumstances, a cash refund, travel credit and / or other consideration. “

The policy states that mitigating circumstances include states of emergency, but not travel advisories or government directives.

Weinstein said she received a refund after a travel advisory went into effect, although Airbnb’s policy on extenuating circumstances does not apply to reviews.

Additionally, it is not clear from the policy whether the refund includes the Airbnb service charge. The company did not respond to specific questions about these issues.

In its statement, Airbnb said it adopted its extenuating circumstances policy on July 23 and notified eligible customers, but Rino said he was not notified even though his complaint was filed with the company after. that date and that he had not yet received confirmation that he will receive a full refund.

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“I took to Twitter and they are apparently ‘forwarding our request to a member of their team’ again,” Rino said. “It’s been two days. We haven’t had any updates yet.

Emergency Management BC has instructed travelers to stay clear of any areas subject to an evacuation order or alert. The organization’s response director Brendan Ralfs said officials were scrambling to find accommodation for evacuees in areas like Kelowna and Kamloops, but he did not give advice to travelers at risk of lose their deposit for accommodation in locations close to forest fires but not under evacuation alerts or orders.

“I can understand the issues that travelers face, but I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to that specific question,” he said.

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