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Airbnb adds U.S. to virus refund policy after travel ban

Airbnb adds U.S. to virus refund policy after travel ban

FRIDAY, March 13, 2020

Airbnb added the U.S. to its coronavirus refund policy after President Donald Trump limited travel to the country from most of Europe this week.

The San Francisco-based company announced Friday that guests would now be eligible for full refunds for reservations in the U.S. booked on or before Friday with a check-in date of April 1 or earlier.

The policy was also extended to travelers coming from the U.S. who have reservations in the Schengen Area of Europe, which includes 26 countries such as France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. This applies to reservations made on or before March 11 for travel from March 13 to April 13, the company said.

As covid-19 brings travel to a grinding halt across the world, Airbnb has been under mounting pressure to extend its refund policy beyond China, Italy and South Korea. The late-stage startup has been fielding complaints from angry guests who have been forced to cancel travel plans beyond these three countries and have been denied a refund.

Unlike big hotel chains, Airbnb is a two-way platform, which means for every guest cancellation it approves there is a host at the other end who winds up out of pocket. As the company tries to strike a balance between the two, many guests have been left to negotiate over refunds with their hosts, who are not always willing to be flexible.

Airbnb takes a cut of reservations, so cancellations eat into its revenue at a time when the company is seeking to list its stock on the public market. The U.S. is Airbnb's biggest market.

"We will continue to assess the situation and will provide further information as matters progress," the company said in a statement on Friday. "We strongly advise all travelers to carefully review and select appropriate cancellation policies according to personal needs and the outlook on covid-19."