Airbnb’s free AirCover insurance could cost you thousands of dollars

Buyer beware: Airbnb’s new insurance only protects itself.

By David Flynn, May 13 2022
Airbnb’s free AirCover insurance could cost you thousands of dollars

Talk to any Airbnb customer and you’ll likely hear stories of hosts cancelling their booking – sometimes with little notice.

The company’s new AirCover insurance is meant to address such concerns and, in the words of  CEO Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb, “gives you the confidence to book knowing that Airbnb’s got your back.”

Included free with all Airbnb bookings, AirCover’s “booking protection guarantee” says that if your host cancels your booking within 30 days of check-in, Airbnb promises to “find you a similar or better home, or we’ll refund you.”

It certainly sounds good, but there’s a real risk this will leave travellers with a false sense of security – and facing a sky-high bill should their host bail on the booking.

The catch is that even if Airbnb chooses to refund you, you’ll be faced with trying to find new accommodation at what’s likely to be very short notice – which means a hotel could be your only option.

And booking anywhere for a few days to a week at a hotel, especially so close to your check-in date, will cost you plenty.

Putting aside the mental and emotional stress if Airbnb leaves you high and dry, there’s the share financial stress of starting your holiday or business travel having already shelled out thousands of dollars just to have a roof over your head.

If anything, AirCover is really just the basic consumer protection to which everyone is entitled when you don’t get what you have paid for – which means Airbnb’s insurance really only protects itself.

Yes, Airbnb says it will try to find a “similar or better” Airbnb property for you, but the reality is that arranging a comparable stay – in terms not only of the number of bedrooms and facilities but specific factors which may have driven your decision, such as location or proximity to public transport – could prove exceedingly difficult, and the later your host cancels the harder this will become.

Which leaves Airbnb with the fastest, easiest and probably cheapest solution: to refund your money and leave you to take care of things from there.

In any city or town, a hotel room will cost far more than a night at an Airbnb – in the largest cities, during high seasons and peak holiday periods, you may have little choice but to pay the equivalent of one week’s worth of an Airbnb stay for just a few nights at the hotel.

Last-minute cancellations remain the biggest risk of Airbnb, and its much-trumpeted AirCover insurance does little if anything to fix that.

Very well said. This is why I simply do not trust Airbnb any more, I have had too many experiences of a host cancelling too late and I end up scrambling around trying to find another Airbnb property which meets my criteria. At least when I book a hotel I know that's not going to happen. Airbnb just isn't worth the stress and yes, this 'insurance' doesn't do much to change things.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

I've experienced the same in London, with the 'Host' cancelling overnight - I didn't see the email until 7:45 when planning to check-out of hotel and take possession of the flat.  Sure I got my money back (all of it), but it seems the forex rate moved against me (losing A$95) and I lost half a day trying to find a new apartment before I extended the hotel stay by 2 nights before I succeeded.  

Airbnb:  Never again !!!

11 Jan 2019

Total posts 6

Asia biz,well said, I love the World of Hyatt membership which allows you to do a reservation without a booking fee or payment until you check in and also free cancellation up to 48 hours before travel. Do you know which Insurance company underwrites their policy ?? 🙋‍♂️👋

Agreed. Host cancelled with a week's notice for accommodation in Tuscany in August. Airbnb refunded however at that stage there was nothing available anywhere near our preferred option. Never used them since.

"If anything, AirCover is really just the basic consumer protection to which everyone is entitled when you don’t get what you have paid for." 100% agreed on this, there is really nothing for Airbnb users here which should not have been there before. If your host cancels your reservation then of course it should be up to Airbnb to find you a suitable replacement oir offer a refund, but really, if the host cancels within maybe seven days of your stay Airbnb should have to cover the cost of a hotel in the same area to the same basic spec, such as number of bedrooms and to four-star standard.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 186

We had a bad experience with them a few weeks ago trying to book accommodation in DFW.  During the booking process, we struggled to upload a picture of one of us, and eventually got that right, and the booking was then passed to the Airbnb Frontdesk.  We then received an email saying they were reviewing our application, and the next day we received 2 incomplete SMSs, one which just said  'Hello! We'd love to...',  quickly followed by another which said 'Dear Frank, I regret...'.  At this point we told them where to stick their booking.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

Thank-you. 10 out of 10 for putting Airbnb where they belong.  Never would happen at a Marriott, Hilton or IHG property (to name just a few).

11 Jan 2019

Total posts 6

Boeing-Tragic, true, and also Hyatt.👍👍🙋‍♂️👋

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

Gees I’ve never used AirBnB just didn’t trust the whole thing and after reading the comments I’m glad. 

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2018

Total posts 42

What they need to do is make the person who cancelled your stay pay the difference. This will make them think twice...that is, if they can't find an alternative solution, then they may reconsider the cancellation. This is normally how the law works.. the person who breaks the contract pays the price.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 May 2022

Total posts 1

I recently booked a 10 day stay in an ABNB location in Sydney's Eastern suburbs so we could spend time with family over Easter.  The four bedroomed house was in a good suburb.  On entering, there was a very damp smell - this was found to be emanating from the bathroom/lower bedroom areas where mould and mildew were very evident.  It could also be seen on soft furnishing.  I had brought some disinfectant wipes and decided to clean the kitchen bench space so that we could have a cup of tea before we went to bed.  It was filthy, even though I had been advised that the cleaning was carried out to make it COVID safe!  On putting the cloth into the kitchen bin I found 4 x used RAT swabs!  There were many other problems and called Air BNB first thing the following morning as we needed to move out.  They offered to refund me 50% for my stay, I politely declined and sent them photographs of all the problems.  They said they would send a cleaner around, I send they needed to get the owners to correct the problems as they were structural problems, hence the mould problems.  We relocated to a hotel and had to pay top dollar for our last minute changes.  To this day, I am still trying to get some sort of managerial response from the company - anyone know a telephone number to use.  

30 Aug 2019

Total posts 2

Hermitage

Most of the comments are correct Airbnb treat the owners like school children, & all the money goes to Ireland.

If you want to contact them 02 85203333

God luck.

ji
ji

14 Jan 2013

Total posts 15

Completely agree. Rarely book Airbnb due to the one sided cancellation terms. If the consumer cancels then you could lose all your money whereas the host can cancel at any time and face no consequences. Admittedly, it seems since the height of covid that more Airbnb now offer ‘free cancellation’ than they used to (up to a certain date). 

the private car rental site, which is huge in USA Turo.com has similar issues, so best to deal with renters who have 100s of rentals under their belt. Some business types get dozen or so cars & make a full time business out of it & want to make everyone happy to get good ratings.

11 Dec 2018

Total posts 8

Crazy - how is this considered to be 'insurance'?  If you pay for something from a vendor and then vendor can't deliver isn't the absolute bare minimum any consumer should absolutely expect is to get refunded 100% of your money - otherwise that would just be considered outright 'theft'. The host doesn't get given the money until you've checked in too, so it's not like AirBnB are suffering any loss or risk here.
Actual 'Insurance' would be where where they compensate you financially for your loss on top of refund / alternative arrangements whether it be suddenly having to book a hotel or something else. As per above, I don't like the idea of AirBnB 'finding' an equivalent place, they don't know why you specifically chose the accommodation in the first place so how would they understand what a valid 'equivalent' would even be.
We actually did have problems with this in Europe - mainly Amsterdam, had one booking cancelled so booked another and then that new place cancelled too. At the time (2018?) Airbnb refunded us and gave us additional ~USD$150 credit each time towards a new place as compensation - so with the extra USD$300 we luckily ended up with something nicer (that we had to find ourselves on their site).

Etihad - Etihad Guest

05 Apr 2019

Total posts 5

Unfortunately it is not just the guests who can get a raw deal through ABNB.

ABNB has a reputation of treating the hosts even worse. Suspending or cancelling hosts use of the platform for unjustified reasons. Many hosts as so pissed off that they do not care much about ABNB reputation. Hosts are leaving the service in large numbers and getting their bookings through other booking platforms. Originally Aircover was intended to make the host pay for replacement accommodation even when the reason was completely outside the hosts control, previous guest trashing the property, bust water main etc. Hosts were so disenchanted by an accumulation of poor treatment by ABNB that they threatened a strike. Airbnb changed the policy as they were already loosing hosts.

Most ABNB host are very small operators they have one house, one apartment or one room they are providing. They do not have the staff and facilities of a hotel chain to deal with unexpected problems. The 15% booking fee ABNB correct should be providing this resilience for both guest and hosts. Instead they just pocket this money and give neither goof service.

A tip, Many Airbnb properties have their own website where they take direct bookings. In most cases it will be cheaper and you will get better service and better cancellation conditions if you google the name of the accommodation and book direct.

Remember the original name of ABNB was "Airbed and Breakfast". It was an air mattress on the floor with a breakfast.

Some aspects of their operation are still back in that cheap and nasty mind set.

25 Sep 2019

Total posts 2

Same as the other comments! We had our apartment in New York cancelled by the host at the last minute.... Airbnb - NEVER AGAIN!

07 May 2015

Total posts 30

I think I read the best description of this on Facebook, it's a 'SHAM', plain and simple. I don't know how Airbnb is getting away with so many articles covering this new 'insurance policy' when it's in essence just Consumer Rights 101, and even the refund will leave you so much worse off for the reasons made very clear in this article and the experiences of all the readers in comments.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

You've nailed it, TB.  Nailed it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 May 2018

Total posts 52

Looks like it's back to hotels on my next (plus more ) O/s trip.

Last thig I won't to be worrying about is Airbnb stuff ups!!!!! 

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

21 Feb 2022

Total posts 1

A few years back we had a team strategy day and one of the guest presenters was AirBNB's 'Vibe Manager'. A role created to help 'curate the vibe' at AirBNB HQ...not sure what management were smoking but it must have been 1st grade weed! I have never used AirBNB for accommodation after listening to the BS about AirBNBs culture. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 247

I am surprised at so much of the negative experiences from above comments. I have used AirBnB many times over the years and have not had one cancellation or an issue I can recall. In fact I struck gold few years back in New York where we had an entire loft apartment equipped with laundry, kitchen, shower spa, and the space to move and relax made all the difference and much better value for the same price of a standard hotel room for a week's stay. I do try and book direct if the property is listed on web, but I put a lot of effort into research and considering past reviews, super host reputations, etc. Can always review the frequency of the host cancelled prior to stay in reviews also.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

04 Aug 2017

Total posts 11

I've stayed in many Airbnb's across my various interstate and international trips, and have had a couple of cancellations which have made life difficult- the worst of which was in Montreal, which is an expensive-AF city to be in to start with. Unfortunately I've found that Airbnb's reticence to deal with problematic behaviour (hosts or guests) is the issue, and the price difference between reasonable standard hotels and Airbnb has narrowed significantly in many cities. Not saying that Airbnb isn't worth it, but this "new policy" seems to solve very little.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 78

My one cancellation experience with Airbnb was extremely good. I had booked a self-contained studio in Toronto, but when I tried to make contact (email, phone) with the host a few days before the stay, to pick up the keys, there was no reply. Airbnb also tried reaching the host, but it was clear that he and his rental had basically vaporised. This was the night before my trip, and I could see available rentals *literally* disappearing off the map as I searched for a replacement (hotels in Toronto are fearsomely expensive). Airbnb told me to book a flat (one of the very few properties remaining) costing several times my original price, and they paid almost all the extra cost. I was dealing with San Francisco, and the service I received from several agents there was outstanding - some of the best customer service I've ever received.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2012

Total posts 12

I've stayed at 30 airbnbs since 2018 - from the all over the US, Australia, Italy, and not had one single cancellation. Given the devaluation in Marriotts Bonvoy program, I'm leaning to book more and more airbnb's. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2019

Total posts 4

So true!  In Australia where we’ve had flooding close to Byron Bay there were multiple news stories before Easter of Air BnB hosts turfing out guests in tourist areas that were affected by flooding.  This was because higher paying guests were due to arrive for the Easter holidays, paying a premium rate for the high season. 

16 May 2022

Total posts 1

You're absolutely right ... while the premiums are built in, I am out-of-pocket A$2600 (US$2000) for replacing carpet that was badly damaged by a guest accidentally. 

A guest accidentally burned a patch of carpet.  It was in the middle and couldn't be repaired and the carpet couldn't be matched.   As it was an accident, I decided not to pursue the guest for costs.  This turns out to be central to the AIRCOVER system.

We live in the country in a large rural Australian city.  We were in the middle af a COVID lockdown, so nothing was open, including the carpet showroom.  I finally got a quote an proceeded to make a claim.   I also had the carpet replaced so I could let the place.  I had to cancel a couple of long-term bookings during this process, for which AIRBNB fined me, as well!

I tried to follow the convoluted instructions to the letter, but in the end, the SFO HO ejected the claim because I seem to have taken too long.  Considering the number of times I was sent back for more information, the time wasted was a tactic, I think.  They didn't even offer a partial payout ... I would have been happy with 10% as a gesture of goodwill. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

Guest, Host or Super-Host, once the 'Associate' in SFO realises your Australian, we're at an immediate disadvantage.  If you're calling from the UK they can't tell the difference and the UK market gets better service than does Australia.  If the Airbnb HQ was in TX, FL or NY it wouldn't happen.  


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Airbnb’s free AirCover insurance could cost you thousands of dollars