Airbnb Refused Refund for Coronavirus Quarantined Cruise Passengers

The company cited a "mix-up" when it initially denied to reimburse a couple under quarantine

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Airbnb has agreed to refund two customers quarantined on the Grand Princess in Oakland after initially denying the travelers their money back, saying they needed more documentation.

After supposedly docking in San Francisco, the couple was on their way to finish the last leg of their trip to Barcelona, Spain, where the Airbnb was located. When they learned they weren’t docking, they had their niece, Dionne Paul, who was not on the ship, cancel the Airbnb reservation because she booked it. On March 8, the San Francisco-based company initially denied the full refund saying the guests needed to provide additional confirmation proving their quarantine status and the length of it.

According to Airbnb’s policy, “no documentation is required for [certain] circumstance,” for instance epidemic disease or illness, although the case will likely require special review.

Through Paul, the travelers already provided Airbnb their cruise boarding pass and an official letter from the cruise company confirming the quarantine.  

“I was just very disappointed. You talk to a claim handler and to not feel listened to, let alone the claims person never says ‘I’m sorry this is happening,' I just felt like a cog in the wheel,” Paul said.

Paul said if Airbnb policy required her aunt and uncle to obtain documentation with their names on it, obtaining that kind of confirmation would have been difficult amid the chaotic, evolving situation aboard the Grand Princess.

On Monday, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit reached out to Airbnb. A representative said the company’s service teams have been swamped in light of the outbreak and the couple’s case did indeed fall within their Extenuating Circumstances policy. Airbnb issued a full refund and apologized to Paul for the delay, calling it a mix-up. To read more about Airbnb’s coronavirus response and its policy on extenuating circumstances, read the company’s Feb. 28 blog post.

“I’m speaking up for all the different people who may be facing this right now. I’m lucky I have the resources and time to support my family,” Paul said.

NBC Bay Area takes an in-depth look at the worldwide outbreak: how it started and how it reached the Bay Area.
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