Airbnb Hosts Refuse Refunds After Terrorist Attacks

Hernan Mejias owns a small limo company in Santa Clara.

“I love it,” he said. “For the most part we do big events.”

As much as he enjoys escorting parties around the Bay Area, he scheduled some time to park his limos about a year ago.

“My wife and I wanted to go Europe,” he said. “We wanted to go Paris and Rome. Perfect timing -- in November.”

But, three days before they were supposed to leave, terrorists attacked Paris.

Hernan said news networks were warning people to avoid Paris. So, he did. He began to cancel his lodging, tours, and flights. Hernan says the airline was easy. It refunded his non-refundable ticket immediately.

“Just like that, no questions asked,” he said. ”They knew exactly what had happened and it was understandable.”

But his lodging – booked on Airbnb.com -- was a different story. Hernan says he tried to get his money back from the “host” in Paris, but “for the most part he ignored me.”

The "host" in his second stop, Rome, didn’t offer a refund either. The dispute festered for months.

Now, Hernan probably made a mistake here. He tried to negotiate directly with the "hosts."

He should have gone to Airbnb right after the attacks. Airbnb said it offered refunds to users who requested them.

Spokesman Nick Shapiro said: "We empower hosts to set and manage their cancellation policies, but in rare instances, emergencies warrant coverage by Airbnb's Extenuating Circumstances Policy, as was done in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.”

But, by the time Hernan went to Airbnb, his window to apply had closed.

“I almost gave up,” he said.

Then he reached out to us.

We then explained to Airbnb how Hernan thought he should work things out individually.

It agreed to give Hernan a full refund for both cancelled stays -- just shy of $1,000.

“I talked to you, and within two days I got my money back,” he said. “You’re doing a great job. Thank you.”

We wondered if Airbnb would recoup Hernan’s refund from the hosts who kept his money.

Airbnb said no. In cases of emergencies, it says it eats the costs on both sides -- so there’s harm to neither its guests nor its hosts.

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