Be kind? Hotels, motels and Airbnb cutting guests little slack

Garth Bray
Source: Fair Go

More than a third of active listings on Airbnb have cancellation policies that mean you’ll struggle to get your money back if you can’t travel, even due to the snap lockdown this month.

They aren’t alone.

Hotels and other hosting sites have all been implementing policies that avoid them having to pay a refund.

Janine Philp found out to her cost - $542 – there would be no money back on her three nights at an Auckland hotel.

The single mum had prepaid via Booking.com three months early.

It was no holiday; rather a course requirement as part of her Bachelor of Social Work at Massey University.

Janine opted for a non-refundable fare but- he pōhēhē - she mistakenly thought with the Public Health order preventing Quest Albany from offering her a room and being unable to travel, she could expect a refund.

That would arguably be a frustrated contract, eligible for refund, but the hotel had instituted a policy of offering refundable rooms for an extra $10 – the best Janine was offered - a credit for 12 months.

“This would have been my first trip away in 17 years and yeah I said I'm not likely to be coming back up and he was like, no, you can have a credit. My final decision,” Janine reported.

Aucklander and Airbnb first-time user Ramy Hoshini says he expected compassion when he tried to cancel a bach in Raglan he booked so he and two mates could get away for his birthday.

Ramy tried to cancel as soon as the lockdown was announced, less than 48 hours since he’d booked.

His host had opted for a policy that means visitors can cancel within 48 hours and get a refund, but only if they have booked for a stay that’s more than two weeks away.

Ramy stood to lose everything but a $79 refund of his cleaning fee, with the host pocketing $318 and Airbnb taking its $65 service fee, for no accommodation.

Ramy reluctantly accepted an offer of a rebook since the alternative offered was to lose half his money instead

“It was such a blanket policy for the whole world not taking into account New Zealand's circumstances given we had all the freedoms just a week ago,” Ramy says.

Airbnb’s Derek Nolan, the head of policy for Australia and NZ told Fair Go in a statement:

“Hosts recognise that they are seeking flexibility at these uncertain times, and now almost two thirds of active listings offer a moderate or flexible cancellation policy.

"And with our flexible cancellation policy search filter, guests search for listings that offer free cancellation until 24 hours before check-in, avoiding any strict cancellation policy listings from their search results entirely.

"Prior to booking, guests can view the cancellation policy that has been selected for that particular listing by its individual host.”

Fair Go has some tips about how to book a holiday in our new Covid normal.

In these cases, both the host and the hotel thought better and decided to offer discretionary refunds to their guests after Fair Go checked on their situations.

Ramy and Janine are both very happy - but it’s anyone’s guess how many others out there are still wondering who has kept their money and why that is OK.