Earlier this week we received an instant-book reservation booked two months in advance. Awesome, right? Wrong.

Rebecca and I looked at the reservation dates and realized it was the same weekend that her best friend would be flying in from Canada. We have two listings for the same house and I forgot to mark off our calendar for those specific dates.

As much as I hate to cancel on a guest, I didn’t feel too bad given the circumstance of his reservation:

  • I was canceling his reservation the same night he booked
  • His trip was two months away
  • It was only a two night reservation

I sent the guest a message, letting him know there had been an error on my behalf with blocking off my calendar, and that I would have to cancel his reservation. He responded politely–stating that it was no problem.

That was easy. Or so I thought.

Having never canceled a reservation I wasn’t exactly sure what I needed to do at that point. I navigated through the guest’s reservation itinerary until I came across a button labeled, “Change or Cancel.”

I was immediately alarmed by the fine print underneath the cancel option:

Continue to select a reason and review the penalties.

Review the penalties?

I continued on to the next screen where I could then select the option which best fit my reason for canceling. Below are the available reasons for canceling a reservation on Airbnb:

  • My place is no longer available
  • I want to offer a different listing or change the price
  • My place needs maintenance
  • I have an extenuating circumstance
  • My guest needs to cancel
  • I’m uncomfortable with the guest’s behavior
  • Other

I selected the first option, as that was the only one that fit my reason for canceling, and proceeded on to the next step of the process. The penalties for canceling Guest’s reservation are:

  • Cancellation fee (It’s your first cancellation in 6 months, so we’re waiving the fee.)
  • An automatic cancellation review (An automatic cancellation review will be posted on your listing.)
  • Unavailable/blocked calendar (Your calendar will stay blocked for the dates of the canceled reservation.)
  • Loss of potential Superhost Status (You won’t be eligible to earn Superhost status for one year.)

Loss of potential Superhost Status for a year? Are you serious?

For anyone who is unaware of what Airbnb Superhost Status means–Superhost Status is only granted after fulfilling four criteria as a host. Unlocking Superhost Status elevates your listing on Airbnb’s search results, increases your likelihood of getting reservations, and places a Superhost emblem on your profile. It is a highly desired status and achievement for Airbnb hosts.

While I agree that there should be “penalties” for canceling a guest’s reservation, the punishment should fit the crime. Canceling a week-long reservation for a guest that’s arriving tomorrow should bear a different penalty than canceling a two-day reservation for a guest that’s arriving next month.

In our case, we decided to keep the guest’s reservation in place and I will sleep somewhere else during the conflicting dates that our friend will be in town. Not exactly ideal, but better than losing Superhost Status over a two night reservation.

How can Airbnb revise their cancellation policy to better suit hosts while still maintaining consistency and reservation reliability for guests?

I believe the solution is fairly simple. Airbnb’s cancellation policy should review the length of time between the present date and reservation date, and adjust penalties according to the nearness of the reservation. They should also implement a feature that allows guests to confirm a cancellation when agreed upon. By agreeing that the cancellation is mutual, neither the guest or host would be subjected to cancellation penalties.

In our specific situation, the guest understood that there was a mistake on our part and agreed to cancel without objection. If both parties agree to cancel, I think it’s unfair for Airbnb to cripple a host’s reputation by suspending their Superhost Status for a year.

At the end of the day, people make mistakes. Plans change. Guests are allowed to cancel their reservations without penalty–depending on a host’s cancellation policy. It only makes sense for Airbnb to grant the same treatment to their hosts, depending on the circumstance.

3 Comments

  1. This is one of the reasons I don’t enable instant book on my listings.

  2. John Smith (for fear of retaliation from Airbnb)

    I can’t comment on Airbnb policies, especially those that are posted publicly. They are a private enterprise and have the right to make their own rules and if made clear, we have to deal with it. In my case, I have never not maintained the Superhost status level performance, and for almost 2 years I was officially a “Superhost”, but suddenly and with no explanation they removed my Superhost status and won’t give it back to me even thought I continue to more than surpass the requirements for Superhost. This is something I think that reflects poorly on them as a firm. Repeated attempts to get an explanation have never gotten anywhere.

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