Airbnb to launch guest insurance and Covid relief programme

Worldwide: Airbnb is launching a travel insurance product and Covid support programme to enable guests to navigate the unexpected impacts of the recent surge in Covid-19 cases around the world.

The guest travel insurance product will be exclusive to Airbnb when it launches in the spring, while the programme, which is effective immediately, is designed to support guests who have encountered “extreme and unexpected government-mandated travel disruptions due to Omicron and through no fault of their own”.

Since the World Health Organisation’s declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic in March 2020, Airbnb activated its extenuating circumstances policy to enable guests who booked before the pandemic to get refunds, although travellers around the world who booked getaways after 14 March said that they had been refused refunds because government-enforced lockdowns and tier restrictions did not fall within the company’s policy. Despite Airbnb promising coverage to protect its community and “provide peace of mind”, hosts were only liable to pay out if they included a refund clause in their terms and conditions, meaning that in many cases, it was at the discretion of the customers to ask for refunds.

Recognising the impact of the recent Omicron spike on its hosts, however, Airbnb said that almost two thirds of its active listings now offer “moderate or flexible cancellation policies” and its hosts remain “committed” to the company’s Covid safety and cleaning practices.

Airbnb said that it would provide support for guests in the following ways:

  • Airbnb Guest Travel Insurance

Launching this spring, Airbnb’s custom-built guest travel insurance product offering will be exclusive to Airbnb guests and is being created in partnership with a “reputable insurance carrier”. The product will be an extension to Airbnb’s AirCover Host protection product, announced in the company’s winter update.

Until the new product becomes available, Airbnb said that it will urge guests to purchase external travel insurance or use the free cancellation search filter to find listings offering greater flexibility.

Following the outcry from its guest community last year, Airbnb is also introducing its Guest Covid Support Programme to provide relief to guests no longer able to proceed with their previously booked reservations due to “unexpected” travel disruptions caused by government mandates, such as border closures or mandatory extended quarantine requirements.

Guests in the aforementioned situations who are unable to obtain full refunds under their hosts’ cancellation policies will now receive a travel coupon for 50 per cent of the cost of the unrefunded portion of the reservation. Airbnb is funding the programme  with a $20 million investment to alleviate the financial impact on affected guests.

Guests who made reservations that a) have a check-in date on or after 1 December 2021 and b) had to be cancelled by the guest due to border closures, government mandates and other select Omicron-related travel restrictions not in effect at the time of the booking will be eligible to claim for the support programme.

Other circumstances such as a guest testing positive for Covid just prior to a reservation will continue to be covered by Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy, rendering them ineligible for the new programme. Those affected by extreme travel disruptions such as natural disasters will also be covered by the extenuating circumstances policy.