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Airbnb extends coronavirus cancellation window to May 31, sets aside $250 million to pay hosts for missed stays

Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-founder of Airbnb

Mike Segar | Reuters

Airbnb on Monday announced it will allow guests to receive full refunds for any trips starting on or before May 31 that were booked prior to March 14, as the company continues to struggle through the coronavirus’ impact on the travel industry. The company will also set aside $250 million to pay hosts for the missed bookings.

Airbnb announced the decision in a letter sent to hosts on Monday in an effort to rebuild Airbnb’s relationship with its partners. Previously, the company had said that it would allow guests to cancel and receive full refunds for trips between March 14 and April 14.

That decision overrode many hosts’ existing cancellation policies that ensured they still received partial payments for those bookings. Many hosts harshly criticized Airbnb for that decision, and several told CNBC that they would be moving their properties onto other websites and into the long-term rental market

In the Monday letter, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky expressed regret over the decision, and he said that the company will pay $250 million to hosts to cover the costs of coronavirus cancellations. Specifically, Airbnb will pay hosts 25% of what they would normally receive through their cancellation policies. The payments will begin to be issued in April. 

“I deeply regret the way we communicated this decision, and I am sorry that we did not consult you — like partners should,” Chesky wrote. “We have heard from you and we know we have let you down. You deserve better from us.”

Additionally, Airbnb employees have donated to a $10 million fund that will go toward the company’s Superhosts and long-tenured Experience hosts. Starting in April, these hosts can apply for $5,000 grants.

“Trust is the foundation of a partnership, and it is built over time,” Chesky wrote. “We know that we have some work to do in regaining yours, but it’s our priority and we are committed to it.”

Last week, Airbnb told its employees that it would institute a hiring freeze, suspend its marketing, cut executives’ salary and that it did not expect to give out bonuses for 2020.

It’s a dramatic turn of events for Airbnb, which was poised to be one of the hottest tech IPOs, or direct listings, of the year until the COVID-19 crisis struck the U.S. last month. The company had lined up bankers to lead the offering, which would test whether Airbnb could live up to its $31 billion private market valuation from 2017. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Airbnb lost $322 million over the first nine months of last year, after reporting a $200 million profit in 2018, as it ramped up spending.

Now the company faces a travel and tourism industry that has shut down across the globe. The U.S. Travel Association expects the industry to lose 4.6 million jobs this year.

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