I use Airbnb a fair amount when I travel. I haven’t found major hotel loyalty programs to be that compelling given my travel habits, so I often check alternative travel accommodations like Airbnb before I even search for a hotel.
I’ve generally had good experiences with Airbnb. It does take a bit more effort to find places that might be good fits (e.g. good location, host has good reviews), but there are some great deals to be had, especially if you’re traveling with more than 2 people.
I recently went on a trip that was my first not-so-great experience with Airbnb. Not because of the travel itself, but because of what happened immediately prior. I had booked a room many months in advance, and the host was responsive when I was booking. In the days immediately prior to the trip, I messaged my host asking for directions/check-in procedures multiple times, but she wasn’t responding.
Like many newer tech companies, Airbnb doesn’t seem to actually want to talk to you on the phone: they don’t list their phone number on their home page, their help center wants you to get answers via FAQs, they don’t list their phone number in reservation emails. But it is possible to call Airbnb at 1-855-424-7262. In this case, I called Airbnb to tell them that my host wasn’t responding to any of my messages the day prior to my travel.
After telling the Airbnb agent my situation, she said that she’d contact my host and give them a couple of hours to respond. If my host did not respond, they would cancel my reservation, give me back my money, and help me rebook another room. They offered a 10% additional credit (on top of what I had already paid) to rebook a room.
Now, there were a couple of things that I didn’t like about this situation:
1) It was less than 24 hours before I was getting on plane to fly across the country, and the agent was telling me I had to wait even longer to solidify my travel plans
2) I was traveling for a large convention, so the pickings were slim on other listings
3) I had already spent time searching for a good place, and now the agent was asking me to spend even more time messaging potential other hosts
4) They only offered a 10% additional credit to help with the fact that it was a last-minute booking, although it sounded like there was wiggle room there
Thankfully, there happened to be another room on Airbnb that fit my criteria for essentially exactly the same price, but that was only because that person had a last-minute cancellation. Otherwise, I’m not exactly sure what would’ve happened.
Airbnb did call me once I was on my trip to follow up and make sure that I had my lodging sorted out. There was no proactive offer of compensation (the 10% credit they offer is ONLY for rebooking purposes), but after asking nicely the agent offered me a $50 credit for my next stay (which in my mental accounting purposes is essentially moot since my $50 Amex offer never credited properly).
Will I continue using Airbnb? Yes, but I’ll be a bit more wary of hosts who don’t use Airbnb regularly.