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VIRUS OUTBREAK

Airbnb extends full-refund policy worldwide amid virus frenzy

Existing reservations made on or before March 14 can be cancelled with no charge

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As the outbreak brings global travel to a grinding halt, Airbnb faced building pressure to extend its refund policy beyond China, Italy, South Korea, and now, the US.

New York

AIRBNB has rolled out a full refund policy for reservations across the globe in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The San Francisco-based company said it will extend its virus-related cancellation policy to every country in the world, allowing hosts and guests to cancel reservations with no charge or penalty. The policy applies to existing reservations made on or before March 14, with a check-in date up to April 14, the company said in a statement Saturday.

"We don't want guests to feel like they have to travel because they cannot get their money back," Airbnb's chief executive officer Brian Chesky said in a tweet as the company issued the statement on its cancellation policy "in response to the extraordinary events and global disruption to travel caused by Covid-19".

As the outbreak brings travel to a grinding halt across the world, Airbnb faced mounting pressure to extend its refund policy beyond China, Italy and South Korea.

The late-stage startup has been fielding complaints from angry guests who have been forced to cancel travel plans beyond these three countries and have been denied a refund.

After US President Donald Trump limited travel from most of Europe last week, Airbnb added the US - its biggest market - to the list.

The new policy will, however, exclude domestic travel in mainland China, which is expected to return to normal rules on April 1.

Unlike big hotel chains, Airbnb is a two-way platform, which means for every guest cancellation it approves, there is a host at the other end who winds up out of pocket.

"We understand that this announcement will impact hosts around the world, many of whom depend on the economics they generate on Airbnb," the company said in the statement.

Mr Chesky also said the majority of its hosts have chosen to give their guests a partial or full refund.

Over the coming weeks, Airbnb said it would build tools and initiatives to support its hosts during the pandemic.

Under the new novel coronavirus policy, Airbnb will not collect any fees or benefit from any cancelled reservations. "We're in this together," the company said. BLOOMBERG