A week after Airbnb debuted its new Adventures platform, its foray beyond day tours into more off-the-beaten path travel, the company is facing disgruntled customers who say they were charged—and in some cases overcharged—for an around-the-world trip they were not given a seat on.
Yesterday, Airbnb started selling a $5,000, 12-week-long Around The World in 80 Days tour that departs on September 1, 2019, from England and journeys through 15 countries, including Uzbekistan, Egypt, Kenya, Bhutan, New Zealand, and Ecuador. The company had said it would make two seats available at 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time yesterday—first come, first served—and would release another four seats in the coming weeks. Now, customers who tried to book have taken to Instagram and Twitter to complain about being charged for vacations they were ultimately denied.
After receiving several error messages when she tried—and retried—to book, Chicago-based product management consultant Jessica Mean tells me that she wound up receiving three email confirmations, along with a fraud alert from her bank. Though she ultimately didn’t get a seat on the trip, Mean says she received four pending charges, totaling more than $20,000. After she reached out to Airbnb, two of them were removed. Several other people I spoke with had similar experiences: They were charged—sometimes several times—for a trip they were not ultimately awarded.
Airbnb says that everyone who was unable to get a seats will be refunded, though a representative for the company was unable to specify when that would happen.
“We are investigating the issue and have a team working to ensure that the booking process for this high visibility, one-off experience is smoother moving forward. We work hard to make sure that every guest has a great experience and we want to make it right when things don’t go as expected,” says Alison Holberton, who leads communications for Airbnb Experiences.
Adventure travel companies, of course, frequently sell trips that can only accommodate small groups. If Airbnb plans to quickly scale what has traditionally been a more niche product, it will need a booking process that can keep up.