Airbnb Launches Investigation After Black British Woman Claims She Was Denied Booking

Airbnb launched an investigation after a Black woman in the UK claimed her booking in Spain was rejected but her white friend’s same booking was accepted.

Ruth Ibegbuna tried to book an apartment through Airbnb for a week-long trip to Spain and believed she would have no problem doing so, Sky News reported. However, her booking request was declined, but shortly after, a white friend made the same booking without issue.

“An Airbnb host in Spain has declined my week-long booking of her apartment despite all my excellent reviews from previous hosts,” Ibegbuna tweeted on October 13. “Asked a white friend to try for same dates and it’s suddenly available after all…. #EverydayRacism” Ibegbuna received support from fellow Twitter users who encouraged her to report the issue to Airbnb. She also received a number of offers for free stays in other countries, including Greece and Croatia.

One user responded that they had a similar issue occur to them in the past. “Report the host to @Airbnb - the good news is they take this very seriously,” Collette Philip, a brand consultant, tweeted. “And frankly that racist host doesn’t deserve any money from Black people.”

Airbnb responded to Ibegbuna’s tweet, saying that it “does not condone discrimination in any way.” The company, which facilitates apartment and home rentals around the world, asked Ibegbuna to contact them so a dedicated team could follow up with her situation.

Airbnb also pointed to its nondiscrimination policy, which states the company’s commitment to “building a world where people from every background feel welcome and respected, no matter how far they have traveled from home.”

The policy has specific guidelines for hosts in the US and European Union that prohibit any host from declining a guest based on “race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.”

In a message to hosts, Airbnb states that they should “make every effort to be welcoming to guests of all backgrounds.” The company warns in its policy that hosts who show a pattern of rejecting guests from a protected class, “even while articulating legitimate reasons,” may be suspended from the platform.

Airbnb recently updated its policy so hosts are unable to see guests’ profile pictures until after a booking is confirmed. If a guest’s booking is cancelled after that stage, they can then contact the travel platform to complain.

“We are saddened to hear about this experience and are providing our full support to the user under our Open Doors policy, which provides personalized support to help any guest who feels they have been a victim of discrimination find a place to stay,” Airbnb said in a statement to The North Star.

The statement continued: “Discrimination has no place on Airbnb and goes against everything we stand for and believe. We take action on issues brought to our attention, including removing users from our community.”

A company spokesperson noted that Ibegbuna’s booking was not declined, but her request to book the Spanish listing automatically expired after the host failed to respond within 24 hours. The spokesperson maintained that the host could not see a photo of the guest or the guest’s full name at the time.

Incidents of racism involving Airbnb hosts are far from new. In June, Airbnb banned a host when she called a group of Black friends a racial epithet and kicked them out of her Manhattan townhouse in the middle of the night, HuffPost reported. Video of the exchange shows the host calling the five men “monkeys.”

The host, who was only identified as Kate, appeared to have an issue with the number of people who arrived at her townhouse. She claimed her listing allowed for a maximum group of four people. However, the guests argued that the listing actually said the home slept four people plus one on a sofa.

The woman responded, “Which monkey is going to stay on the couch?”

Kenneth Simpson, one of the guests, told The Washington Post that the incident made him feel “very dehumanized.”

“I thought, is this where we are today? We made a point that we’re educated, working professionals,” Simpson said. “And it doesn’t even matter if you’re an educated person, because no one deserves to be called a monkey and be dehumanized for no reason.”

Airbnb called the host’s language “unacceptable” and announced she was banned from the platform.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.