Surprise Airbnb cancellation and price hike threatens two families' Christmas plans

LOS ALTOS, Calif. (KGO) -- With millions of us still on summer vacation, it's hard to think about winter holiday plans. Not so for a Los Altos man and his family. They were all set for a ski trip in Utah at Christmas - but needed a little help from 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney

Bookings during the holidays tend to be more expensive than the rest of the year - so when Marc Allard found a bargain rate at a popular resort town, he snapped it up. What could go wrong? Well, he found out.

Allard found the perfect place for a Christmas gathering in Utah. "We went last summer. It's beautiful. We loved it, but of course it's very well-known for wintertime skiing," Allard said.

The three-bedroom townhouse right in the heart of Park City was "perfect 'cause it's two families," Allard continued. "It was close to downtown, close to ski lifts...and it just looked very nice on the inside, where the two families could cook together."

And the price on Airbnb - just $449 per night - was a real bargain during the holidays.

"So I contacted the host... is this the right rate? And we immediately got a confirmation. You're booked. You're all set," said Allard.

Great! Allard paid the deposit, bought four airline tickets and their holiday plans were all set. Or were they?

"Two months later, that was when I receive an email... saying your reservation has been canceled," Allard said.

Out of the blue, the Airbnb host canceled the booking, refunded his money, no explanation. A mystery - until Allard checked the listing.

"Yep, it was more than double. A lot more than double," he said.

Allard had booked the place for $4,100 dollars. Now, the host was asking for $13,000 dollars for that week - nine thousand dollars more.

"I just couldn't believe it. I just thought if you have a reservation, reservation means reservation," said Allard.

Airbnb told Allard it wasn't the host's fault. An Airbnb computer glitch listed the wrong rate. Airbnb tried to find Allard a similar booking - but Park City at Christmas? It's pricey.

"So, I'm stuck with these airline tickets, we want to spend Christmas at Park City, I'm really helpless," Allard said.

Allard said he grew up watching 7 On Your Side. He reached out to us; we contacted Airbnb and the company came back with a nice surprise.

"I don't have to worry about anything, Christmas is set," said Allard.

Airbnb agreed to pay the $9,000 difference in the rate, so the families can stay in that townhouse after all, saying:

"We strive to provide exceptional support for our community and are constantly working to improve our processes to ensure technical errors remain rare. Fortunately, our world-class customer support team was able to assist Mr. Allard from conflict to resolution, and we hope that he and his family enjoy their vacation."

And they will. "Thank you so much, I can't thank you enough," Allard said.

So are businesses required to honor a price that's listed by mistake? Generally there is no law that says they must - if it's an honest mistake. We'd like to thank Airbnb for stepping up - it's already brought a lot of holiday joy for two families.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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