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Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng
Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng

A Taiwanese PhD student said she feels discriminated against after London Airbnb hosts canceled her booking at the last minute, citing fears about coronavirus.

Yale University student Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng, who traveled from Taiwan to London earlier this month to conduct research for three months, received a cancellation message from the hosts of her long-term booking that said they were concerned about the virus outbreak and had to err on the side of caution.

She received the cancellation message when she was about to arrive, after already messaging the hosts when she landed at the airport in London and taking a train to the city center.

I was really shocked, Hsin-Yuan told CNN. I certainly think it was xenophobic because youre just scared of me without knowing anything about me.

The 31-year-old student has not traveled near virus-affected areas and has not been to mainland China in years.

I understand that people are probably freaking out because of the outbreak," she said. "But I feel that they should have asked about my travel history and what I do or if I had interactions with people coming from the affected area.

There have been 18 cases of novel coronavirus diagnosed in Taiwan and eight cases in the UK as of this morning.

Hsin-Yuan said that following the last-minute cancellation, she reached out to a friend who let her sleep on the floor that night. She then paid for a hotel for two nights while she tried to find long-term accommodation and contacted other friends who might host her.

She told CNN she called Airbnbs customer service to report possible discrimination, and after speaking with multiple representatives from the company, Airbnb offered to reimburse her for the cancellation, the hotel nights and an Uber ride. She said she only asked for the bare minimum, but Airbnb also offered her a $500 voucher for future stays.

"We take cancellation issues seriously and rigorously enforce a non discrimination policy," an Airbnb spokesperson said.

Airbnb said in this case, it educated the host on the proper cancellation policies regarding coronavirus. That policy makes no mention of Taiwan but says extenuating circumstances apply for reservations with guests traveling from mainland China.

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