Lake an inspiratio­n to nour­ish with love

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Jae-Ha Kim

It has been a busy year for Jean­nie Mai. Be­sides co-host­ing the talk show “The Real,” she is a correspond­ent on Stephen Curry’s ABC mini-golf com­pe­ti­tion se­ries, “Ho­ley Mo­ley.” When­ever she can carve out some free time, the on-air tal­ent says she en­joys ex­plor­ing new cities.

One of her fa­vorite mem­o­ries is a child­hood trip she took with her fam­ily. “We went to Yosemite and I ab­so­lutely loved it,” said Mai, 40. “We lost my lit­tle brother for a sec­ond and set bear traps, think­ing he was bear­napped. But that story is for an­other time.”

Mai was born and raised in Cal­i­for­nia, where she still re­sides. An edited ver­sion of our con­ver­sa­tion fol­lows.

Q: What is your fa­vorite va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion?

A: My ul­ti­mate get­away is Viet­nam. It has a lit­tle bit of every­thing when it comes to cul­ture, amaz­ing food, beau­ti­ful peo­ple, ex­otic sights, sounds and pro­found his­tory of love, brav­ery and re­silience. Every­body must visit Viet­nam once in their life. You haven’t vis­ited Viet­nam if you don’t sit along the side of the road and eat some­thing from the street ven­dors!

Q: What’s the most im­por­tant thing you’ve learned from your trav­els?

A: To ap­pre­ci­ate the jour­ney it­self and not the des­ti­na­tion. The wrong turns, the ran­dom strangers we meet and the con­ver­sa­tions with an­other friend while brush­ing your teeth will be the life­long mem­o­ries you’ll never have again.

Q: Where are your fa­vorite weekend get­aways?

A: Santa Bar­bara or San Diego. It’s just a few hours drive from my home.

Q: Where is the most ro­man­tic des­ti­na­tion?

A: I re­cently learned that Lake Como (in Italy) is one of the most ro­man­tic places two peo­ple could go. That beau­ti­ful great lake is a ma­jes­tic re­minder that love is un­con­di­tional when you flow and nour­ish one an­other, con­stantly and un­con­di­tion­ally, like wa­ter.

Q: If you’ve ever gone away for the hol­i­days, which was the best trip?

A: Well, the best trip would have been when I sur­prised my whole fam­ily with tick­ets to Ja­maica. There we were at the air­port ex­cit­edly ready to board when Mama Mai ar­rived too late ... with no pass­port. In­stead, she was hold­ing a huge bag of sliced fruit that she was plan­ning to use to bribe the se­cu­rity guards to let her through with­out ID.

QYou can imag­ine how pissed I was to spend Christ­mas in the cold Bay Area with a bunch of biki­nis and caf­tans.

Q: What are your five fa­vorite cities?

A: San Fran­cisco, New York, Kowloon, Posi­tano and Tokyo.

Q: Where would you like to go that you have never been to be­fore?

A: I have a long list, but right off the top of my head, Hol­land, Santorini and Am­s­ter­dam.

Q: What would be your dream trip?

A: Is­tan­bul. I’ve heard it’s so beau­ti­ful and I would im­merse my­self in the street shop­ping for days.

Q: What is your guilty plea­sure when you’re on the road?

A: Hit­ting up lo­cal gro­cery stores and buy­ing ev­ery type of potato chip bag in ex­otic fla­vors. Asia is the best for that. My sec­ond guilty plea­sure is vis­it­ing the McDon­ald’s and see­ing what dip­ping sauces they have, like curry sauce in Lon­don!

A: Be­fore I an­swer your ques­tion, let me say this: WOW Air is dead. It went out of busi­ness months ago. The air­line wasn’t an over­achiever in the cus­tomer ser­vice depart­ment, which may have led to its un­timely demise. De­lays such as yours were com­mon.

I’m writ­ing about your case be­cause it high­lights sev­eral real is­sues for sum­mer air trav­el­ers. What do you do when your air­line of­fers a voucher, good for one year from the date of your book­ing, in­stead of cash? How do Euro­pean air­line con­sumer pro­tec­tions af­fect you? How long is too long to wait for a re­fund?

You were cor­rect to turn down that 700-euro voucher. Air­lines know that a per­cent­age of their ticket cred­its will go unre­deemed. That means the voucher is use­less. EU 261 (also re­ferred to as EC 261), the Euro­pean air­line con­sumer pro­tec­tion law I

Note: WOW Air, the dis­count Ice­landic car­rier, ceased oper­a­tions in March. Just be­fore it went to the great big hangar in the sky, I helped Steven Wu with a re­fund case that should res­onate with all sum­mer air trav­el­ers.

Last year, I took a WOW Air flight from Ed­in­burgh, Scot­land, to San Fran­cisco via Reyk­javik. When I ar­rived in Ice­land, I learned that the in­bound flight from San Fran­cisco was de­layed five hours. No one from the air­line showed up to ex­plain any­thing. Un­der Euro­pean air­line con­sumer reg­u­la­tions, WOW Air owes me 600 eu­ros for the de­lay. I filed a claim, but WOW Air said it would take “up to six weeks” to process the claim. Six weeks later, WOW Air of­fered a 700-euro voucher valid for a year, which I re­fused.

That was six months ago. I still have not re­ceived my money. I keep call­ing and email­ing them but all I get is “We ap­pre­ci­ate your pa­tience.”

Can you help me get my re­fund? ref­er­enced ear­lier, is clear that you de­serve a 600euro re­fund — not a credit. I have a list of com­mon ques­tions and an­swers about EU 261 on my con­sumer ad­vo­cacy site.

There’s al­ways been some con­fu­sion about when EU 261 ap­plies. Ba­si­cally, if you’re fly­ing from an EU coun­try to a non-EU coun­try, you’re cov­ered. If you’re fly­ing from the U.S. to Europe, the reg­u­la­tion ap­plies only to flights op­er­ated by an EU car­rier. Bot­tom line: You were cov­ered by EU 261. It def­i­nitely ap­plied to your de­lay, and you were def­i­nitely en­ti­tled to 600 eu­ros.

One small hitch: EU 261 doesn’t have a pro­vi­sion for a timely re­fund. So tech­ni­cally, WOW Air did noth­ing wrong by de­lay­ing your claim. You might have had a faster re­sponse by con­tact­ing one of WOW’s ex­ec­u­tives or work­ing with an EU 261 claim ser­vice such as AirHelp.

You shouldn’t have to wait six months for a com­pen­sa­tion check. That’s way too long. Un­for­tu­nately, we had sev­eral WOW Air cases that dragged on for six months or longer. If you don’t get the money within six weeks, you should start rat­tling the com­pany’s cage.

The way WOW treated you says a lot. A com­pany that can’t meet its ba­sic cus­tomer ser­vice obli­ga­tions is doomed to fail, which is ex­actly what hap­pened to WOW. It’s gone.

Be­fore WOW ex­pired, I con­tacted it on your be­half. It sent you the 600 eu­ros, as promised.

Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Geo­graphic Trav­eler mag­a­zine and the au­thor of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Trav­eler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, el­liott.org, or email him at [email protected]­liott.org.

JEAN­NIE MAI PHOTO

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