Lake an inspiration to nourish with love
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.