When you are standing in a kilometre-long queue, your flight about to take off and the great Indian family of 20 off on a package tour in front of you, what do you do? Normally, you would be resigned to your fate, fall apart, check into a sanatorium or get a ticket for another day. But, wait, help is at hand. Harried flyers will soon have ombudsmen across the country to answer their troubles.
Now, we have heard of ombudsmen in media organisations who are there to put edit writers like us in our place when we get too clever by half or err on facts. But an ombudsman in civil aviation is an intriguing concept. We can quite imagine how the hapless ombudsman will be besieged by footling complaints from picky travellers. For example, he or she may get a gripe that it’s impossible to drag one’s luggage over the carpet in the swank new terminal in the capital. How is this to be remedied? Can the offending carpet be rolled up? We think not, considering it covers the equivalent of a small town in Belgium. Will this personage be able to ensure that all our pilots get acquainted with the dreaded instrument landing systems? We doubt it. If your meal isn’t up to scratch on the airline or if the steward doesn’t have your particular brand of drink, it stands to reason that we can approach the ombudsman on these matters.
We have a better idea. Simply set up a committee which will receive these complaints and will recommend setting up another committee that will go into them. But the ombudsmen could still be useful in civil aviation. Let them fly by some of our more popular airlines and before you can say bon voyage, they will be looking for a job that is more grounded.