Nearly three years after the civil aviation ministry mooted setting up an ombudsman to hear air passengers’ grievances, the move is finally preparing for take-off. The ministry has called a joint meeting of airline CEOs, aviation bureaucrats and representatives of air passengers to discuss the issue on Friday.
Unlike mature aviation economies such as the UK and the US, air passengers in India do not have a common forum to address their travel woes.
“The appointment of an ombudsman is crucial because Indian passengers have no option other than moving consumer courts,” said Sudhakar Reddy, national president, Air Passengers’ Association of India (APAI). Reddy would represent air passengers at the meeting. “We are optimistic about the move after the preliminary meeting last month,” he added.
The move to have an arbitrator is part of a slew of passenger-friendly measures introduced by the ministry in the recent past. Last year, it came up with the debut policy that empowered passengers to claim monetary compensation between Rs 2000 and Rs 4000 against flight delays, cancellations and those denied boarding despite valid tickets. Before that, it introduced a rule to send flights to the end of the departure queue if the pilot was unprepared for take-off 15 minutes before the scheduled time of departure.
In April 2011, it had asked the Mumbai airport authorities to make a list of delayed flights, which is now put up on the operator’s website.
In 2008, when Praful Patel’s ministry first proposed appointment of an ombudsman the idea fell through owing to disagreements between fliers and airlines. One of the major areas of dispute was who would pay for the ombudsman. All airlines had then refused to bear the cost citing losses.
“The meeting has been called to discuss all these issues,” said Nasim Zaidi, civil aviation secretary. He however, did not set any deadline for setting up the ombudsman.