No ombudsman to steer fliers out of misery

Even as the Parliamentary machinery is struggling with electing an ombudsman to keep corruption in check, the much-discussed appointment of an aviation ombudsman to address piling passenger grievances has made little headway -- the idea is still on paper.

In January 2011, then aviation minister Praful Patel announced the proposal to appoint of an aviation ombudsman after a meeting of the Civil Aviation Economic Advisory Council (CAEAC). In April that year, an official order to study the feasibility of the appointment was issued under Patel's successor Vayalar Ravi. Since then, two ministers for civil aviation have come and gone, but the appointment is yet to be made.

Ravi in his tenure of more than 10 months just called one meeting of CAEAC on November 11, 2011 to check the status of the appointment. Now that a new minister Ajit Singh has joined the office, the final draft of the working committee on the feasibility of the appointment was circulated for opinion to 65 sub-committee members on January 24, 2012.

"No doubt the process of appointing the ombudsman has been delayed. It started last January and till date only the final draft is ready. It will take some more time for the appointment. I cannot give an exact timeline for that," said Sudhakar Reddy, a core committee member of the CAEAC, which is examining the feasibility of an ombudsman in the aviation industry. Reddy is also the president of the largest air passenger body, Air Passengers Association of India (APAI).

"Every day, the airlines are treating passengers unfairly and there is no one to monitor this at the top. Whether it is refund, delayed services or baggage mishandling, the airlines continue to harass passengers. The number of complaints is on the increase. With an ombudsman in place, such things would certainly stop and if it happens the airline would have to face the heat," Reddy said.

Another CAEAC member and trustee of the Consumer Association of India, R Desikan, said, "The final draft is ready. We are taking the views from other members. I am hopeful that the appointment would happen soon."

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