Ombudsman for aviation sector is a good idea: Campbell Wilson

campbel wilson obdusman

Setting up an ombudsman for the aviation sector to address customer grievances is a good idea, Air India’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Campbell Wilson has told Business Standard.

“Whether there is a need or not, I think it is often a good idea that a professional ombudsman can look at all the different sides of any issue and make an informed and independent judgement. I think it is beneficial,” Wilson said on the sidelines of an industry event.

Earlier this month, the newspaper had reported that the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) is planning to call a meeting with airlines, airports, and regulators to discuss whether an ombudsman is needed in Indian aviation to address customer grievances.

The MoCA spokesperson had on March 18 said the ministry will call a meeting to “compile” the views of stakeholders and review the proposal regarding Ombudsman.

“Since the MoCA already has AirSewa (helpline) to address grievances of air passengers, we will examine in detail the value addition that an ombudsman mechanism will bring about,” the MoCA spokesperson had stated.

On November 10 last year, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh had written to Aviation Secretary Vumlunmang Vualnam, expressing concern about airlines charging separately for seat selection during web check-in. He pointed out that offering free mandatory web check-in and later charging for seat selection “(misleads) consumers and amounts to ‘unfair trade practice’ under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019”.

Singh stated the MoCA “may also like to consider setting up an ombudsman similar to electricity ombudsman and insurance ombudsman, to ensure a time-bound resolution of consumer issues within the airline sector and the need for the same was also strongly advocated by representatives from travel platforms and consumer organisations”.

Singh’s letter was issued two days after he held a meeting with travel platforms and consumer organisations to discuss issues related to consumer interests in the travel sector.

Vualnam responded on November 30, saying establishing an ombudsman for a time-bound resolution of consumer issues in aviation required “thorough examination and deliberations” with stakeholders under the control of the MoCA.

Sources told the newspaper that the ministry has asked carriers, airports as well regulators (Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security) to send their written comments on this matter.

Vualnam also told Singh the airlines were free to charge when passengers opted to avail “preferential seats” during the web check-in process under the current rules.

During the November meeting, Singh discussed with travel platforms another concern about airlines not refunding tickets booked for travel between March 25, 2020, and May 24, 2020. During this period, the central government had suspended all commercial passenger flights due to the lockdown.

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