At last, a promise of ombudsmen for Mumbai, Delhi airports

Foreign tourists arriving in India have long been expressing deep frustration over the endless security procedures before they can enter the country – with as many as three security checks at the Mumbai international airport. Finally, the civil aviation ministry seems to be taking some action on this front.

Almost a year-and-a-half after a special committee submitted a draft for the setting up of ombudsmen for passengers at the Mumbai and Delhi airports, the government on Friday announced that this scheme will be implemented within the next few months.

The decision was announced to the media in New Delhi by civil aviation secretary K N Shrivastava after a meeting with industry captains and senior airline officials.

Sudhakar Reddy, president of the Air Passengers Association of India and a member of the committee that met on Friday, said, ''It's an excellent development, but has come rather late despite several reminders by me.''

Reddy said that like any industry ombudsmen, this will help in the redressing of consumer complaints. After it is implemented in Mumbai and Delhi, the scheme will be extended to other airports in the country, he said.

In another development, the civil aviation ministry urged airlines to lower ticket cancellation and date change charges. Shrivastava has reportedly requested airlines to have a graded system under which a lower amount should be charged for cancellation or change of travel date if it is done well ahead of the date of journey.

Jet Airways and Spice Jet last week increased charges for cancellation of tickets by around 40 per cent, worrying passengers who have already been hit by the recent air fare hike as well as itemised charges.

Airlines said the decision to hike cancellation charges was taken after the sudden increase in cost of operations due to rising fuel prices and a depreciating rupee.