Airline passengers have been give new rights under guidelines unveiled by the European Commission.
They include the right to be rerouted with rival carriers if travellers are delayed for more than 12 hours.
The rules also clarify what are considered exceptional circumstances for compensation. For example, mechanical failures on board the aircraft do not count, but natural disasters and traffic control strikes do.
The EC has said the new rules, which are not likely to become law until 2014, will give a lot more certainty to airlines and passengers.
“It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper,” said EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas.
“We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most - when things go wrong.”
Under the measures, airlines will now have to pay for a maximum of three nights’ hotel accommodation.
However, this does not apply to passengers with reduced mobility, unaccompanied children or pregnant women.
The Commission also wants complaints to be dealt with more promptly.
“The main problem for passengers is that, while they have very strong passenger rights defined under EU law, they can have difficulty claiming them and feel frustrated when air carriers do not appear to apply them,” it said in a statement explaining the rules.
It wants to make it a requirement for airlines to acknowledge receipt of a complaint within a week and provide a formal reply within two months.
The proposals are subject to approval by member states and the European Parliament.