The European Commission unveiled that passengers left stranded in airports by delays and cancellations are set to win new rights to food, water, compensation and fresh flights under a package of measures.
The EU passed flagship legislation on passenger rights eight years ago, but said though "very strong," the existing rights needed to be fleshed out and toughened up as travellers "can have difficulty claiming them and feel frustrated when air carriers do not appear to apply them".
Among the proposed new rules, due to become law next year, would be that carriers must inform passengers of any delay no later than 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time.
After five hours on the tarmac, passengers could disembark and be reimbursed.
And in the case of a delay of more than 12 hours, an airline would have to offer to reroute passengers on another carrier.
"It's important that passenger rights don't just exist on paper," said Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas. "We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters, at the airport, when things go wrong."