The European Commission has announced measures to ensure that air passengers have new and better rights to information, care and re-routing when they are stranded at the airport.
The Comission says that while passengers have very strong rights defined under EU law, they can have difficulty claiming them and feel frustrated when air carriers do not appear to apply them.
Under the new measures, delayed air passengers will have the right to pull the plug on their journey after five hours waiting on the tarmac.
The ability to demand disembarkation as well as being fully reimbursed for the price of the ticket is among updated provisions to improve the lot of disrupted travellers.
Also new is a legal requirement on air carriers to provide information on airport delays or cancellations no more than 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time.
If today's plans are approved by EU transport ministers and MEPs, there will also be a new obligation on airlines to operate an efficient complaints procedure - including acknowledging receipt of the complaint within one week and providing a formal reply within two months.
EU officials say the failure to offer any response at all to written submissions from disgruntled passengers is one of the biggest complaints about the existing air traveller rights rules, introduced eight years ago.
Lack of speedy information is another, followed by reluctance on some occasions by carriers to offer immediate financial compensation, legally-required refreshments and accommodation where applicable.
"It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper. We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most - when things go wrong,'' EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said.
"We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective re-routing. The aim is to get passengers where they want to be as quickly as possible while giving the airlines the time they need to sort problems out,'' the Commissioner added.
The Commission says the existing regime of passenger rights is "one of the resounding achievements of EU transport policy".
But a series of legal challenges by air carriers highlighted the need to clarify some of the rules and update others.
"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" said a commission statement.
Surveys carried out in Germany, Denmark, and the UK show that 75% of passengers facing problems for delays or cancellations were offered re-routing, allowing them to pursue their travel plans.
But additional services passengers should receive under existing rules, such as meals, refreshment and accommodation, was offered in less than 50% of cases.
In Denmark, as few as 2% of air passengers entitled to financial compensation actually received it. In Germany, more than 20% of passengers who submitted formal complaints received no response from the air carrier.
Today's proposals also redress the balance for air carriers, with Brussels now acknowledging that financial compensation - currently available after delays of three hours or more - should only be triggered after a minimum five-hour delay on any intra-EU flight or any international flight shorter than 3,500kms (2,175 miles).
Compensation for other international flights is triggered after nine hours of delay on flights up to 6,000kms (3,729 miles) and after 12 hours for longer journeys.
"The aim is to give the air carriers a reasonable time to solve the problem and encourage them to operate the flight, not just cancel it,'' the Commission statement said.
"A threshold of three hours is in most cases too short for spare parts or replacement aircraft to be flown in, especially for technical failures at an airport away from the carrier's bases,'' it added.
Approval for the updated measures is unlikely until next year.