Airline passengers could secure new rights under plans published today by the European Commission.

The new rules, which should become law next year, also clarify when airlines must pay-out compensation.

Under the plan, an airline would be obliged to inform passengers, and give an explanation, within 30 minutes of any delay.

Passengers would also have the right to food and drink after a two-hour delay, instead of the current four.

If passengers have boarded a plane but it then remains on the tarmac for more than five hours, they could demand to return to the terminal, and be reimbursed.

The plan also means that if an airline is not able to re-route passengers within 12 hours, they would be obliged to find another carrier or put people on a train where appropriate.

Natural disasters and traffic control strikes would trigger compensation payments, however mechanical failure on board a plane would be considered an "exceptional circumstance" and be exempt.

The plan would also put a limit of three nights' hotel accommodation, which an airline would be obliged to pay.

The minimum delay that would trigger compensation for flights within the EU would be increased from three to five hours under the plan.