Passengers in the United States have very little protections in place to compensate them in the event of lengthy delays or flight cancellations. Even if you’re not a European citizen, several laws, in particular Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 state what airlines (in Europe) have to do if your flight is screwed up.
Feel free to poke around on the European Commission’s Transport site where you see these regulations spelled out. Once there, click on Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11?February?2004 which is a PDF file. This regulation was put in force on February 17, 2005. If you’re traveling from a European airport you’d do well do download this document, print it out, carry it with you, and present it to your airline in the event of a cancellation or lengthy delay.
Considering that 30% of flights are delayed here in the United States, travelers should contact their representative in Congress so that travelers in American have the same rights.