This summer, we had a horrendous experience flying United Airlines on the way home from France. Our flight from Geneva to Dulles was cancelled after about 3 hours on the Tarmac. They did not serve us lunch. Then they cancelled the flight and we had to return to the terminal.
Once my daughter realized we weren’t going home that day, she lost it. We were all homesick (well, me and the little ones at least). We then spent about 2 hours in line to get our hotel bookings, and going back through customs. We were famished and didn’t get to eat until after 5.
They planned a new flight first thing the next morning which required everyone to get up at 4 am (little kids and all) to catch a shuttle back to the airport.
Low and behold, we sat in the airport for a few more hours while the new flight was delayed. They still could not fix the old plane from yesterday. Eventually, they got us a newer plane and we were finally on our way.
At the end of the flight, they offered an “appreciation” gift for the inconvenience. Most likely it was extra miles for another flight. They fail to tell you that if you accept this, you waive your rights to the actual reimbursement you are entitled to.
They did give us a printout of the airline passengers’ rights. Read this closely.
I requested reimbursement after we returned home and they offered me half of what we were entitled to (only $300 per ticket). I stood firm and did not accept their offer.
They also tried to reimburse me in the form of a travel voucher. Having read the fine print, I knew that I was entitled to a choice of payment method.
I stuck to my guns and insisted we receive the full $600 per person in the form of cash, not a travel voucher.
We finally prevailed, along with possible extra reimbursement for meals (you need to provide the receipt, so make sure you get a photo of it).
Stick to your guns. Read the fine print. Do not be steamrolled. Know your rights.
A few good resources (and links that I included when emailing United) can be found here and here (EU rights)
This page has great info on your rights AND what to do if you are getting nowhere with the airline. You can file a complaint with Aviation Consumer Protection (never even knew this existed)! I also referred to this link in my email to United.