While it is true that not all delays are the fault of an airline – fog is a classic example – I live in Australia.
In Melbourne, passenger train operators such as V/Line are required to compensate passengers who have suffered a delay of an hour or more – irrespective of the cause.
This helps to drive accountability. In V/Line’s case it has to provide the passenger with a free daily return economy class ticket for use on a future occasion – there are no time or day limits, no school holiday exclusions and so on.
Airlines require passengers to abide by minimum checkin times, baggage size and weight limits and in some cases even ‘correct attire’, not to mention some airlines excluding the bringing on of hot drinks onto the aircraft (Virgin Australia does the latter).
While many low cost carriers have written in their terms and conditions of carriage that uplift is not guaranteed on the day booked, it’s equitable that airlines be held accountable for delays.
After all, they advertise fast transit for passengers. I can think of some cases (Melbourne to Mildura is one) where QANTASLink flights have on occasion been so late that it would have been quicker to travel on the V/Line train to Swan Hill and the connecting road coach to Mildura, yet the airline charges most passengers in excess of A$120 for the one way trip (compared with the V/Line fare of about A$40 first class or A$34 economy).
In an airlines’ case, forcing it to pay monetary compensation is best because if it ‘gives’ a ‘free’ ticket, airline accountants and managers will impose all sorts of devious conditions to reduce the value of the ‘freebie’ or it will expire in a month or two with passengers mysteriously unable to find a flight that has an allocation of seats for such a ‘class’ of ticket.