I agree that airlines shouldn’t be forced to compensate for events beyond their control (the ash cloud is probably the best example – I’m amazed they were found liable for that). However they are absolutely responsible for technical problems on their aircraft and the way some of them treat their passengers during such delays can be atrocious.
I’ve just put in a claim for some friends of mine who took a BA flight in economy that was delayed for 4 hours. There was no information at all. The ground staff took rudeness to aggressive levels and they only grudgingly handed out the care vouchers (a measly £5 per passenger, which wasn’t enough to buy food and drink) when a few passengers demanded them, citing EU regulations.
I get that delays are part of the business and I get that airlines operate on low margins but they don’t get to treat paying customers like absolute rubbish and get away with it. I’m going to take very great pleasure in getting back the €1200 Euros my friends are entitled to – not least because it’ll pay for most of their holiday.
I also don’t subscribe to the “you should take out insurance” argument. Many policies don’t pay out much for delays to fares and not everyone can afford comprehensive cover. It’s all very good saying that people should take responsibility but that doesn’t mean that airlines should be able to avoid it.