There has been much in the news on stranded airline passengers due to the recent blizzard in the North East. A newspaper story here from Russia describes a fairly grim situation at airports in Moscow.
I too was affected, after having spent a great time in New York City over the Christmas break. We were due to return via Newark International Airport on Monday (with the heart of the blizzard striking Sunday evening). The iPad came in very handy to constantly check the status of our delayed flight, which was eventually cancelled and re-scheduled to Tuesday (we made it out, but it was difficult even just getting to the airport. When we arrived, there was no airline staff at the ticketing desk since they were also having a hard time getting to the airport).
I asked the airline the question about the cancelled flight and the cost of an unexpected hotel stay on Monday night (anticipating an unfavourable answer, which is what I got).
Perhaps not unfairly, in that situation where there is an act of God, the airline disclaims responsiblity for putting up their passangers for the evening.
Nothing in Flight Rights Canada would make the airline responsible for acts of nature or the acts of third parties. Airlines are legally obligated to maintain the highest standards of aviation safety and cannot be encouraged to fly when it is not safe to do so. Similarly, airlines cannot be held responsible for inclement weather . . . .
Of course, domestic and international air flight is governed by a fairly complicated set of international conventions and tariffs, some of which are listed here from the McGill Institute of Air and Space Law. Presumably contract law is also relevant (and the new Aviation Liability Law loose-leaf from LexisNexis Canada I previously mentioned on SLAW would be a good resource for researching this topic).
In this situation, I am just glad to have gotten home safely. Clearly, others have had a harder time than I did.