The Short Version
My flight within the EU is cancelled and I am stranded in a city. The airline offers me an alternative flight the next day, which I accept, necessitating a night in a local hotel. The airline ask me to arrange this for myself, and to claim the expenses at a later date, through their website.
Can I insist that they arrange and pay for it for me?
The Longer Version
A few months ago my easyJet flight from Amsterdam to Bordeaux was cancelled at the last minute - well to be precise, 90 minutes before departure - after I had travelled to Amsterdam all the way from Düsseldorf. The next flight to Bordeaux they could offer was three days later, which made no sense for me, as I was only going for the weekend. They then offered a flight to Lyon the next morning, and told me that, if I accepted it, then they would have no further responsibility towards me thereafter, and in particular I would have to make my own way to Bordeaux.
I accepted this flight to Lyon, which also meant that I needed a night in a hotel in Amsterdam. The attendant at the desk told me to arrange this myself through the easyJet mobile app (which allows for hotel bookings with booking.com). I didn't pay through the app, I just made a reservation, and I thought that it would be paid for directly by easyJet (this was my first ever experience of flight cancellation).
As it turned out, when I got to the hotel in downtown Amsterdam, I was told that they have nothing to do with easyJet, and that I'd have to pay for it myself - close to EUR 300 for the night! Good thing I had a credit card...
Claiming that money back from easyJet proved to be more stressful than I'd have liked, since they didn't bother to reply to my claim for more than two weeks, and I honestly thought that I'd have to get the Dutch enforcer for these things to show 'em who's boss.
It worked out in the end - hotel bill as well as compensation (which I wasn't banking on) - but not without chasing them, writing emails, and generally worrying about it. After hearing about other people's experience with flight cancellation, it seems that other airlines often organise the hotel for their passengers, as well as shuttle them there in a taxi, give them meal vouchers, and bring them back the next day, all organised by the airline.
These provisions are clearly written in the regulation 261/2004, although it doesn't explicitly say that the airline must organise this for the passenger.
if the airline clerk tells me that I have to organise my own hotel through their website/app and claim expenses later, can I insist that they do this for me, as well as take me there, give me meal vouchers etc or are they allowed to insist that I do this for myself?