Airlines for America, which represents the airlines, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Regional Airline Association filed suit in Washington Friday to block the furlough plan for controllers that is part of the so-called sequestration cuts in overall federal spending.
The Los Angeles Times said the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington likely would not respond to the suit until next week, which will probably mean travelers could get a taste of what could be a long and frustrating summer in the skies.
Federal officials said Friday thousands of flights a day could be delayed or canceled at 13 major U.S. airports starting this weekend because of federal spending cuts.
The delays may affect 6,700 flights a day starting Sunday, nearly a third of the more than 23,000 daily U.S. flights, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The industry and the Obama administration have said fewer controllers on duty will likely mean more delays at major airports.
Airlines for America President Nicholas E. Caio said at a news conference Friday the FAA plan is "irresponsible and unnecessary," and the FAA can find other ways to save $600 million, including in its maintenance and long-term planning operations.
"If delays take effect, it will not be very long before the entire system comes to a grinding halt," warned Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
The lawsuit contends the furloughs, which cut employee work weeks by one day, are unnecessary because the Federal Aviation Administration could find other spending areas to cut.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in February it would not be possible to avoid furloughs.