The nations largest airlines are seeking a federal court order stop the furloughs of air-traffic controllers, whose absences from the job could lead to major flight delays starting next week.
Furloughs scheduled to start Sunday are part of how the FAA has sought to handle across-the-board spending cuts required by Congress.
Federal officials estimate that about a third of all passengers will face delays, with up to 6,700 flights arriving late at more than a dozen major airports each day. By contrast, on the worst travel day of 2012, when severe weather crippled the system, about 3,000 flights were delayed.
An FAA analysis released this week predicted fewer controllers will mean major delays at some of the nation’s busiest airports.
The airline group, Airlines for America, which represents the biggest U.S. carriers, was joined in the move to halt the furloughs Friday by the Air Line Pilots Association and the Regional Airline Association, which represents many of the small carriers that many travelers fly each day.
The suit seeks a 30-day postponement of furloughs to allow Congress to approve legislation preventing the need for furloughs.
“The FAA plan is simply irresponsible and unnecessary,” said Nicholas Calio, chief executive of Airlines for America. “This doesn’t make any sense.”