The international airline association, IATA, is challenging the new EU passenger rights which start in 2005.
New regulations apply from February 2005
The association has filed for a judicial review at the UK High Court to contest the changes.
The new regulations offer greater compensation for cancellations, delays and overbooking by airlines.
As an association, IATA cannot take its case direct to the European Court of Justice and, must instead, start its action in the UK.
Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO, said: "Airlines accept the need to compensate passengers for denied boarding, but we cannot accept to pay compensation for areas beyond our control. With this regulation, the EU regulators have endangered the consumer interest they seek to protect,"
The new regulations apply to both scheduled and chartered flights, including those which are part of package holidays.
Passengers denied boarding because of overbooking will receive compensation of 250 euros ($296; £167) for short-haul flights, rising to 600 ($711; £401) euros for long-haul flights.
Those who experience very long delays will get their money back and, if a passenger needs to stay overnight because of a cancellation, they will receive free hotel accommodation.
In a statement, IATA said more than half of delays - such as bad weather, controller strikes or government security requirements - were outside of the control of airlines.
And it said the regulations may jeopardise the future of cheap short-haul travel which has expanded rapidly in Europe.
If a passenger on a long-haul flight misses a connection to a regional flight, under the regulations it is the short-haul operator that must compensate the passenger, IATA said.
"It is irresponsible for governments to effectively punish airlines for maintaining safe operations. We cannot make the sun shine and we will not take risks with safety or security," said Mr Bisignani.