An IndiGo Airbus A320 at Mumbai's Chhatrapathi Shivaji International Airport. Photo: Reuters

India’s domestic air travelers are facing a harsh summer, as two budget airlines, IndiGo and GoAir, are canceling close to 630 flights this month, and it is going to get worse in April.

IndiGo has announced the cancellation of 488 flights, while GoAir will cancel 138. Both airlines have said that a choice of alternative flights and refunds would be offered to passengers, reports The Times of India.

The flight cancellations follow concerns raised by the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation over the safety of the engines that power the two airlines’ Airbus A320neo planes. As a result, the regulator ordered the two carriers to ground affected aircraft until the problem is resolved.

The impact of cancellations is expected to be more severe next month when the airlines’ summer schedule begins. April marks the start of the peak travel season and with a drop in availability of flights, airfares are expected to go up.

These two airlines together operate about 1,200 flights daily and fly close to 50% of India’s domestic passengers.

The Pratt and Whitney PW1100G engines that power these airlines’ A320neo aircraft have been dogged with performance issues since last year. Earlier the power plants faced problems pertaining to premature degradation of a carbon seal and combustion chamber, but the current issue pertains to a knife-edge seal in the high-pressure compressor.

The knife-edge seal, which is supposed to withstand very high temperatures, can fail to do so and thus expand unexpectedly, potentially causing in-flight engine shutdowns.

Citing a lack of commitment from the US-based engine manufacturer on when the issues will be resolved, the Indian regulator ordered the two airlines to ground the relevant aircraft.

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