HELSINKI - A spontaneous walkout by ground handling staff is currently underway at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, affecting all flights. Approximately 500 employees from the Aviation Union's IAU's Civil Air Traffic Workers branch 012 have left their posts. These employees work for Aviator Airport Services Finland, Swissport Finland, and RTG Ground Handling.

The sudden protest was triggered by Finnair's unilateral decision announced today to cease providing zone flight tickets, akin to employment benefits, to the workers of companies responsible for its ground handling services, the IAU stated in a press release.

"Baggage delivery is delayed due to the stoppage of ground handling staff. We apologise for the inconvenience," reads a message on the airport's displays.

At this point, there are expectations that workers would return to their duties by their shifts tomorrow, says Union Secretary Sami Rajala from IAU. "This matter is still quite fresh and new, so our own investigations are still somewhat ongoing," Rajala added.

Rajala is uncertain about the full extent to which the walkout will impact operations at other Finnish airports, but he asserts that the effect at Helsinki-Vantaa is significant. "I can't be fully certain about the extent right now, but I can state that it definitely affects flights from all airlines at Helsinki-Vantaa, not just Finnair," says Rajala.

According to a statement by Finavia, current information suggests the walkout mainly affects baggage handling. As a result, baggage delivery times might be extended and there could be delays in check-in. "Airlines are responsible for the baggage. We urge passengers to contact their respective airlines concerning their luggage," the statement reads.

Ground handling staff had the benefit of zone tickets, which gave them the opportunity to purchase slightly cheaper flight tickets when there were unsold seats available on a flight.

Congestion at the airport started immediately after the walkout commenced at 3 pm.