International flights operated by seven airlines from the Thiruvananthapuram airport were delayed by over 15 minutes and movement of export cargo hit following a flash strike by the ground-handling staff of Air India SATS Airports Services Pvt Ltd (AISATS) from Monday midnight.

The contract employees launched the flash strike raising various demands, including an increase in wages. Airport sources said international flights of Emirates, Ethihad, Kuwait Airways, Oman, Tiger Airways, Silk Air and SriLankan airlines were delayed by over 15 minutes following the strike.

The authorities are making use of the services of other staff to take care of ground handling, loading and unloading of baggage and to prevent inordinate delay of flights.

The export of fresh fruits and vegetables to various destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Paris and London has been hit by the stir. The Agricultural Products and Processed Food Exporters Association (APPEXA) secretary Dil Koshy said 15 tonnes of export cargo could not be sent due to the strike.

Customs cleared ready-to-fly export cargo that was lying in the tarmac was taken back by the exporters. “We have suffered a loss of Rs.7.5 lakh and have been told by the airlines not to bring cargo as uncertainty prevails as the stir is yet to be settled,” Mr. Koshy said.

The efforts to end the strike were not successful as the talks between the agitating staff and the AISATS management failed. A top official of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said they were monitoring the situation and had prepared contingency plan in case the stir prolonged. As it was a revenue contract, the ground-handling agency had been asked to settle the issue at the earliest.

The AISATS is a joint venture between Air India and the Singapore Airport Terminal Services. The international flights handled by two other ground-handling agencies and the flights from the domestic terminal were not affected.