by Ven Sreenivasan
(SINGAPORE) Tiger Airways has won its case against ground-handler Swissport Singapore for breach of contract after the latter pulled out of Changi Airport prematurely. Swissport, owned by the world's biggest ground-handler Swissport International, was Tiger's exclusive ground-handler at the Budget Terminal. When it decided to quit Singapore last month, it sought to unilaterally terminate its five-year contract with Tiger that had almost two more years to run.
Tiger launched court action on March 12 - and the High Court ruled in its favour yesterday. The court said that an assessment of damages payable by Swissport will take place at a later date.
In its defence, Swissport argued that the voluntary surrender of its operating licence to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) was grounds to prematurely terminate its agreement with Tiger. It refused to compensate Tiger for early termination, which prompted Tiger to seek damages.
Tiger managing director Rosalynn Tay said that the airline will now move for those damages. Tiger, represented in court by Allen and Gledhill, argued that Swissport did not have valid grounds to terminate the ground-handling agreement prematurely. Swissport was represented by Bih Li & Lee.
Since the termination by Swissport, Tiger has entered into an interim ground-handling agreement with Asia-Pacific Star, a company set up to provide services to low-cost airlines.
It is unclear whether Swissport, which is ultimately owned by Spain's Ferrovial, faces similar claims from two other clients here - AirAsia and Northwest Airlines.
Swissport was the sole new entrant in Singapore's airport ground-services business after the industry was liberalised in 2005. In early 2006, it invested in a $15 million warehouse with throughput capacity of 250,000 tonnes. But, by last year, it was complaining about cut-throat competition and poor business.