Bullied at Changi

Sometimes even the big boys get bullied. Take for example the mid- January announcement that ground-handling giant Swissport was bailing out of Singapore’s Changi Airport. Although it surprised many, it wasn’t especially earth shaking news to much of the industry familiar with the ground handling sector. But before we get to that, it’s important to […]


Sometimes even the big boys get bullied. Take for example the mid- January announcement that ground-handling giant Swissport was bailing out of Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Although it surprised many, it wasn’t especially earth shaking news to much of the industry familiar with the ground handling sector. But before we get to that, it’s important to put things in context. The 2005 arrival of the Swiss-based, Spanish-owned company, which operates at 179 airports in 41 countries, was held up as yet another beacon of the island state’s laissez-faire economy. The opening-up to a third ground handler was meant to herald a new liberalised environment at Changi, breaking-up the cozy duopoly enjoyed by Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS) – a division of state controlled Singapore Airlines (SIA) – and Changi International Airport Services (CIAS), recently acquired by the Emirates group.

Swissport burst onto the scene in 2005 by scoring an immediate coup over SATS – which controlled an estimated 80 per cent of the ground handling business at Changi – by signingon SIA’s affiliate, Tiger Airways, to become the first ground handler at the brand new Budget Terminal. The ground handler then went on to secure Swiss International, Northwest and AirAsia and helped push overall ground handling charges at Changi down by nearly 15 per cent.