KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you've ever flown out of KCI Airport, chances are you've ridden on one of the airport's blue or red shuttle buses. Now, the city council is considering privatizing shuttle bus operations at the airport.
It's a move designed to save $7 million over five years. But critics fear the change will eliminate more than 60 good-paying jobs and result in poor service for air travelers.
"We love our jobs. We need our jobs," said shuttle operator Donald Perkins. Perkins has driven a shuttle bus at KCI for nearly four years. He says he receives compliments from the traveling public every day.
But Perkins fears he'll lose his job and air travelers will start grumbling if the city outsources the shuttle buses to save money.
"They love this airport the way that it is," agreed shuttle driver Patricia Langley-Loud. "They love where they can get waited on professionally very fast. They don't have to wait forever to get a bus."
Aviation Director Mark VanLoh claims airport shuttles have been involved in 50 accidents during the last 2 1/2 years. In half of those accidents the city was sued and paid more than $200,000 in settlements. He concedes that turning over the buses to Standard Parking will result in paycuts for shuttle drivers.
Those hired by Standard would see their average pay drop from $17 an hour to $11 an hour. Drivers also claim they would have to pay more for benefits.
"To cut people's wages just ain't going to cut it," said shuttle driver MiEricka Jackson.
Standard Parking says it would try to hire as many city shuttle drivers as possible and claims that with tips, which city drivers currently can't accept, drivers could earn up to $20 an hour.
"What we want to do is improve the service and treat these employees fairly," said Jack Ricchiuto, executive vice president of Standard Parking's Aviation Division. "We want to give each and every one of these employees an opportunity within our company."
Still at least one council member says the city is saving money on the backs of it's citizens.
"I am certainly not in favor of this at all," said Councilman Jermaine Reed of the 3rd District. "People losing their jobs for privatization is not a good thing."
A City Council committee is expected to vote on the proposed change next week.