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Chicago Customer Service Jobs Cut at Airports

Posted on November 12, 2008

As part of a plan to help the city save money, more workers at local airports will be losing their Chicago customer service jobs.

The City of Chicago recently announced its plans to cut up to 29 airport customer service positions, according to an article by The Chicago Tribune. In general, these employees translate and answer questions for travelers at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports. In an attempt to cut costs, the city plans to decrease the Aviation Department‘s external communications staff from 41 employees to only 10, a move that should save about $2 million.

The layoffs are part of a plan to cut about 1,000 jobs and close the $469 million budget shortfall the city is currently facing. However, the city plans to keep the Aviation Department’s marketing director, who makes $114,585 per year, the deputy commissioner, who earns $114,084 per year, and the customer services manager, who makes $94,848 per year. The greeters earn between $38,000 and $58,000 per year. While these positions are being cut, some positions with the airport are up for grabs.

“That seems like misplaced priorities,” Alderman Brendan Reilly said in the article. “Reductions at management level should follow reductions of front-line staff.”

The main task of the greeters is to provide the language skills necessary welcome foreign visitors to the city’s two main airports. The greeters are often referred to as “red jackets” because of their uniforms, and have been part of the staff for around 40 years. There are 24 greeters at O’Hare and five at Midway.

“We try to create a very memorable first impression of Chicago,” Greeter Kumar Alle said in the article, adding he speaks Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, Kannada and Spanish. “We also work with the limousine and taxi drivers and provide information about lost luggage, hotels and restaurants.”

Airport and city officials say the majority of the work done by greeters is no longer required. Instead they’ll focus on security, safety and other airport operations. The task of greeting foreign visitors will now fall on the customer service manager, other aviation officials and visitors. The airport also recently installed translation phones at five locations throughout the airports.