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Demand for human travel agents rises

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The Internet is teeming with travel websites that can lock in the lowest airfare, find you a plane with onboard Wi-Fi and even hook you up with a travel companion.

With so many online sites to choose from, why is there a growing demand for human travel agents?

A new report from the American Society of Travel Agents found that 74 percent of its members have at least one employee or independent contractor, the highest percentage since 2010, when the rate was 77 percent.

In fact, the report said travel agent salaries are on the rise, and some agents are worried they won’t find experienced agents to hire in the future.

One possible reason for the rising demand is that travelers are overwhelmed by the online travel website choices and are looking for a professional to make sense of it all.

"Travel agencies are seeing an influx of new customers who want a professional, vetted travel professional to cut through the Internet clutter for them," said Zane Kerby, president of the American Society of Travel Agents. "If you searched online for ‘hotels in the Caribbean’ or ‘European riverboat cruises,’ for example, you’d find hundreds if not thousands of entries."

TSA to monitor for racial profiling

The American Civil Liberties Union said it has reached an agreement with the Transportation Security Administration to ensure that black women are not singled out for pat-down searches of their hair.

The agreement came in response to a complaint by neuroscientist Malaika Singleton, a black woman who says TSA agents squeezed her "Sisterlocks"-style hair at Los Angeles International Airport and again at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport during a 2013 trip to London to attend a Group of Eight summit.

In an email to the ACLU, a TSA attorney said the agency will retrain security officers at LAX and Minneapolis to emphasize "race neutrality" and will track TSA complaints by black women to see whether excessive hair searches are problems at other airports.

In a statement, the TSA said racial profiling is not tolerated at security checkpoints and "is also an ineffective security tactic."

Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times

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