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You don't need a geek license to use airport tech

Self-serve ticket kiosks and other electronic screens and gadgets aren't new at airports, but some travelers are hesitant about using them - preferring the comfort of contact with an agent, even if it means waiting in line.

But there are more ways to cut time and hassle out of a trip, from new kiosks to boarding passes scanned directly from your cell phone screen. This technology also can save you money, as more airlines charge for human contact.

Here are some new high-tech travel aids, according to Tania Ladic, a vice president of industry marketing at technology developer NCR's travel and transportation unit.

Checking luggage Many travelers know they can check in online or at the airport using a kiosk. But they also can check bags the same way. Pay online or at a terminal with a credit card, then drop bags off at the Web Bag Drop counters at some airlines.

Upgrades Want to bump up to business class? Most major airlines now offer upgrade opportunities, if available, through the Web or an airport kiosk.

Flight changes Mechanical problems, weather delays, oversold flights - these problems can be handled without waiting in line. Many airlines offer technology through their Web sites, kiosks or Web-enabled phones that allow you to pick an alternate flight or cancel a reservation. Ladic says passengers can be notified to reschedule if a delay will cause them to miss a connection.

Fees Changing a reservation online or through a kiosk after your flight is canceled or delayed is usually free. But if you call the airline's customer service number, you'll likely be charged a $15-$35 fee. Some airlines are adding incentives to encourage electronic services. In July, US Airways will start charging $5 extra if you pay their $15 bag fee at the airport instead of online.

COMING SOON Ladic predicts mobile phone scanning technology will spread, allowing more security personnel to read boarding passes on cell phones, and passengers can use touch-screen options to choose food and more.

Sorry, no electronics can take your shoes off at security.

- AP


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