As airlines have slashed the number of workers to cut costs, they've increasingly substituted automated services for jobs humans once did. Travelers are becoming used to the technology, and they're doing more of the work themselves, including shuffling luggage through bomb detection.

"Airlines have trained us, and now it's second nature to us," says Steve Morrison, a Northeastern University professor who studies the airline industry.

Some veteran travelers say the changes are liberating because now they don't have to face long lines and overwhelmed employees at airports. Others say the changes mean poor and impersonal customer service at a time when stringent security procedures and increasing passenger volume make flying a colorless and tiring affair.

Yet most have accepted the changes, realizing they're trading less service for relatively low airfares.

"Would customers say they're satisfied? I don't think that's the right word. It's more like they're resigned to the situation," says Morrison. "But you have low fares and lower quality of service. For consumers, as a group, that's good."

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