Gene Luntz, an artist?s representative in Manhattan who flies six to eight times a year for work, is one of the converts. After years of booking his travel online, through Web sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline.com, he has gone back to using a travel agent.

Yes, they still exist, those people who until the mid-1990s booked about 75 percent of airline tickets and had as much power as God but then seemed at risk of extinction. In fact, many travel agents - or travel specialists, as they are now known - say they have seen an increase in business in the last year or so.

One big reason, they say, is that travelers say they do not have the time or energy to scour the Internet for the best deals. And they crave a personal touch that a disembodied voice in a call center cannot provide. Many of the returning customers offer variations of the tale Mr. Luntz, 60, told.

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