Richard Turen
Richard Turen

They contracted the dreaded norovirus. A catchall phrase that actually means you get a rather serious bout of gastrointestinal illness.

The local news channels down here in my Florida homeland just can't avoid gushing over the thought of passengers trapped on an ocean liner with symptoms that are similar to food poisoning. And the optics are great.

So allow me to inject one or two facts into the discussion of folks getting sick at sea. It almost never happens. In 2018 we had the lowest number of sick guests reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 547 folks. That is the lowest number of sick passengers on cruise ships reported in the past 16 years.

The peak of norovirus contamination appears to be 2006 -- that was 13 years ago. The rates have been going down ever since, because cruise lines are teaching passengers to wash their hands, they have developed multiple new sanitation systems and they have sanitizing gel dispensers throughout ships that passengers actually use.

Meanwhile, I have heard nothing about sanitizing the local movie theaters, shopping malls, churches or indoor stadiums where thousands gather and where norovirus contamination is a much more common issue than it is at sea.

Last year, an estimated 14.5 million passengers sailed from ports in North America, so 547 reported cases would seem to make a cruise ship, with fully staffed onboard medical facilities, one of the healthiest venues for large gatherings of sunseekers.

The TSA is doing what?

Despite the recent government shutdown and the pressures on the TSA to keep our airport security intact, a recent announcement from the agency would indicate that they are always thinking ahead.

Now that everyone is back at work, airport travelers will have one more reason to feel safe and secure strolling the concourse or waiting in baggage claim. The agency has a new policy that will not necessarily make travelers safer but will make them feel safer. It will begin phasing out bomb-sniffing dogs with pointy ears. It turns out that we are less concerned about terrorism when the doggie sniffing our luggage has floppy ears.

German shepherds will be disappearing, to be replaced by breeds like Labradors and golden retrievers, because the TSA feels they are less threatening to travelers. I feel safer already.

How do they do it?

Just how, one wonders, can American Airlines launch a refurbished workhorse Airbus A321 on domestic routes with more seats than the 757s it uses on some of its routes to Hawaii? Isn't the 757 a larger aircraft? Does this defy logic?

It is actually possible to get 196 seats on the smaller A321. And here is the design plan that has allowed American to do this:

  • They have narrowed the distance between seats.
  • They have sharply reduced the amount of padding on each seat.
  • They have made the lavatories about one-third smaller.

If you think that you will never fly one of these planes, you are likely wrong.

American has ordered 100 of the new A321neos (New Engine Option) aircraft.

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