Violating the federal mandate for passengers to wear a face mask is going to become more expensive. Already in effect, fines for violating the federal mandate will double, and fines will be higher for repeat offenders compared to first-time offenders. The mandate applies to all airports and commercial aircraft, is in effect through at least January 18th, 2022, and is enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
TSA doubles fines for mask-refusing passengers
Starting Friday, fines for not wearing a face mask onboard an airplane or in an airport have doubled. First-time offenders will be charged in the neighborhood of $500-$1000. Repeat offenders can expect fines in the range of $1000 to $3000. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas stated the following on the penalties:
“Wearing a mask protects the traveling public and all of the personnel who make the travel experience safe, secure, and comfortable. We will continue to enforce the mask mandate as long as necessary to protect public health and safety.”
TSA Administrator, David Pekoske, stated the following:
“We appreciate the majority of travelers each day who voluntarily follow the requirement, but find this action necessary to maximize the protections for those who use and work within the transportation system, and to contain COVID-19. By doubling the range of penalties, we seek to reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence.”
The face mask mandate
Since February 2nd, the TSA has implemented a face mask mandate for public transportation, including in airports and onboard airplanes. The mandate has been extended a couple of times, and it is now in effect through at least January 18th, 2022.
In spring 2020, airlines announced their own face covering mandate for travelers. However, major airlines did push the federal government to introduce a requirement for passengers to wear a mask while traveling. After President Biden’s inauguration in January, the TSA instituted the mask mandate.
A continued crackdown on unruly passengers
The TSA is joining the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in cracking down on customers who choose to disobey federal law or mandates and cause a scene onboard. The FAA has been levying heavy fines against customers that have topped over $1 million.
Masks have been a contentious part of air travel. Despite guidance from public health agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), indicating that face masks are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, some customers have boarded aircraft and refused to wear them. This has led to flights returning to the gate to offload passengers and a host of videos on social media of altercations between mask-refusing customers and airline crew denying them a flight.
The task has fallen to flight attendants to enforce the mask policy. Unfortunately, not every customer stepping onboard an aircraft has complied with the mandate, and flight crews have had to face some nasty incidents with customers onboard aircraft. Sometimes, this has led to crew needing to restrain passengers onboard using tape. Several of those have garnered thousands of dollars in fines levied by the government.
With the TSA increasing fees, passengers who refuse to wear a mask onboard an aircraft or at the airport may face some steep fees. This is separate from the penalties airlines may levy against passengers, including banning them from flying with the airline in the future.