The Transportation Security Administration has doubled the penalties which it can levy on travelers who violate the federal government’s face masks mandate on public transportation governed by TSA regulations.
According to the TSA rules passengers must wear masks while traveling except when eating or drinking. The fines for failure to comply now range between $500 and $1,000 for a first offense, and between $1,000 and $3,000 for a second offense.
The Biden administration put the mask mandate in effect for all transportation modes on Feb. 2. In August, the TSA extended the mask rules which are now scheduled to remain in effect until Jan. 18, 2022.
According to a TSA statement, the agency increased “the range of civil penalties that may be imposed on individuals who violate the federal mask mandate at airports, on commercial aircraft, and in various modes of surface transportation, including passenger railroads, intercity bus services, and other public transportation.”
More information on federal face mask requirements and the TSA’s response to COVID-19 can be seen here.
“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,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.
“By doubling the range of penalties, we seek to reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence.”
The mask mandates have caused a surge in the number of incidents involving unruly passengers on airliners since January. TSA enforcement of mask policy is a separate issue from the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority to levy more severe civil penalties against passengers harassed, threatened, sexually assaulted and, in some cases, physically attacked cabin crewmembers or other passengers.
Citing the safety concerns caused by the incidents, the FAA has instituted a zero-tolerance policy against the rising number of aggressive and combative passenger incidents in 2021. In addition, the agency has taken matters a step further by appealing to local law enforcement agencies and airport management to file criminal charges more frequently against unruly airline passengers.