TSA Doubles Penalties for Face Mask Policy Violations

Ralph Ellis

September 10, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Transportation Security Administration is doubling fines for travelers who violate face mask rules on airplanes, trains, buses, and other forms of transportation governed by TSA regulations.

The new penalties, which took effect Friday, will be $500-$1,000 for first offenders and $1,000-$3,000 for second offenders, the TSA said in a news release. The rules say passengers must wear masks while traveling except when eating or drinking.

"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," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in the news release. "By doubling the range of penalties, we seek to reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence."

Airline crews have complained about combative and aggressive passengers since people began flying again in large numbers earlier this year.

In July, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that 75% of unruly-passenger reports on planes since Jan. 1, 2021, started with passengers refusing to comply with face mask rules, CBNC reported.

The TSA said it will update airport signage to let people know about the increased fines. (The agency does not place signs at railroad stations and other surface transportation venues.)

The federal government extended face mask requirements for mass transit in the spring. The face mask rule for transportation was put into effect on Feb. 2, 2021, and is scheduled to remain in effect until Jan. 18, 2022.

"Wearing a mask protects the traveling public and all of the personnel who make the travel experience safe, secure, and comfortable," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in the release. "We will continue to enforce the mask mandate as long as necessary to protect public health and safety."

Sources

Transportation Security Administration: "DHS to Increase Civil Penalties for Violations of the Federal Face Mask Requirement."

CNBC: "Disputes over mask mandates comprise 75% of FAA's unruly-passenger complaints on planes."

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