TSA will double fines on mask mandate violations at airports, on flights

The Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration will increase the range of fines that can be imposed on individuals who violate the federal mask mandate on public modes of transportation, the agency announced in conjunction with President Joe Biden on Thursday. 

The federal mask mandate applies to individuals at airports, on commercial aircraft and in various modes of surface transportation, including passenger railroads, intercity bus services and other public transportation.

"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 in a press release. "By doubling the range of penalties, we seek to reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence."

The federal mask mandate for transportation, which was implemented by TSA on Feb. 2, 2021, will remain in effect until Jan. 18, 2022, according to the agency.

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The new range of penalties, which take effect Friday, Sept. 10, will be $500-$1000 for first offenders and $1000-$3000 for second offenders.

TSA plans to provide updated signage at airports regarding the increased civil penalties.

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

This announcement came on the heels of President Joe Biden’s speech Thursday in which the president announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.

Biden gave remarks on TSA’s decision stating that the agency "will double the fines on travelers who refuse to mask." 

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"If you break the rules, be prepared to pay," Biden said. 

Speaking at the White House, Biden sharply criticized the roughly 80 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availability and incentives.

"We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us," he said, all but biting off his words. The unvaccinated minority "can cause a lot of damage, and they are."

The federal mask mandate-related civil penalties are separate from the civil penalties issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for individuals who engage in unruly and unsafe behavior.

"And by the way, show some respect," Biden continued. "The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others just doing their job is wrong. It’s ugly."

This story was reported from Los Angeles.