TSA to double fines for travelers who refuse masks

National Coronavirus Coverage

(NEXSTAR) – Mask scofflaws will be seeing a sharp increase in fines this week, with the penalty reaching several thousand dollars for repeat offenders.

The Transportation Security Administration will be doubling the penalty for people who flout the federal mask mandate for air, bus and train travel, President Biden confirmed Thursday as he outlined his administration’s COVID-19 action plan.

“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Biden said. “And by the way, show some respect! The anger you see on television for flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong.”

The new, stiffer penalties will go into effect Friday – $500-$1,000 for first offenders and $1,000-$3,000 for second offenders.

The crackdown comes during a year when flight attendants have reported an unprecedented number of incidents involving unruly passengers. A number of these disputes, some violent, started with a flyer refusing to wear a mask.

“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 news release. “By doubling the range of penalties, we seek to reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence.”  

The harsher penalties might be welcome news for the country’s airline executives, who say the delta variant-driven spike in COVID cases is hurting bookings and hampering the industry’s recovery.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said Thursday that the company is struggling with a lack of business and international flyers.

The greater fines for those who break the mask mandate are part of the Biden administration’s sweeping efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.

On Thursday, Biden announced that, along with increased masking requirements, the “Path Out of the Pandemic” will include raising the vaccination rate in the U.S., providing booster shots, keeping schools safely open, increasing testing, protecting the economic recovery and improving care for those with COVID-19.

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