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Biden to Maskless Travelers: 'Be Prepared to Pay'

TSA to double fines for those who refuse to don face coverings, with minimum penalty of $500
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2021 8:23 AM CDT
TSA to Double Fines for Travelers Who Refuse Masks
Drop your mask at your wallet's peril.   (Getty Images/nito100)

The White House unveiled an aggressive new push this week designed to combat COVID, and one measure in particular from the TSA is geared toward travelers. "If you break the rules, be prepared to pay," President Biden said at a presser Thursday on the changes, including a new doubling of the minimum fine for not wearing a face mask from $250 to $500, reports CNBC. Some first-time offenders may have to pay up to $1,000. Repeatedly refusing to follow the federal mask mandate for transportation—which covers airports, train stations, planes, buses, and trains, and is in place until Jan. 18—could set defiant travelers back up to $3,000.

The wallet-emptying penalty, which goes into effect Friday, comes amid a surge of reports of unruly passengers received by the FAA and TSA this year, many of them tied to mask violations. The latter agency notes that more than 4,000 mask-related incidents have been reported in 2021, with more than 120 of those cases referred for civil penalty, per Reuters. "By doubling the range of penalties, we seek to reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence," TSA chief David Pekoske says. So far, most of those who've been hit with the $250 penalty haven't paid up, and many continue to ignore the mask requirement.

A Homeland Security release notes that the TSA's civil fines are separate from the ones the FAA has been doling out. Per the Wall Street Journal, the FAA proposed penalties last month against nearly three dozen out-of-control passengers, many of whom flouted the mask mandate, with possible fines ranging from $7,000 to $45,000. Biden addressed the ongoing issue in his presser, directing violators to "show some respect" and to quit unruly and even violent behavior toward flight attendants. "It's wrong. It's ugly," the president said, per CNBC. (More TSA stories.)

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