No Mask While Traveling? You Could Be Fined up to $1,500

TSA says violators of the Biden administration’s new public transportation mask mandate could be issued penalties of between $250 and $1,500 for refusing to comply.

No Mask While Traveling? You Could Be Fined up to $1,500

TSA can now issue penalties to travelers who refuse to mask up.

Image by Shutterstock

Rules and regulations are arguably ineffective without consequences. Now, there are some very real consequences for violating a federal order requiring masks in all transportation hubs and public modes of transportation—those who don’t comply with the order could face a fine of up to $1,500, according to TSA.

Effective February 2, the CDC now requires that people wear masks while in or on airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, rideshares, airports, seaports, and train, bus, and subway stations. The order makes official a mask mandate that was signed by President Joe Biden on January 21.

But what may really make it hit home is that now TSA can issue financial penalties to those who refuse to wear a mask, ranging from $250 for a first offense up to $1,500 for repeat offenders. In some cases, TSA could even seek a fine beyond $1,500 “based on substantial aggravating or mitigating factors,” according to the agency (which didn’t elaborate on said aggravating or mitigating factors).

The executive order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel makes it obligatory to wear a mask while traveling through the country’s airports and on airplanes, trains, and public transportation. TSA said it will require individuals to wear a mask at TSA checkpoints and throughout commercial and public transportation systems until May 11, 2021. Passengers without a mask may also be denied entry, boarding, or continued transport, the agency stated.

Masks must be worn over the mouth and nose, according to the CDC order. For those wearing cloth masks, the masks “should be made with two or more layers of a breathable fabric that is tightly woven (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source)”—that goes for gaiters, too, which should have two layers of fabric or be folded into two layers, according to the agency. Medical masks, such as surgical or N95 respirator masks, also pass muster.

Masks that don’t qualify as proper face coverings include face shields, scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, bandanas, turtleneck collars pulled up over the mouth and nose, and masks containing slits, valves, or punctures.

Children under the age of two, as well as those with a disability that prohibits them from wearing a mask, are exempt. Masks can be briefly removed while eating, drinking, or taking medication; to verify someone’s identity such as during TSA screenings; and when oxygen masks are required on an aircraft.

>> Next: Our Picks for Face Masks to Buy—and the Latest Rules for Wearing Them

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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