The maximum fine that domestic travelers within the United States are subject to if they do not wear a mask has doubled to $3,000, according to the Transportation Security Administration. First-time offenders are subject to fines between $500 and $1,000 while repeat offenders may be fined between $1,000 and $3,000.
The intent behind this move, according to TSA Administrator David Pekoske, is to “reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence.” He added that it was also done to “maximize the protections for those who use and work within the transportation system.”
President Joe Biden has also voiced concern over the number of times that maskless passengers have shown anger towards flight attendants who have been enforcing these regulations, saying that “it’s wrong” and “it’s ugly.” He added in reference to this fine increase, “If you break the rules, be prepared to pay.”
Masks must be worn by travelers riding buses, trains and airplanes and while inside train stations and airports. Updated signage, at least in airports, will communicate this fine increase to travelers. The requirement for passengers to wear masks while traveling on public transport will be in place until at least Jan. 18; that timeline was extended in August from an original expiration date of Sept. 13.
Plane travelers should note that these penalties are separate from any that may be handed down by the Federal Aviation Administration for unsafe or unruly behavior shown on flights. In July, the FAA stated that nearly three-quarters of the citations that it had issued for unruly passengers this year up to that point were related to mask mandates.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, has said that “we will continue to enforce the mask mandate as long as necessary to protect public health and safety.”
In addition, the U.S. is last amongst the Group of 7 nations, which also includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada, by percentage of people who have been at least partially vaccinated: 63%.