President Joe Biden on Thursday directed the Transportation Security Administration to double fines on travelers who refuse to wear masks.
A federal mandate requires travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses, and other forms of public transportation. Penalties for not wearing a mask will increase to between $500 to $1,000 for first offenders, and $1,000 to $3,000 for second offenders.
"If you break the rules, be prepared to pay," Biden said while announcing new mandates to fight the COVID-19 surge caused by the delta variant.
"And, by the way, show some respect. The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong. It’s ugly."
The Federal Aviation Administration as of Tuesday had received 4,184 reports of unruly passengers — more than 70% of which were related to mask requirements on planes, Axios reported.
In late June, TSA announced it would resume offering self-defense training for flight crews amid a surge of unruly airline passengers.
Classes that had been paused during the COVID-19 pandemic returned in July to help "deter assaults against officers and flight crew," according to a TSA press release.
As part of the FAA's Reauthorization Bill, the agency can propose up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Previously, the maximum civil penalty per violation was $25,000. One incident can result in multiple violations.
"We have the safest aviation system in the world and we need to keep it that way," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said on CNN in May.
"These actions are designed to make sure that we get this situation under control. Yesterday, we announced the largest fine that we have ever imposed on an individual on an aircraft. A single incident can result in a fine and potential jail time, with the fine of up to $35,000 for individual events."
In July, the director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine told Reuters the agency's "current position" is the transportation mandate should not be lifted.
"The truth is that the unvaccinated portion that's out there is extremely vulnerable," Marty Cetron told Reuters, especially in an indoor transportation hub "where the ventilation may not be optimized."
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