TSA raises civil penalties for travelers who refuse to mask up

Photo (c) wsfurlan - Getty Images

ConsumerAffairs reviews show masks continue to be a lightning rod for both travelers and the airline industry

The Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration has decided to increase the penalties for people who won’t mask up while flying or taking public transportation. The new penalties — which take effect Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 — will be $500 to $1,000 for first offenders and $1,000 to $3,000 for second offenders and apply at airports and on commercial aircraft, railroads, intercity bus service, and other public transportation.

The federal mask mandate for transportation — extended just a few weeks ago — will remain in effect until Jan. 18, 2022.   

“Wearing a mask protects the traveling public and all of the personnel who make the travel experience safe, secure, and comfortable,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “We will continue to enforce the mask mandate as long as necessary to protect public health and safety.”

The TSA administrator, David Pekoske, said, “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. By doubling the range of penalties, we seek to reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence.”  

The TSA warns anti-maskers that these mask mandate penalties are separate from the ever-growing civil penalties the Federal Aviation Administration issues for individuals who engage in unruly and unsafe behavior. 

ConsumerAffairs reviewers speak out

Mask requirements are increasingly becoming a lightning rod. Since the start of the year, 31 ConsumerAffairs reviewers have expressed their appreciation — or disdain — for mask mandates on airlines.

On the 5-star end of the review scale, Yulia of Colorado gave Frontier Airlines some props for being considerate of a child who is mask-averse. “Frontier is so nice and not what I was expecting when flying during Corona. They were so considerate and not mean or anything like people are writing. I was flying with 2.5 y.o. who absolutely refuses to wear mask and was afraid they'd do something but no, they were very understanding!” Yulia said.

Then there are people like Clyde from South Carolina, who appreciated the lengths American Airlines went to ensure safety.

“I was impressed with their attention to detail to truly make me feel safe and comfortable in leiu of pandemic that we are living thru,” Clyde said in a 4-star review. “They took the time to make sure all seats and armrest were clean and dry, made sure to ask all to place mask over their nose and made it a point to ask if there was anything else they could do to make me feel comfortable."

While Clyde’s experience with American was positive, Simon's wasn't. “I flew with American Airlines business and the second they closed the door they starting treating their customers that they will send down all members that don't cover the nose with the mask, I made sure that my nose is covered and when I started eating one crew member came to me saying that I can't eat so long, and prior to landing they gave me a card saying that I am a dangerous passenger, (while I had my mask on during the whole flight besides when I ate), they are bad people, they don't like people, don't travel with American Airlines," wrote Simon of New York.

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