TSA Doubles Mask-Wearing Fines As Biden Administration Ramps Up Covid Fight

Transportation Security Administration could issue fines up to $3,000 to passengers refusing to wear masks on trains, buses, and air travel. This is part of an overall effort by the Biden administration in an attempt to curb a rise in Covid-19 cases driven by delta variants.

TSA officers wear protective masks when working at Oakland International Airport, California. Wednesday, March 4, 2020. The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Key Facts

Starting Friday, the TSA will double the range of possible penalties for mask-related violations. First-time offenders can face $500 to $1,000 in civil penalties and repeat offenders can pay $1,000 to $3,000 up from the $250-$1,500 range that was announced when the TSA introduced a transportation mask mandate in February. Federal officials reported a rise in unruly passengers on airlines this year. Mask-related disputes were a common culprit. The TSA said it received over 4,000 reports of mask incidents and the Federal Aviation Administration stated that there have been 3,057 reported mask-related issues this year. TSA's mask mandate will expire in January. However, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas stated Thursday that the federal government will continue to enforce the rule until the safety of the public.


TSA's new stricter position is part of a series of public health measures that President Joe Biden announced on Thursday. The Department of Labor will require private companies employing 100 or more people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and have their employees undergo weekly testing. Federal employees and contractors will be required to get vaccinated. The administration will also mandate that inoculations be given at all health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds. It will also increase shipments of monoclonal antibody for Covid-19 patients.

Important Background

Domestic passenger numbers have slowly but surely recovered from the long slump that was caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Federal officials and airline staff warn of aggressive and abusive travelers as more people fly again. Up from 183 investigations in 2020, the FAA has opened 752 investigations this year into unruly passengers. The TSA also recorded dozens of assaults on its staff between January and June. Many of these incidents have been attributed to passengers who refuse to wear masks. However, some airlines also blame intoxicated travelers. The FAA stated that some of the unruly behavior onboard was related to the Jan. 6 riots at U.S. Capitol.

Important Quote

Biden stated in a speech on Thursday that if you break the rules, expect to be fined. Respect is a virtue. It is not right to show anger at flight attendants or others who do their jobs. It's very ugly.


The TSA has not penalized many maskless passengers. According to Reuters, only 126 of the more than 4,000 mask-wearing cases this year were referred by the TSA for civil penalties. The vast majority of violations resulted in warnings.