TSA Warns Passengers of Fines Between $250 and $1,500 for Refusal to Wear Masks

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced on Friday that it will begin issuing fines to travelers who refuse to wear masks in accordance with President Joe Biden's recent executive order.

The TSA will fine offenders $250 for not wearing a mask where one is required and this amount will rise with repeated offenses up to as much as $1,500, the agency said in a statement.

"Based on substantial aggravating or mitigating factors, TSA may seek a sanction amount that falls outside these ranges. TSA has provided transportation system operators specific guidance on how to report violations so that TSA may issue penalties to those who refuse to wear a face mask," TSA said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a sweeping mask mandate for public transport, which took effect earlier this week.

The mandate followed Biden's executive order on January 21 that aimed to improve COVID-19 safety measures on domestic and international travel.

TSA's fines are designed to implement this mask mandate, which applies to trains, buses, planes, boats, ferries, subways and ride-hail vehicles. Masks are also required in transport hubs like train stations, bus depots and airport terminals.

"TSA will fully comply with the President's Executive Orders, CDC guidance and the DHS National Emergency determination to ensure healthy and secure travel across all transportation sectors. This will help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and encourage a unified government response," said Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator, said in a statement on Friday.

"As we continue to experience impacts from this pandemic, we are committed to this measure as the right thing to do for the TSA workforce, for our industry stakeholders and for passengers," LaJoye said.

Children under 2-years-old are exempt from the mask mandate as are people with disabilities that would make wearing a mask unsafe for them. Those with disabilities may be asked to produce documentation, however.

Travelers will be permitted to remove their masks briefly to eat and drink. Some face coverings will not be considered appropriate masks, such as face shields, bandanas, masks with exhalation valves or masks that are too big or small.

Marty Cetron, director for CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, explained on January 29 why the mandate had been implemented.

"Requiring masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel safely even during this pandemic," Cetron said in the CDC's 11-page written order.

An MTA Bus Displays 'Masks Required'
An MTA Bus displays 'masks required' on the front of the bus as New York City moves into Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on July 4, 2020. Face masks are now required on all public transport in the U.S. Noam Galai/Getty Images