Leaving that mask at home could cost a traveler big bucks in Joe Biden’s America under the sliding scale of fines unveiled Friday by the Transportation Security Administration.
The TSA has been picked to be the enforcement arm of a pair of federal mandates — one from the president and one from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that require everybody taking any form of public transportation to wear a mask.
“Regarding the civil penalty fine structure for individuals who violate the Security Directive, TSA will recommend a fine ranging from $250 for the first offense up to $1,500 for repeat offenders,” the TSA announced on its website.
And for those an airline considers major nuisances, the sky could be the limit.
“Based on substantial aggravating or mitigating factors, TSA may seek a sanction amount that falls outside these ranges,” the agency said.
Although the popular image of the TSA is confined to airport screenings, it has been picked to oversee the implementation of fines on planes, buses, trains, subways as well as at airports.
The way the system works, a transportation provider who has a passenger accused of violating the mask edict contacts the TSA.
“They will report violators to TSA and TSA may penalize those who refuse to wear a mask within the transportation networks,” said TSA spokesman R. Carter Langston, according to The Washington Post.
TSA indicated that those facing fines can appeal.
“Among their options are the right to an informal conference with TSA,” a statement said.
“Specific data will not be available until after all legal proceedings are completed, which could take an extended period of time.”
“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,” Darby LaJoye, the TSA’s executive assistant administrator for security operations, said in the release.
“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.”
The TSA said that for those approaching the “Travel Document Checker” at airports — where identification and boarding passes or inspected — “all passengers who appear to be over the age of 2 must properly wear a face mask throughout the security screening process. The officer at the TDC will request that travelers temporarily lower the mask to verify their identity.”
“Those who approach the TDC without a mask will be asked to wear or obtain one to proceed. Passengers who refuse to wear a mask will not be permitted to enter the secure area of the airport, which includes the terminal and gate area.
“Depending on the circumstance, those who refuse to wear a mask may be subject to a civil penalty for attempting to circumvent screening requirements, interfering with screening personnel, or a combination of those offenses.”
The TSA role in carrying out the Biden and CDC orders extends through May 11.
According to The Washington Post, Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the unions of about 50,000 flight attendants, said the tough federal stance is important to sending the message that masks are a must.
“Clarity for the public is key,” she told The Post. “Our union has been advocating for almost a year for a federal mask mandate in aviation. A federal mandate with public messaging and clear enforcement mechanisms like TSA fines for noncompliance will go far to keeping everyone safe. Clear requirements and consequences up front help us keep problems on the ground.”
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