Passengers, almost all with face masks, board an American Airlines flight to Charlotte on May 3, 2020 in New York City.
Eleanor Sens | AFP | Getty Images
Are you traveling this summer? Don’t forget your mask.
The Transportation Security Administration on Friday expanded a federal obligation requiring travelers to wear face masks on buses, trains, commercial flights and at airports. The requirement expired on May 11th and is now valid until September 13th.
In February, by order of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency demanded that people over the age of 2 wear masks on flights, buses, trains and public transport.
There are exceptions for some disabilities, the TSA said. Fines for refusing to adhere to the rules start at $ 250 and go up to $ 1,500 for repeated violations.
Airlines have urged passengers to wear masks for much of the past year as Covid-19 continued to spread, but unions have pushed the Biden administration for a federal mask mandate to aid cabin crews tasked with enforcing the rules. The airlines have banned more than 2,000 passengers for non-compliance with mask requirements.
Airlines for America, an industry group representing most of the major US airlines, welcomed the expansion of the mask requirement and said that “the federal mandate for face-covering has greatly strengthened the ability of our flight crews to enforce these requirements on-board.”
The Federal Aviation Administration introduced a “zero tolerance” policy for recalcitrant travelers in January after a surge in incidents, many of which affected travelers refusing to wear masks.
“Mask compliance is key to air travel confidence as we are on the road to recovery, which includes international travel,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the union that Cabin crews at United, Spirit and other agents representing a dozen airlines said in a statement following the decision.
“We are also responsible for ensuring that aviation does not contribute to the spread of the virus or any other variant. We applaud Administrator Pekoske and the Biden Administration for taking steps to ensure we can better dismantle,” Nelson said.
About half of adults in the United States are at least partially vaccinated, according to federal data. Airline executives have reported higher bookings since vaccines were introduced and more tourist attractions reopened.