WASHINGTON: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doubling fines for first-time offenders who fail to wear masks, effective Friday (Sep 10), and said repeat offenders could face fines as high as US$3,000.
The White House said President Joe Biden was directing the higher fines to "ensure that masking requirements remain in place on the other modes of transportation as we continue to battle COVID-19".
TSA said the new fines will "be US$500 to US$1,000 for first offenders and US$1,000 to US$3,000 for second offenders".
Biden told reporters at the White House: "TSA will double the fines on travellers that refuse to mask. If you break the rules be prepared to pay. And by the way, show some respect."
He criticised the anger shown by some passengers towards flight attendants and others for enforcing mask requirements.
"It's wrong. It's ugly," Biden said.
Last month, TSA extended requirements for travellers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses and at airports and train stations through Jan 18 to address ongoing COVID-19 risks. The regulations had been set to expire Sep 13.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske said "by doubling the range of penalties, we seek to reinforce the importance of voluntary adherence".
TSA said that operators throughout the transportation network have reported more than 4,000 face mask-related incidents. To date, almost 4,000 warning notices have been sent and 126 have been referred for civil penalty.
TSA said in January that first-time incidents would start at US$250 for failing to wear masks.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued much higher fines for not wearing masks on airplanes and for other disruptive behaviour.
The FAA has proposed penalties totalling more than US$1 million, including many US$9,000 fines for not wearing masks on airplanes.