The Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday that staring Friday fines will be doubled for those who violate the federal mask mandate. File Photo by Glenn Fawcett/U.S. Customs and Border Protection/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The Transportation Security Administration said it will increase civil penalties for those who violate the federal mask mandate at airports, on aircraft and in other forms of public transportation.
In a statement Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that from Friday those who are caught violating the mask mandate will be fined between $500 and $1,000 for a first offense and $1,000 and $3,000 for a second offense.
The federal mask mandate implemented Feb. 2 and which expires Jan. 18 of next year requires those to wear masks at airports and while riding in airplanes, trains, intercity buses and other forms of public transportation.
"Wearing a mask protects the traveling public and all of the personnel who make the travel experience safe, secure and comfortable," Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "We will continue to enforce the mask mandate as long as necessary to protect public health and safety."
The TSA will provide updated signage at airports to reflect the new penalties, the department said, adding that these penalties are separate from those the Federal Aviation Administration issues to passengers who engage in unruly and unsafe behavior.
The increased fines come as President Joe Biden unveiled COVID-19 vaccination mandates for federal employees in an effort to have two-thirds of the American workforce vaccinated.
Concerning the the TSA's doubling of fines, Biden said: "If you break the rules, be prepared to pay."
"And by the way, show some respect," he said. "The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong: it's ugly."
The FAA has said it has seen a drastic spike in unruly-passenger incidents amid the pandemic.
According to FAA data, at least 752 investigations into unruly passengers have been initiated so far this year, up from 183 for the entirety of 2020. The second highest number of such investigations since 1995 was 310 in 2004.
The administration said in a statement last month that it has issued more than $1 million in fines against unruly passengers this year.
It said since January it has received 3,889 reports of unruly passengers, including 2,867 reports of passengers refusing to wear face masks.
On May 16, a passenger on a flight from Queens, N.Y., to San Francisco was fined $42,000 for interfering with crew after failing to comply with the mask mandate.
The FAA said the passenger also made non-consensual physical contact with another passenger, threw a playing card at a passenger and threatened that person with physical harm, among a slew of other allegations that include snorting what appeared to be cocaine from a plastic bag.
"The passenger became increasingly agitated and the crew equipped themselves with flex cuffs and ice mallets to ensure the safety of the flight if his behavior worsened," the FAA said. "The flight diverted to Minneapolis, Minn., where law enforcement removed the passenger from the aircraft."