Maskless airline passengers face doubled fines under Biden plan

Travelers board a flight at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Travelers board a flight at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum, Md.
(Associated Press)

The Biden administration has an answer for the growing numbers of unruly airline passengers who won’t don masks while in flight. They’ll be fined twice as much.

The plan to double financial penalties for those who violate federal rules requiring masks on commercial airplanes is part of the government’s latest effort to slow the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The federal government has mandated masks on air and ground forms of public transportation until at least Jan. 18. Penalties for violations now range from $250 for the first offense up to $1,500 for repeat offenders, according to a post on the Transportation Security Administration’s website.

The TSA declined to comment.

Unruly passengers continue to be a problem, according to a survey of flight attendants.


President Biden announced the increase in mask fines Thursday as part of a broader plan to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Other measures include a mandate for federal workers and contractors who do business with the federal government to be vaccinated, and a call for the Department of Labor to order companies that employ more than 100 people to require vaccinations.

Reports of disruptive passengers this year reached 4,184 as of Tuesday, including 752 deemed serious enough to warrant investigations, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Even with almost four months remaining in 2021, the number of such incidents is already more than twice as many as in any previous year.

A large number stemmed from resentment over federal mask mandates, fatigue over the COVID-19 pandemic and deepening political divisions, making some jet cabins a proxy battleground in so-called culture wars.

There were multiple cases in which passengers allegedly threatened to kill people. One used an expletive in saying, “I hope this plane ... crashes” while being escorted off a plane and another yelled, “Imagine all of you in body bags,” according to the FAA.