How The Federal Government Is Considering Enforcing Its Air Travel Mask Requirement

President Biden issued an executive order that included mask-wearing for transportation, including air travel. However that doesn’t mean there’s a federal mask rule now. There isn’t. Instead the Executive Order instructed government agencies to come up with one and they’re trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.

We may get different rules from different agencies covering different modes of transportation, “[i]n addition to the FAA, the Transportation Department includes the Federal Railroad Administration overseeing trains, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration overseeing buses, and the Federal Transit Administration, which is involved in transit system oversight. The Coast Guard regulates ferry safety.”

While a federal government mask rule is meant as a uniform idea, it’s not one agency that’s actually in charge.

The FAA could fine mask violators as “disruptive or non-compliant passengers” up to $20,000, because failing to wear a mask is deemed an “imminent threat to safety of (an) aircraft or the collective safety of other individuals.” The FAA typically negotiates down fine amounts.

FAA action could come “within approximately two weeks.” The FAA may require or recommend airlines “include the mask rule in the pre-flight safety instructions and demonstrations.”

Although a multimodal transportation rule could come out of the Department of Transportation. And the TSA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, is working on its own rules.

[TSA is] exploring how the agency, in conjunction with the DOT, FAA, CDC and TSA’s security partners (i.e., airports, airlines), can work collaboratively to enforce the President’s travel order for travelers to wear masks while in airports, on planes, trains, ferries, intercity buses, mass transit and passenger rail systems.

The bottom line is that the Biden administration doesn’t yet know what mask rules will be, how they’ll apply to young children or those with medical challenges, how they’ll interact with private sector rules already in place, who will issue the rules, or what enforcement will look like. We’re likely a couple of weeks away from knowing the answers to these questions.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. All the airlines already require masks so why is the illegitimate “president” even bothering with this? I thought he had a plan to beat covid, something besides Trump’s vaccines.

  2. Who cares? Once you get off the plane in NY, Chicago and all of CA (as of today), they’ve already loosened up all the rules on dining inside, going back to school, etc. Despite the major surge over the last several weeks. It was more about making life as bad as possible under the previous regime and then changing the rules after 1/20/21 than anything to do with infection rates, death rates etc.

  3. Unfortunately reading VTW comments section is now like joining a Parlor chat room…and many of us have decided not to play any more. It really comes off horribly.

  4. @Joe – you are an embarrassment. Feel free to run yourself in circles and chase your own tail the next four years.

  5. @Joe – you are a Q Anon adherent…your life doesn’t have much meaning. Really embarrassing you fell hook line and sinker for the non-Storm lol.

    Meanwhile, rational adults in the real world know 306>232 and 81mm>74mm.

  6. Lol, love how the entire media story has changed in the last 5 days. Just, complete 180.
    Everything is opening up, everyone is saying ‘get back to normal’

    And the crowd cheers loudest for the newest emperor.

  7. Creepy Uncle Joe needs to rewrite his Order immediately. Dr. Farce excuse me I meant Dr. Fauci now explains that we need to wear 2 masks in order to be safe from this deadly plague. Oh how the good doctor has progressed from no need for masks in March of 2020 to mandatory masks later in the year to the wearing of 2 masks here in 2021. I for one will be running out to buy my N190 mask so that I can comply with this sound medical advice. I hope he calls for mandatory glove wearing and mandatory eye protection as well. Safety first!!

  8. Wait, what do you mean the Biden administration doesn’t yet know what mask rules will be, how they’ll apply to young children or those with medical challenges, how they’ll interact with private sector rules already in place, who will issue the rules, or what enforcement will look like?

    I thought the incoming administration actually had a fantastic, 198 page plan for the covids? A plan like no other, a plan to save the world from the covids? What is this? Why haven’t the enacted federal mask plan to save us all? How are California, New York and other states relaxing their covids rules in the middle of this dangerous pandemic? Why is the US mail still running and forcing me go outside where I’ll drop dead from the covids?

    We’re all doomed. Dooooooooooooooooooomed.

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