President Biden has issued an order telling the TSA to double fines for passengers refusing to wear masks on planes and other forms of transportation. This is purely symbolic, because fines – which start at $250 for a first offence – are rarely imposed let alone paid.
The President demanded that air travelers show some respect and that this is the reason for the increased fines.
Biden in announcing doubling of fines for those that refuse to wear masks on planes and in airports.
"Show some respect, the anger you see on television towards flight attendants and others doing their jobs is wrong, it’s ugly."
— Kyle Arnold (@kylelarnold) September 9, 2021
Why is disrespect of flight attendants top of mind for Biden? Look who was bending his ear on Wednesday: flight attendants union head Sara Nelson, seen as a potential next head of the AFL-CIO.
Thank you for asking about Flight Attendants and expressing concern for how we are doing. We look forward to hearing from you tomorrow night and we will continue to work with you to end this pandemic. And yes, together We Have Power. #1u 2/2
— Sara Nelson (@FlyingWithSara) September 8, 2021
“Respect” may be desirable, though it’s a matter of social norm and custom and views on respect will differ. Should government be in the business of mandating respect rather than simply mandating civility – you can’t assault someone but do you have to respect them or risk government fines?
Is something even a matter of respect, if it’s mandated by law? Isn’t respect something that has to be freely offered? If someone is wearing a mask because it’s required, to avoid penalties, aren’t they doing it for a reason other than respect (such as fear or self-interest)?
Nearly a year ago I explained that we were going to see more conflict on planes over masks as people gained immunity from vaccination and natural infection yet were still required to wear masks. That’s happened, in spades. And it’s stupid.
Decent masks properly work show some effectiveness against Covid-19 spread but the transportation mask mandate simply duplicated airline policies already in place while allowing more exceptions, prevents airlines from requiring better masks as some European carriers do, and has a legal basis that’s questionable at best.
Doubling proposed fines is purely symbolic and will not change anything. These fines are rarely ever imposed, let alone paid. Here’s the data available as of six weeks ago:
- 2,413 mask non-compliance incidents had been reported to TSA
- TSA then has to investigate the complaint – they’ve completed 1793 investigations.
- Most investigations result in a warning, not a fine – the TSA has issued 1,690 warnings.
- Just 38 cases have been referred for penalties.
- And only two people have agreed to pay the fines, the others have challenged the fines.
Only 1.5% of incidents that turned into a report to the FAA actually resulted in a fine being requested, and only 5% of those actually paid up their $250, for a likely total of $500. Using this data and projecting forward, the federal government might collect an extra $500 by early 2022.
The federal government requires masks in airports and on planes, of course, because these are among the few places they’ve been able to come up with a legal theory they can stretch to allow masking rules – not because spread is more likely there than in crowded restaurants, bars or gyms.