What Happens To People Who Violate The Air Travel Mask Mandate? Usually Nothing

The fine for not wearing a mask in public transportation the first time is just $250. But almost no one is cited for this, I see passengers walking around airports all the time maskless and nobody stops them. Airlines enforce masking on the aircraft, but airports don’t enforce it in the terminal most of the time.

Once someone is cited, though, that doesn’t mean anyone winds up paying a fine. In fact only two people have actually agreed to do so.

There are big headlines about unruly passenger fines. Those are different, but even those are rarely paid as-announced, they are proposed fines subject to judicial review. For simple mask violations:

  • 2,413 mask non-compliance incidents have 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.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which proposes fines against passengers for behavior on aircrafts, said that it takes “significant time” to settle cases against unruly passengers but that passengers who face fines have the right to due process.

“Developing a case that we believe will hold up in court takes a considerable amount of work from our safety inspectors and attorneys, and they currently are working a record number of cases,” an FAA spokesperson said.

We’ll see of course whether eventually some of the other cases referred for penalties wind up with monies actually paid. They might settle to avoid the costly expense of litigation, and in some cases there may be ‘insufficient evidence’, a witness may no longer be available, or memories could fade.

Ultimately the regulation serves as a request, that most people follow, albeit with low quality masks that provide them little protection though which may serve as some degree of source control if they themselves are infected.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. If they set it up where you had to say pay a $200 fine on the spot, or spend 3 days in jail, whoever collects fines could get a lot of revenue, and then after a few people are documented as to have paid the $200 or spent 3 days in jail; then compliance would rise. They could have the issuers of fines with phones to instantly collect the $200 credit card payment. Most people in an airport would have $200 of available credit and would likely choose to pay rather than spend 3 days in jail. I think the Department of Agriculture collects fines on the spot by credit card for pax entering a FIS with undeclared prohibitted items. See I came up with this very quickly, if only our policy makers could do the same.

    Also if it was known that the “mask police” were in circulation, compliance would rise. They could repurpose FAMS or TSO’s to be or collect overtime for being the mask police. Then you would have LEO’s with at least some training on handling escalated situations.

    But again ikf you really issued fines every day complianced would rise!

  2. Ultimately the regulation is a way for power tripping lowlifes to take out their angst, which they have because they are losers in life, toward paying customers. So glad I fly private and avoid this nonsense.

  3. Although I would guess about 90% correctly (not the ones wear mask does not cover the nose) wear masks in airports and about 98% on flights, rarely do I see anyone asking for mask adjustments. On flights I have been asked and I have seen many others asked to adjust masks – which they all seem to do at least for a brief period. Rarely see this in airports. But very difficult to fine someone without a warning – which seems to work almost 100%. With so many TSA, gate agents, airline personal, etc. in airports, it would not be hard to “remind” people to wear masks properly and get much better compliance.

  4. having gate agent or airline employees “remind” people to wear masks works about as well as putting the plastic yellow person with “SLOW” flag in your neighborhood to get people to obey the speed limit.

  5. I’m sure the fined will be coming soon for the Texas reps who fled the state maskless. Oh wait…they are our overlords and the rules don’t apply to them.

  6. I am having a very difficult time comprehending and am sickened by why people continue to protest mask wearing and politicizing this matter. This is not about democrats and republicans. It is about public health safety policy. It makes no sense especially when you look at recent events occurring as a result of the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. Infections are rapidly on the rise again and those who refuse to follow the public health policy rules are making it difficult for the rest of us who are doing everything in our power to slow down or eradicate this virus. Inpatient hospital units are filling up with unvaccinated COVID19 patients again as are the medical ICUs. This refusal to wear a mask to help protect yourself and others has reached the level of insanity. It is simple. When your refusal to wear a mask interferes with my ability to enjoy good health and to be free of disease, that is when your civil rights and “freedom” to abstain from mask wearing go out the window. It is an extreme form of selfishness and self-centeredness. It has NOTHING to do with whether you or I are democrat or republican period.

    As far as people who refuse to wear masks on planes is concerned, there is a very good solution that works much better than monetary fines and prosecution that seem to be going absolutely nowhere. It is simple. BAN THE FOLKS WHO REFUSE TO WEAR MASKS FROM THE AIRLINE FOR LIFE. Pretty soon they will get the message of wear a mask when you fly or drive or WALK to your destination.. Yes, the federal prosecutors are inundated with cases that are going nowhere and the culprits who refuse to wear masks rely on many legal loopholes that stop federal agencies from collecting on those fines. However, BAN THEM FROM FLYING ON THE AIRLINE. Pretty soon they will no longer be able to get on any airline. Problem solved.

  7. @ Boston. While at it lets just go ahead and ban “innocent until proven guilty.” It’s been such a burden our our DA’s and courts anyway.
    @ Doctor S.S. Your are certainly entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. Let me remind you that “short term goals have long term effects.” It’s problematic but it happens.

  8. As I read the comments it occurs to me that never in our history have so many been so willing to give up what so many fought and died for. Speaking as veteran, many of you disgust me.

  9. Remarkable another anti-mask article even as there is now some studies showing that the delta variant could be as contagious as the measles and potentially deadlier than initial strains of covid. The evidence seems to be showing that vaccinated people are getting infected and spreading the virus. It is about time to drop the whole anti-mask crusade. I agree there needs to be more enforcement. Maybe ban people from flying if they want to play games. I’m all for that. The anti-maskers are also more likely to be the unvaccinated and the more likely to refuse to comply with social distancing and other mitigation strategies. Don’t see why we would want those type of people travelling all over the country and world spreading the virus.

  10. Democrats are the real Nazis and Fascists. The same reasons behind all these authoritarian covid measures are the exact same justifications given by Hitler and Mussolini. Ironically, both Hitler and Mussolini wanted to “build back better” after the First World War.

    Now, they want anyone who doesnt submit to be forced into a ghetto like life.

    Even funnier they celebrate a Nazi-like clinched fist salute and are obsessed with racial politics just likr the Nazis.

    If we keep listening and submitting to these nazis then it wont be long before we will be living in a Democrat party fascist regime.

  11. @Bill – this is not an anti-mask article.

    I’ve long been a proponent of masks (though not the mask mandate which has had some perverse effects, and not required masking for two year olds). However I’ve been a critic of rules that call for masking but allow thin paper strips to be called a mask.

  12. Wearing a mask is common decency and shows empathy. Something that a lot of people apparently find very hard. I have tweeted to @CLT when I see maskless people in large numbers in a gate area, and there is NOTHING done. I have observed maskless FA’s and pilots with chin-warmers. It is a meaningless mandate that a small but large-enough group ignores because they KNOW there is no recourse or penalty. And if you call out the non-mask or chin-mask wearers you will be opening yourself up for verbal abuse and/or physical attacks. The only thing we can hope for is that the non-mask, non-vaccinated get sick and die… It seems that is happening already in larger numbers.

  13. @ One Trippe – take a hike pal. You have enough blood on your hands, having killed (or been a party to the killing of) innocent people and we don’t need a guy who is PTSD afflicted like you spouting about a virus that is killing people by the hundreds of thousands. We don’t need any morality lessons from you or your buddy @wesley above, another denier> Go for a ride with him. You guys are public health menaces!.

  14. @JP, VP of Engineering for a FAANG company. Glad you don’t work for my company! You would have gotten your walking papers on the spot for your stupidity and arrogance.

  15. (This is JP’s assistant.)
    Texan, stupidity and arrogance would be demonstrated in assuming anyone would even desire employment at a company owned by an unhinged, vile person whose Friday business hours are spent spewing venom in the comment section of an internet blog. JP’s quarterly stock vest likely exceeds your company’s entire market cap FAANG companies have grown tremendously in the last 10 years. What’s new with you, other than having to Subscribe & Save to new panties every week because you keep getting yours in a wad?

  16. In response to Wesley and others above, this is what I have to say. Do I need to remind you that SARS-CoV-2 has no political affiliation and does not discriminate against democrats or republicans? It is an “equal opportunity” infector. These people whom you refer to as nazis are trying very hard to save lives. It could be your own life too if you are not careful. Suffice it to say that many patients who have been COVID19 deniers come to their senses when it is oftentimes too late. They finally confront the truth when they are lying in the ICU gasping for air.. Some do not even do that. They insist that it is a common cold.. This is extremely difficult to comprehend. The question is not whether the delta variant will get you if you are unvaccinated (and unmasked). It is only a question of when. In the long run, it may not really make a difference. Those who are anti-mask and anti vaccine may very well become severely ill and die in the process (lets call it a form of natural selection if you will). So what good are those civil rights and freedom ideals if you are not going to be around to enjoy them? You may say that you would rather die than give up some of your civil rights. Sure, you have the right to that stance. However, what gives you the right to infect others and spread this virus? What about their civil rights? What makes you that special and that privileged that you can infect others and not even have to answer for it?

    Living in a “democracy” requires intelligence, social responsibility and reason . It is knowing when to scream my civil rights are being violated and when not to. It is knowing that a temporary mandate may be necessary to save lives and accepting that temporary mandate as being for the common good.. Proclaiming such temporary mandates as being promulgated by nazis is nothing short of being foolish (I have much stronger words for this situation but I will refrain from using them). .

    Did we make such a fuss when polio was around? No. How about smallpox? No. So why have people chosen to act in such a rebellious manner in the era of SARS-CoV-2? Had people behaved in this fashion during the polio and smallpox eras, we would never have been able to stamp out these diseases.

  17. Good. Cops and agents are not heroes or the good guys when they blindly enforce leftist laws and orders that violate conservative laws and freedoms. Republicans ought to get their head out and stop supporting the actual people who directly harm us.

    Every cop or agent has an opportunity to be a human and not be a puppet for the globalist elite. They can choose to ignore enforcing any law that violates fundamental freedoms.

  18. What kind of loser tries to boast about his (alleged) job at a leftist techno-fascist corporation in the anonymous comments section of a travel blog and then poses as his own assistant to post another comment? As the ever articulate UA-TDS likes to say, “SMH.”

  19. @Doctor S.S.

    It’s funny that you bring up public reaction to polio and smallpox. Never before in modern history have governments imposed lockdowns as they did for COVID-19. Polio and smallpox were far more lethal and yet the reaction to them was not hysterical. While I don’t deny the lethality of COVID-19, it should not have required mass lockdowns. SARS-CoV-2 was not an “equal opportunity infector” as lockdowns allowed well-to-do white (collar) folx to sit at home in their sweatpants while black and brown bodies had to toil away in person to provide “essential” services for them. Democrats are the real white supremacists. You speak of deplorables dying as “natural selection.” Are you actually a doctor? What about the overweight and obese who are disproportionately dying from COVID-19? They are getting what they deserve for making poor life choices, right? Or are black and brown bodies disproportionately fat because of white supremacy (brought to you by Carl’s Jr. and the Democrats)?

  20. Masks are stupid. Stop wearing them.

    Making people wear masks and get vaxxed is nazism, yes yes it is.

  21. First off the airports are not owned or run by airlines so unless the city that owns the airport decides to enforce masks with their law enforcement that’s up to them.

    If you refuse to wear a mask boarding my AC, you’re not flying. If you board and then play games, you’re off the flight. If you wait until airborne we divert or return to original city where you are arrested and we ensure you’re prosecuted and pay damages for costs of diversion and on airlines NOFLYLIST. There are tons of people finding this out every day, thinking they’re smarter than everyone. I know if two offenders who were ordered fines and damages and filed bankruptcy to not pay. Is that what you all think is a good thing for you to do to speak your truths? Speak your truths at home, stop ruining the plans of 200 others on iard who now misconnect to see their dying parents, attend a wedding, lose a day of vacation.

    @Gary Leff you’re the biggest [redacted] I’ve ever seen. You’re mama must be so proud

  22. @cargocult – enjoying outrunning this highly transmissible Delta variant, anti-vaxxer? Must be hard to think with all that science bursting out of your brain.

  23. If masking and slowing the spread was of such immediate life or death concern, where is all of the media screeching and the ever-masker crowds feigned outrage about the current administration and what is being done about the tens of thousands of untested third world illegal aliens pouring across the southern border and then being bussed to cities and towns all across the nation?

    There is no better way to push disease and illness though an entire population. Masks are going to have zero effect.

  24. @cargocult

    In response to your post, below please find my response. 1. I was utilizing the term “equal opportunity infector” to state that SARS-CoV-2 is politically blind, has no political affiliation and will infect both democrats and republicans alike and nothing more (until recently that is as republicans have higher rates of infection due to many refusing to become vaccinated and to mask up). I am stating this as a statistic and rest assured that this statement is not intended as a political pun and there is absolutely no ill feeling intended. 2. I am very well aware that SARS-CoV-2 affects certain segments of the population disproportionately due to their certain pre-existing medical conditions as well as certain constitutional factors which you alluded to in your post. These individuals, however, are not sitting ducks and can protect themselves by wearing masks and becoming vaccinated. They do not have to succumb to COVID if they choose not to. I repeat, they are not sitting ducks. 3. As far as your comments concerning individuals who have made bad decisions in their lives which resulted in obesity or other disease is concerned, although they are at higher risk for developing poorer outcomes following SARS-CoV-2 infection, they have a choice and can protect themselves as best as they can by masking up and by becoming vaccinated. Again, they are not sitting ducks. They have a say so in what happens to them. 4. In my last 35 years of practice I have always warned my patients about fast food places like the ones you mention and the dangers of consuming such unhealthy foods at such establishments. Many listen to my advice but some do not. I do not necessarily see these fast food establishments as a democrat conspiracy to get at certain people. People have choices. They can eat at fast food joints or they can decide not to. No one is forcing anyone to eat some of the unhealthy garbage served at these establishments. 5. You also allude to racism in your post. My post and yours should have nothing to do with racism as that is not the subject matter under consideration here. 6. The people who are making conscious decisions not to become vaccinated (due to misinformation or sheer foolishness) are playing Russian roulette. It is not a question of whether the delta variant will get them but it is a question of when. Additionally, the more infections, the more variants we will have to deal with in the future. This is a huge problem as people who are refusing to be vaccinated and who are becoming infected are contributing to increased mutations. 7. I have been against lock-downs from day one. Lock-downs however became necessary (around the globe) because people were not following the proper guidelines to reduce viral spread. I am of the opinion that had people taken COVID-19 seriously, masked up, and socially distanced properly, we would not have needed lockdowns and would not have had as many infections and deaths in 2020. Lockdowns became necessary as a way to try and shut down viral spread. You call it a hysterical reaction. I disagree. Lockdowns did not work. 8. The medical data coming out of Israel are very encouraging. Individuals with pre-existing conditions and those who are vulnerable are receiving a Pfizer booster (a third shot) to boost their immunity against the delta variant. The results that I have seen thus far (from discussing these with physician colleagues in Israel) have been very encouraging. By the looks of it, we all may be headed towards a booster shot at some point in the very near future even though the CDC is presently stating that a booster is not necessary. 9. Essential workers. They deserve the highest regards and respect as many went to work to make sure the supply chain continues to function while many sat home and collected unemployment checks. The essential workers are the heroes in this entire story. FYI, my son and I both went to work daily to help combat COVID19 at the front lines. We were not among the privileged who sat home and ate their way through the day as you indirectly insinuated in your post. 10. Compassion fatigue: Many of my colleagues were experiencing compassion fatigue at the end of the last COVID19 breakout. When you repeatedly see people refusing to follow sound medical advice to help protect them from harm and they end up at your hospital’s ER and ICU, you get to the point where you become somewhat numb to their suffering. Physicians, nurses and medical front line workers are human after all and there is so much that we can deal with. The worst part is when their families would yell and scream to do something to save their loved ones when no cure was in sight. This did not happen once but on numerous occasions. In addition to all this consider this. People threatening to harm you because you are a doctor at the front lines and because they think that you are part of this large conspiracy to create and enforce mandates? Yes, two of my colleagues were actually threatened and were told they would experience great bodily harm if they continue in this path. Who would have thought that this would actually happen in America? Well it did. It gets to the point that you sometimes give up because no matter what you are doing to try and save lives, people do not see it that way. You get to the point where you think if they do not care about their own lives and health then who am I to bring about that change? We keep trying but it does not feel great when you constantly feel like you are banging your head against the wall. Unfortunately, people have continued to politicize this pandemic. When is this going to finally stop? The medical professionals have become the “bad guys” in all this fight. Insane if you ask me. 11. Last but certainly not least, people need to be aware of long haul COVID. There are many who were infected by SARS-CoV-2 and who show long term symptoms of the disease. We have set up clinics with multidisciplinary teams in our city to deal with COVID19 long haulers. People need to be aware that if you get infected and survive, there is a good likelihood that you will have serious long term effects from this disease. I rest my case.

  25. I am not flying because I will not wear a mask. I also do not miss the lousy airline service, drama, and canceled and delayed flights. I am vaccinated and that is enough. I live in a region where mask wearing was never even close to 50% and for months it has seemed strange to see someone wearing a mask. I have no problem if someone wants to wear a mask; it’s their business. I have been driving to my meetings and conferences over the past year. It has been very liberating. No mask required, no air travel drama, plus peace and quiet as I drive down the road enjoying new scenery. I have made road trips of up to 1100 miles one way. I will fly again someday when mask are no longer required. I have been Exec Platinum on AA for 18 years straight but I am in no hurry to fly even if it means losing that status. It has lost most of its allure anyway.
    As for the draconian enforcement that some on this thread have advocated. It seems ridiculous to enforce a mask rule when crime is rampant and growing in major cities. After all many cities are no longer even bothering to enforce laws against petty theft like shop lifting. You can steal something from a store worth hundreds of dollars and not even get a ticket but you want to fine someone $250 for not wearing a mask. That is stupid. Then take the riots of BLM. A rioter could smash windows, burn vehicles and buildings, destroy public and private property, even assault other people and most were never prosecuted. If arrested most were released within 24 hours. The cities stopped violent crime that was rampant in the 1970s and 1980s by going to strict enforcement of laws preventing minor crimes like vandalism and petty theft. It is a proven fact that most career and violent criminals start out committing lessor crimes before graduating up to worse and more violent crime. But the left never learns from history. The liberal mayors of the 1960s and 1970s that went soft on crime created their crime epidemic just like the liberal mayors of today are setting up the cities to be sewers of crime and filth again.
    Our country is so screwed up on its priorities.

Comments are closed.