The TSA will now require travelers to wear face masks in airports and on planes

a group of people sitting at a table: A TSA agent wears a face mask. Paul Hennessy / Echoes Paul Hennessy / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

© Paul Hennessy / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
A TSA agent wears a face mask. Paul Hennessy / Echoes Paul Hennessy / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

  • The TSA will require passengers to wear masks at checkpoints and during travel.
  • The agency is following mandates from the president and CDC.
  • Those who do not comply will be denied travel and may face civil penalties. 
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Starting Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration will require passengers to wear facemasks at TSA checkpoints and during travel in an effort to “fully comply” with an executive order from President Joe Biden. 

Face masks will be required on all TSA modes of transportation, including in airports and bus and rail stations, as well as on passenger airplanes, trains, buses, and public transportation. Implementation of the new mandate will begin February 2 and will remain in effect until May 11. 

Biden signed an executive order on January 22 that would require travelers to wear face masks on airplanes and other modes of domestic travel. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandated face masks for passengers on public transportation, like buses, ferries, subways, taxis, and even ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

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The new federal mandates support the efforts of all 11 major US airlines and Amtrak, which have already required masks. The requirements were passed in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, as cases of the deadly virus have spiked during the winter months and the number of deaths in the US has surpassed 400,000, according to CDC data.

The TSA’s new mandate is an effort to “ensure healthy and secure travel across all transportation sectors,” said Darby LaJoye, the senior official performing the duties of the TSA administrator. “This will help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and encourage a unified government response.”

TSA may deny entry, boarding, or transport to passengers without a mask, and failure to comply with the mandate could result in civil penalties, the agency said in a statement on Sunday. Airlines requiring masks have already banned more than 2,5000 passengers for not complying with their mask rules. Delta and United alone had banned almost 1,500 passengers as of last month. 

The agency said passengers 2 and younger will not be required to wear a mask. As flyers go through security checkpoints, agents will ask them to briefly remove their mask to confirm their identities. 

Though the number of flyers is starkly lower as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still hundreds of thousands of air passengers in the US per day, according to TSA data. Airlines are working to get people back in the air again, as the companies have struggled during the pandemic. Many have begun loosened their capacity requirements and even returned to filling the middle seat, with the exception of Delta

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