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TSA extends mask requirement for planes, buses and trains through mid-September

Passengers, almost all wearing face masks, board an American Airlines flight to Charlotte, on May 3, 2020, in New York City.

Eleonore Sens | AFP | Getty Images

Traveling this summer? Don’t forget your mask.

The Transportation Security Administration on Friday extended a federal requirement that travelers on buses, trains, commercial flights and at airports wear face masks. The requirement was set to expire on May 11 and will now be in effect through Sept. 13.

The agency started requiring that people over the age of 2 wear masks during flights, on buses, trains and public transportation in February following an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are exemptions for some disabilities, the TSA said. Fines for refusing to follow the rules start at $250 and go up to $1,500 for repeated violations.

Airlines have required passengers wear masks for much of the past year as Covid-19 continued to spread but labor unions have pushed the Biden administration for a federal mask mandate to back up cabin crews tasked with enforcing the rules. Carriers have banned more than 2,000 passengers for failing to follow mask requirements.

Airlines for America, an industry group that represents most large U.S. carriers, applauded the extension of the mask requirement and said that the “federal face covering mandate has significantly strengthened our flight crews’ ability to enforce these requirements onboard.”

The Federal Aviation Administration in January unveiled a “zero tolerance” policy for unruly travelers after a spike in incidents, many of them involving in travelers who refused to wear masks.

“Mask compliance is key to confidence in air travel as we climb towards recovery, which includes international travel,” Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the labor union that represents cabin crews at United, Spirit and more than a dozen airlines, said in a statement after the decision.

“We also have a responsibility to make sure aviation isn’t contributing to the spread of the virus or any variants. We applaud Administrator Pekoske and the Biden Administration for taking action that ensures we can build back better,” Nelson said.

About half of U.S. adults are at least partially vaccinated, according to federal data. Airline executives have reported higher bookings since vaccines have rolled out and more tourist attractions reopen.

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