How Will Biden’s Airplane Mask Mandate Be Enforced?

Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States of America, had a busy first day on the job. Among his first actions following his inauguration was to bring in a mask mandate for air travel in the country. But how exactly will US airlines and authorities enforce this requirement?

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport American Airlines
Biden signed the executive ordering regarding the mask mandate last week, on his first day in office as President. Photo: Getty Images

A new, nationwide requirement

Biden began his presidency by launching a ‘100 Day Masking Challenge‘ to minimize the spread of coronavirus in the US. As part of this, American federal law now obliges airline passengers to cover their faces while onboard commercial aircraft. Many US carriers already had such a requirement in place to protect staff who are at increased risk of exposure.

However, the executive order that Biden signed on January 20th has made mask-wearing a nationwide obligation. With the pandemic continuing to disrupt everyday life, it is understandable that the President wasted no time in implementing a strategy to tackle it. However, the immediate nature of the introduction of this mandate has brought about its own challenges. The biggest of all? Deciding how exactly to enforce the mask mandate.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden wants US citizens to engage in an initial 100-day mask-wearing period to kick off his presidency. Photo: Getty Images

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Short-term implementation

According to CNN, the normal rulemaking process for federal laws can last several months. However, with Biden’s mask mandate initially being a short-term, 100-day measure, US authorities need to find a way of enforcing it much quicker. As such, CNN reports that “officials are believed to be considering emergency actions that could take effect much sooner.”

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Possible means of enforcement

Authorities are considering several ways by which they can enforce the President’s new mask mandate. One possibility is fining non-compliant passengers. Reports from preliminary discussions suggest that these monetary penalties could be as high as $20,000, with the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to implement such measures within two weeks.

According to CNN, another suggestion could be a “formal or informal recommendation that airlines include the mask rule in the pre-flight safety instructions and demonstrations.” Bans for non-compliant passengers may also become more widespread as a result of the mandate. Over 700 passengers had already been issued such suspensions in the US by last September.

Plane and US capitol
US authorities are considering fines as a means of enforcing the mask mandate. Photo: Getty Images

As well as the obvious health-based aspect of onboard mask-wearing, enforcement of the mandate could also prevent physical danger for airline employees. For example, a passenger attacked a Delta flight attendant in October after continually refusing to comply with its mask requirement.

In such instances of assault, the FAA does already have the authority to fine disruptive and abusive passengers. CNN reports that this will generally constitute a penalty of $10,000-20,000, although it could be as high as $35,000. Such fines are to be issued to passengers who pose an “imminent threat to the safety of an aircraft, or the collective safety of other individuals.”

Do you think the US will be successful in enforcing President Biden’s new mask mandate? How have you found flying with a face covering? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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