covid-19 /

TSA Extends Mask Mandate Until January 2022

The mandate was initially scheduled to end in September

The masking requirement for airline passengers will stay in place until January 18.

The current order from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was set to expire on September 13. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the agency announced the change. 

“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far,” Darby LaJoye, the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator, said in a statement.

The mandate extends to all transportation networks throughout the United States. This includes those passengers at airports, on board commercial aircraft, on over-the-road buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems.

A civil penalty fine structure will remain in place for those who do not comply with the face mask requirement. Fines start at $250 and rise to $1,500 for repeat offenders.

The mask mandate has been controversial and has led to many encounters between passengers who don’t want to wear a mask and flight attendants asked to enforce the rule. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that airlines have reported 3,889 incidents involving unruly passengers this year, and 2,867 — or 74% — involved refusing to wear a mask,” per AP News.

Aerotime says the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, said it welcomed the extension to the rules on mask-wearing onboard aircraft, saying it would help to keep passengers and aviation staff safe.  

AFA president Sara Nelson said, “Masks are the most effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19. While vaccination has been key to the increased air travel demand, the lagging vaccination rates and rise of the Delta variant has caused cases to skyrocket again — threatening lives, continued virus mutation, and recovery from this pandemic.”

Air travel was down in July after a previous bump earlier in the summer following growing access to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

JPMorgan Chase economist Jesse Edgerton wrote in a research note that “airline spending has fallen almost 20 percent from a recent peak in mid-July, a larger decline than during the severe winter COVID wave when spending was at much lower levels.”

The TSA screened 1,607,238 air passengers on August 17, a 28% decrease from a summer high, which clocked in 2,238,462 traveler check-ins at the start of August,” reports Business Insider.

Southwest Airlines and Frontier both cited the Delta variant as the cause of the decline in bookings. 

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