Masks will be required on airplanes, buses, trains and other modes of transportation through the summer as the Biden administration extends its federal mask mandate, the Transportation Security Administration said Friday.
U.S. travelers and commuters have been required to wear masks covering their mouths and noses on nearly all forms of public transportation and inside transportation hubs since February, under an order from the Centers for Control and Prevention. The mandate, which had been set to expire May 11, will be extended to Sept. 13.
The extension comes as more people have started heading back to airports and resuming trips as vaccination rates have picked up. Airlines have said they are expecting a busy summer for vacation travel—at least within the U.S.—as passengers become more comfortable resuming many aspects of their daily lives. While air passenger volumes remain down about 40% from pre-pandemic levels, airports have been busier lately than they have been since the start of the pandemic.
The CDC said earlier this month that travel is low-risk for those who have been fully vaccinated, provided that masks are worn.
“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot, and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” said Darby LaJoye, the senior official performing the duties of the TSA administrator.
Enforcing the mask requirements has proved challenging at times. The TSA said it aims for voluntary compliance but can impose civil penalties of up to $1,500 for repeat offenders. There have been reports of some 2,000 passengers across transportation systems who have refused to comply, the TSA said.
The Federal Aviation Administration has extended its own zero-tolerance policy toward unruly passengers, which it put in place earlier this year following what it described as a “disturbing increase” in passengers who became threatening or violent over mask rules.
Under the CDC policy, face masks must be worn over the mouth and nose by all travelers on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride shares and inside airports, bus or ferry terminals, train or subway stations and seaports.
Airlines have been requiring passengers to wear masks during flights, except when eating or drinking, since last year. Several airlines have started bringing back more-normal food and beverage offerings.