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FAA ramps up ‘zero-tolerance policy’ on mask mandate for all flights

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport wearing facemasks. (Chad Davis/WikiCommons)

The FAA is doubling down on its zero-tolerance policy toward airline passengers who refuse to wear masks, threatening civil penalties of up to $36,000.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman declined to say if any action would be taken against climate czar John Kerry, who was photographed Wednesday without a mask covering his face on a Boston-to-DC flight.

The agency did report it is “committed to ensuring that commercial airline passengers comply with President Biden’s face mask mandate throughout their journey from curb-to-curb.”

The ramped-up enforcement comes as the FAA reports airlines have filed more than 500 unruly passenger cases since December. A majority of those are non-compliance with the face mask order, the agency added.

American Airlines told the Herald late Wednesday night “the crew did not observe Secretary Kerry without a mask.” But, the spokeswoman added, “we are reaching out to Secretary Kerry to underscore that all customers are expected to wear masks for the duration of their trip.”

Kerry tweeted from his @ClimateEnvoy account that it was all “malarkey” — but admitted he did let his mask “drop to one ear” briefly.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said this week the agency is doing “everything we can to confront the pandemic,” including mandating face masks at all times. He also extended the FAA’s unruly passenger zero-tolerance policy.

“The policy directs our safety inspectors and attorneys to take strong enforcement action against any passenger who disrupts or threatens the safety of a flight, with penalties ranging from fines to jail time,” Dickson said in a statement. “The number of cases we’re seeing is still far too high, and it tells us urgent action continues to be required.”

Retired FAA special agent Brian Sullivan, who focused on security and was based in Boston, said Thursday the FAA is trying to do all it can to make flying feel safe again.

“The airlines want passengers to feel comfortable on flights,” he said. “Of all people, John Kerry should be setting an example. Even Donald Trump is saying get your shots. It’s all in the spirit of cooperation.

“Kerry, once again, is an example of white privilege,” Sullivan added.

Former President Donald Trump said on Fox News Tuesday night he does encourage his followers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“I would recommend it. I would recommend it to a lot of people who don’t want to get it and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” Trump said. “It’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine and it’s something that works.”

Kerry’s unmasking was still lighting up social media.

The FAA did cite numerous cases in a follow-up email to the Herald — including one man who “repeatedly screamed obscenities at and hit a flight attendant … about the passenger’s behavior over a face-covering dispute” last summer. He is facing a $15,000 fine.

A Herald survey on mask mandates on flights had 62% supporting the idea, with 18% backing a verbal warning. Take the poll at


(c) 2021 the Boston Herald

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