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U.S. TSA issues just 10 passenger fines for mask-related penalties - lawmakers

WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Two U.S. lawmakers said Monday the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued just $2,350 in total fines to 10 passengers for failing to wear masks since February, despite thousands of reports of airport passengers failing to comply.

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Bennie Thompson and Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, who chairs the transportation subcommittee, said in a letter that even though 4,102 reports of mask-related incidents were reported through mid-September, TSA has issued few fines and warnings to more than 2,000 passengers.

"We urge you to implement these enhanced penalties to curb the rising number of mask-related disruptive passenger incidents that threaten the safety and well-being of Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), airport and airline workers, flight crews, and other travelers," the lawmakers wrote, asking for answers to questions by Nov. 15.

A TSA spokeswoman said TSA Administrator David Pekoske "will respond directly to the members of Congress." Pekoske in July told lawmakers that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic there have been over 85 physical assaults on TSA officers.

In August, the Biden administration extended requirements for travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses and at airports and train stations through Jan. 18 to address COVID-19 risks.

The current CDC order in place since soon after President Joe Biden took office in January, requires the use of face masks on nearly all forms of transportation with the primary exception of private cars.

The requirements have been the source of some friction, especially aboard U.S. airlines, where some travelers have refused to wear masks. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has instituted a "zero tolerance" enforcement effort on unruly passengers, through Oct. 19 has received 4,837 unruly passenger reports - including 3,511 mask-related incidents.

The lawmakers noted the FAA "has issued over $1 million in proposed fines against disruptive passengers generally. TSA must likewise hold offenders accountable to reinforce passenger

confidence in air travel safety," the lawmakers said.

In some U.S. states, transportation hubs are among the only places where masks are still required.

This article originally appeared on Reuters

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