WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. House of Representatives transportation panel urged the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday to extend a “zero-tolerance” policy for passengers not wearing masks or causing disturbances on flights.
In January, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed an order directing the policy after supporters of then-President Donald Trump were disruptive on some flights. Dickson warned that disruptive passengers could face up to $35,000 in fines and possible jail time and said the policy would last through March 30.
Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, urged Dickson to continue the “policy until public health officials determine that mass vaccinations have eliminated the risk of infection” on airplanes.
The FAA said in response it would respond directly to DeFazio but added it expected all airline passengers to abide by federal requirements “to wear a mask while in flight and in transportation hubs including airports.
“The FAA is continuing to enforce a zero-tolerance policy toward travelers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight-crew instructions,” it added.
DeFazio said ending the zero-tolerance policy “would be premature and expose the flying public to unnecessary risk —especially as pent-up demand for air travel drives more and
more people to fly.”
The FAA noted it “recently proposed civil penalties against passengers for flight-crew interference and is processing a number of additional cases.”
DeFazio praised the FAA for bringing cases against unruly passengers but warned the United States could see “more incidents like that one if the FAA recedes from its strong enforcement posture.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney)