(CNN) – Wearing a face mask will soon be mandatory for travelers to the United States, according to an executive order signed Thursday by President Joe Biden.
Travel bookings apply to airports and planes, trains, ferries, intercity and public transport.
This regulation is an inter-institutional directive requiring the wearing of masks according to the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is not yet clear how this requirement will be implemented. The Department of Transportation forwarded questions to the White House about the handling of the order.
Good news for the Flight Attendant Union
The transition to mandate masks was immediately celebrated by the stewardess association.
Who cares what management does! We applaud President Biden’s national approach to eradicating the virus and getting us out of this pandemic, said Sarah Nelson, president of the Association of Hostesses and Stewards – CWA International.
Mr. Nelson said this mandate would provide much-needed support to flight attendants and other front-line employees of the airline.
While major U.S. airlines have set their own mask requirements in the absence of a federal rule in May 2020, enforcement of mask policies is largely the responsibility of flight attendants, some of whom have reported aggressive confrontations with passengers who refuse to wear masks.
The airlines say they have kept their promise to ban passengers who fail to meet their obligations from flying in the future. The group Airlines for America said its members have banned thousands of passengers.
Delta Air Lines recently announced that it has restricted 880 passengers due to masked disruptions.
FAA adopts a more stringent approach
Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a tougher approach to dealing with unruly passengers.
Passengers who attack, threaten, intimidate or disrupt flight crew members can face fines of up to $35,000 and even jail time, according to the FAA.
In December, the FAA proposed fines of $15,000. The total cost of the project for fiscal year 2010-2011 was $7,500 and $7,500, respectively. The court ordered the arrest of two passengers for allegedly harassing and assaulting flight attendants who asked them to wear protective gear.
The flight attendants union AFA first asked for an injunction to mask the planes in a letter to then transportation secretary Elaine Chao and health secretary Alex Azar in April 2020.
The Trump administration has resisted industry and worker demands to develop a mask. Ms Chao said she believed the issue was better addressed by companies and their unions.
When the federal government intervenes, we tend to be much tougher, we tend to be inflexible, and once we set a rule, it takes a long time to undo that rule when conditions change, she said last summer.
Airlines for America, which represents the major airlines in the United States, wrote in a letter to Biden earlier this month that since the airlines currently have policies in place mandating the wearing of masks and banning non-compliant passengers, it believes Biden’s action would be an indirect endorsement of the law.
The group stated that it supports a temporary requirement that applies to all passengers 2 years of age and older and is only valid for the duration of the pandemic. It provides that a separate set of rules should apply to crew members.
In addition to the mask warrant, Biden ordered Thursday that all travelers, including U.S. citizens, must submit proof of a negative Covid 19 test before entering the United States from abroad. The decision underscores the CDC policy announced last week.
CNN’s Pete Muntian, Harmeet Kaur and Natalia V. Osipova contributed to this report.
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