President Biden to mandate masks on planes. Will it reduce number of in-flight scofflaws?

President Joe Biden has promised a mask mandate on flights, trains and buses for months, and he plans to make it a reality onThursday.

Biden, who said on his first day in office that “changing the course of the COVID crisis” is a top priority, plans to issue an executive order promoting COVID-19 safety in domestic and international travel. It follows an order mandating masks on federal property announced Wednesday.

The travel order will require people to wear masksin airports, on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses, according to White House officials. 

There are still unanswered questions, including when the policy will take effect, what the term “many” entails and how the new rule will be enforced.

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But travel industry officials are encouraged.

Paul Hudson, president of consumer advocate FlyersRights, said Biden’s move should make mask enforcement easier and more consistent across airlines and boost passenger compliance.

Airlines already require masks and ban passengers who don’t comply, but wthout a federal mandate, passenger cooperation is basically voluntary, he said. Even with the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent order that it will no longer give warnings to misbehaving travelers.

“Suppose we had the same method for (in-flight) seats belts or smoking?” he said. “We said, ‘Well, we recommend you have seat belts. We recommend you don’t smoke.’ How would that work? It would be chaotic.”

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