Masking up on planes becomes serious

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Masking up on planes becomes serious

Quarantine inspectors sterilize a plane parked at the Incheon International Airport in March 2020. [JOONGANG PHOTO]

Quarantine inspectors sterilize a plane parked at the Incheon International Airport in March 2020. [JOONGANG PHOTO]

 
Domestic airlines are being allowed to get tough with passengers refusing to wear masks on planes.  
 
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said Thursday that refusing to wear a mask on a plane will qualify as a violation of the aviation security law starting next week.  
 
Passengers who refuse can be turned over to the police. They could be fined up to 30 million won ($26,000) or get sent to jail for up to three years.  
 
The ministry made the announcement amid a rising number of Covid-19 cases in Korea and an increasing number of incidents on U.S. carriers caused by passengers who refuse to comply with a federal face mask mandate.  
 
In Korea, all passengers are mandated to wear a mask on public transport, including planes.  
 
But current regulations don't specifically state that refusing to wear a mask is a violation of the aviation security law.  
 
This made it difficult for airlines to decide whether to call in the police if faced with a passenger refusing to mask up.
 
The change “gives grounds for airlines to take stricter actions against those refusing to wear a mask," according to Shin Jeong-ok, a spokesperson for the transport ministry. "It is also a strong reminder to people that they should keep their masks on on a plane.”
 
Other changes to the aviation security law specifically addressing pandemic concerns include: prohibiting airlines flying domestic routes from serving beverages on planes; requiring flight attendants staying overseas to take precautionary health actions in all countries; requiring airlines to sterilize planes once a day if they flew domestically and once after every flight it flown internationally.
 
Currently, airlines determine the frequency of sterilizing aircraft.  
 
 

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]
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