Alaska Airlines has reportedly banned a state senator from flying with them after she refused to follow mask orders.
Alaska Airlines told the Anchorage Daily News that it notified Sen. Lora Reinbold over the weekend that she is not permitted to fly with the airline company “for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy.” Reinbold confirmed the company’s stance online.
The airline company operates the only regular flights to the state capital of Juneau from Reinbold’s district in the Anchorage area, according to the newspaper. So the Republican senator took a 14-hour-plus car ride — part of it including a ferry — to get to the state Capitol for votes this week.
Reinbold, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The 19th, wrote about the ban in a Facebook post on Saturday. She has repeatedly challenged safety rules around the pandemic and noted that the ban came before a scheduled Monday vote on a bill that would extend a public health disaster declaration, which she opposes.
In March, KTOO and Alaska Public Media reported that Reinbold was banned from the state Capitol except for the Senate gallery during sessions until she complied with pandemic rules. Earlier this month, Anchorage Daily News and other publications reported that the Alaska Senate approved removing Reinbold as chair of the chamber’s judiciary committee.
Reinbold, who served in the state House of Representatives from 2013 until she was sworn into the state Senate in 2019, has refused during the legislative session to comply with rules that require wearing a face mask at the state Capitol, instead wearing a face shield.
Reinbold has criticized Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy for issuing pandemic restrictions and challenged other related safety rules by health officials. The governor said in a highly critical letter to the senator earlier this year that she had used her position as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to misrepresent the state’s pandemic response.
“I will not continue to subject the public resources of the State of Alaska to the mockery of a charade, disguised as public purpose,” the governor wrote at the time. Reinbold in turn criticized the letter for being “full of baseless accusations and complaints.”
Reinbold said in her weekend Facebook post that Alaska Airlines should have kept her ban confidential because, she said, she was not given a warning.
Days earlier, video published by the news website Alaska Landmine showed Reinbold arguing with airline staff. Reinbold said in her Facebook post that she was reasonable with airline employees and had inquired about the airline’s mask exemptions “with uptight employees at the counter.”
Alaska Airlines did not immediately return a request for comment. The suspension is effective immediately pending further review, according to the Anchorage Daily News, which said the senator is now one of more than 500 people who have been banned by the airline company for not following mask requirements.
“Juneau has never looked so good and I am happier than ever to engage in the political battle….to help kill HB76,” she wrote. “A good sign: as we approached Juneau 2 pods of killer whales were circling…”