Alaska lawmaker Lora Reinbold banned from Alaska Airlines over mask rules

In this Jan. 27, 2021 file photo, Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold, an Eagle River Republican, holds a copy of the Alaska Constitution during a committee hearing in Juneau, Alaska. Alaska Airlines has banned the Alaska state senator for refusing to follow mask requirements. Last week Reinbold was recorded in Juneau International Airport arguing with Alaska Airlines staff about mask policies. A video posted to social media appears to show airline staff telling Reinbold her mask must cover her nose and mouth. Reinbold has been a vocal opponent to COVID-19 mitigation measures and has repeatedly objected to Alaska Airlines' mask policy, which was enacted before the federal government's mandate this year. (Photo: Becky Bohrer, AP)

Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold has been banned from Alaska Airlines flights.

“We have notified Senator Lora Reinbold that she is not permitted to fly with us for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy,” spokesman Tim Thompson told the Anchorage Daily News on Saturday.

The suspension, which was made effective immediately, is “pending further review,” according to Thompson.

Reinbold, a Republican who has been a staunch opponent of mask rules, addressed the ban in a Facebook post on Sunday, writing that she was “reasonable” with all employees. “I inquired about mask exemption with uptight employees at the counter,” she said, noting that she was “respectful of Alaska Airlines policies.”

She added that she hopes to be on an Alaska Airlines flight in the near future.

Last week, Reinbold was recorded in Juneau International Airport arguing with Alaska Airlines staff about mask policies. A video posted to social media appears to show airline staff telling Reinbold her mask must cover her nose and mouth.

She added a comment to her post that while she doesn’t “find the mask policy to substantiated nor do I want corporations to violate civil rights” she still wore a face shield while checking in and wore a mask during the flight despite an exemption.

According to Alaska Airline’s website, medical exemptions require “documentation from a licensed health care provider as to your inability to wear a mask due to your disability” and proof of a negative COVID test result taken within 72 hours of the flight. The website also indicates that face shields can be worn to supplement an approved face mask but not on their own. It’s unclear from Reinbold’s post if she wore a face shield and mask together. 

In her comment, Reinbold said she tests “negative weekly” but did not indicate how many days in advance of the flight she tested negative.

Reinbold has been a vocal opponent of COVID-19 mitigation measures and has repeatedly objected to Alaska Airlines’ mask policy, which was enacted before the federal government’s mandate requiring masks on flights, trains, buses and other transportation that President Joe Biden instituted earlier this year.

Prior to the federal mask mandate, U.S. airlines had their own mask rules in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Last year, Reinbold referred to Alaska Airlines staff as “mask bullies” after being asked by flight attendants to wear a mask aboard a flight, the newspaper reported. After the incident, she reportedly sent a cake to some flight attendants bearing the inscription: “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

Alaska Airlines has banned over 500 people.

Thompson said the length of Reinbold’s ban will be determined by the review.

It wasn’t immediately known how Reinbold, who was in southcentral Alaska this weekend, would be able to get to Juneau where the legislative session resumes Monday. No other airline has scheduled flights between Anchorage and Juneau, and a ferry trip could take several days.

But Reinbold posted images on Facebook, writing that she found a way to the capitol by road and ferry. “Alaska I went to new heights to serve you & have a new appreciation for the marine ferry system,” she wrote.

Lawmakers can participate in committee meetings by teleconference but cannot vote on the House or Senate floor remotely under current procedures. 

USA TODAY has reached out to the airline and Reinbold’s office for more information. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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