Here’s a tip: If you’re willing to risk getting banned by an airline to make some kind of point about face masks destroying freedom, you better have a backup plan for getting to work.
Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold, a Republican, learned that the hard way this weekend when she was banned by Alaska Airlines for continually refusing to follow the airline’s mask policy, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
On Sunday, Reinbold posted on Facebook that she had to make a “long, unexpected trip” from her Anchorage-area home by road and ferry to the state capital of Juneau to get to Monday’s legislative session, where she said she would aim to “stop HB76,” a bill extending Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s pandemic emergency powers.
“Alaska, I went to new heights to serve you & have a new appreciation for the marine ferry system,” she wrote. “I am keenly aware of the monopoly in air transport to Juneau that needs [to be] reviewed!”
Alaska Airlines is the only airline that provides regular direct flights from Anchorage to Juneau, according to the Anchorage Daily News. A nonstop flight between the two cities takes about an hour and a half; by road and ferry, the trip is nearly 20 hours long and involves traveling through two Canadian provinces, according to Google Maps.
Alaska Airlines spokesperson Tim Thompson confirmed in a statement to the Anchorage Daily News that Reinbold’s detour was because “she is not permitted to fly with us for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy.”
“This suspension is effective immediately, pending further review,” Thompson added. “Federal law requires all guests to wear a mask over their nose and mouth at all times during travel, including throughout the flight, during boarding and deplaning, and while traveling through an airport.”
Thompson’s comments are reflected in the airline’s online information for travelers. The company states that it “reserve[s] the right to refuse transportation in the future to guests who refuse to comply with mask requirements.”
The Anchorage Daily News reported that as of Friday, the airline had banned 506 people.
Reinbold complained late Saturday about the airline sharing her name with the media, saying that the matter was “confidential.”
“I was reasonable with all Alaska Airlines employees,” she said in another Facebook post. “I have been flying on Alaska Air for decades amd [sic] am an MVP gold. I inquired about mask exemption with uptight employees at the counter.”
This isn’t the first time that Reinbold has faced consequences for refusing to wear a mask during a global pandemic.
Last month, the Alaska Senate voted 18-1 to ban Reinbold from most areas of the state Capitol until she agreed to follow the Legislature’s COVID-19 safety rules, which include wearing a mask.
Reinbold has also frequently clashed with Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy over the state’s COVID-19 response. Dunleavy, a fellow Republican, wrote a letter to Reinbold in February saying she had “publicly misrepresented the state of Alaska’s response to a global health crisis,” “abdicated the tenets” of her office, and said his administration would effectively no longer acknowledge her as the chair of the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee.
Reinbold is far from the first GOP politician to openly flout mask rules. In October, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker—who was then chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees transportation policy including aviation—was photographed taking his mask off multiple times during a Delta flight. In July 2020, Sen. Ted Cruz was photographed taking his mask off during an American Airlines flight.
Unlike Reinbold, however, neither Wicker or Cruz, appear to have had much trouble getting to D.C.—or, in Cruz’s case, Cancun—since then.
Despite her airline troubles, Reinbold got to the state capital in time, and found some inspiration during her ferry ride in the process.
"Juneau has never looked so good and I am happier than ever to engage in the political battle....to help kill HB76,” Reinbold wrote. “A good sign: as we approached Juneau 2 pods of killer whales were circling…”