Alaska state senator banned by airline for violating mask policy

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An Alaska lawmaker has been banned by Alaska Airlines for refusing to adhere to its mask policy, company officials said.

State Sen. Lora Reinbold, a Republican from Eagle River, was banned by the airline for her “continued refusal” to obey its current mask policy for travelers, an Alaska Airlines spokesman told the Anchorage Daily News Saturday.

“This suspension is effective immediately, pending further review,” spokesman Tim Thompson said in a statement. “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.”

Video posted to Twitter Thursday reportedly showed a masked Reinbold speaking to staffers at Juneau International Airport, where she appeared to film employees as they discussed the matter.

“She was refusing to wear the mask and the police got involved,” the tweet read.

An officer at the airport responded to the scene, but “no enforcement action” was taken, a Juneau police department spokesman told the Daily News.

The length of Reinbold’s ban will be determined following a review, Thompson said, adding that the airline had barred 506 passengers regarding the policy as of Friday.

Reinbold told the newspaper Saturday she had not been notified of the ban, but insisted she was “reasonable” with all airline employees during the exchange.

“I inquired about mask exemption with uptight employees at the counter,” Reinbold said in a statement early Sunday. “I have been assured this will be looked into. I was respectful of Alaska Airlines policies. We had a pleasant, safe flight with happy flight attendants and great, talented pilots. I hope to be on an Alaska Airlines flight in the near future.”

Video of the incident will only be released via court order, an airport manager told the Daily News.

The ban, meanwhile, led to a “long unexpected trip” back to Juneau from Eagle River in southcentral Alaska for Reinbold — who shared photos on Facebook of herself and her husband aboard a ferry.

“Alaska I went to new heights to serve you & have a new appreciation for the marine ferry system,” Reinbold wrote late Sunday as she made her way home to rejoin the Alaska Senate for its return to the legislative session Monday. “I am keenly aware of the monopoly in air transport to Juneau that needs [to be] reviewed!”

Reinbold also shared video of pods of killer whales as her ferry arrived in the state’s capital, saying Juneau has “never looked so good.”

The lawmaker had repeatedly criticized the airline’s mask policy, which was enacted last year prior to the federal government’s requirement, the Daily News reported.

Reinbold had reportedly referred to airline staffers as “mask bullies” and Alaska Airlines as being “part of mask tyranny” after she was asked to wear a face-covering during a flight last year.

Reinbold, who was elected in 2018, later sent a cake to some Alaska Airlines flight attendants that read, “I’m sorry if I offended you,” according to the Daily News.

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