Alaskan legislator says airline ban preventing her from getting to capital for votes

An Alaskan state senator, who has been banned from Alaska Airlines for failing to comply with masking policies, says that she asked to be excused from legislative business because the ban prevents her from being able to be present for votes.

Earlier this year, the airline announced that state Sen. Lora Reinbold (R), of Eagle River, Alaska, would not be allowed to fly on the airline after she refused to comply with masking guidelines multiple times. Federal COVID-19 protocols require people on certain modes of transportation, including on planes, to wear a masks. 

"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," the airline said in a statement in April.

ADVERTISEMENT

"This suspension is effective immediately pending further review. 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," the airline continued. 

Reinbold claimed that she had been “reasonable” with the employees of the airline and said she had “inquired about mask exemption with uptight employees at the counter.” She added that she had been respectful toward the airline’s policies.

However, Reinbold put in a request on Thursday asking to be excused from legislative business because, due to the airline’s ban, she would not be able to travel to the capital, Anchorage Daily News reported.

Only one other airline — Delta Air Lines — flies into Juneau. However, its service ends in September, as it is seasonal. 

As a result, she asked to be excused between Sept. 11 and Jan. 15.

“People of Alaska, I was in Juneau for a very long extended session Jan-May, & part of June. I am in Juneau now as the Third (so far unproductive) unspecial session comes to a close Tuesday. I asked to be excused because Delta last flight out is Sept 11,” Reinbold wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“Sen Steadman & Von Imhoff have asked for longer excusals. To be excused does NOT mean you will not be here, it means the legislative process cannot be inhibited if you are not there,” she continued.

People can access Juneau only by water or air, according to The Associated Press. The wire service noted that the state Senate had approved her request.

“Maybe its time to proceed on moving the legislature to the road system. If the only airline, that has flights during session to Juneau, can unconstitutionally impede a legislators ability to get to the Capital in a safe and timely fashion, it could undermine our representative republic,” she said in her Facebook post.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines told The Hill in a statement that Reinbold had been made aware of the ban on April 24. The spokesperson noted that a review had happened since then and the decision was upheld. He also referred The Hill back to the airline's previous April statement.

The Hill has reached out to Reinbold for comment.

Updated 3:57 p.m.