U.S. State Senator Now Has 20-Hour Commute After Refusing to Mask Up on Planes

U.S. State Senator Now Has 20-Hour Commute After Refusing to Mask Up on Planes
Photo: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

An Alaska state senator filmed arguing with Alaska Airlines staff and police at Juneau International Airport over her refusal to wear a mask before boarding a flight is finding out the hard way that actions have consequences.

The Alaska Daily News reported that while Senator Lora Reinbold, who is, of course, a Republican, was able to board the plane at the centre of the argument last week, she wasn’t able to take a flight back this weekend. That’s because Alaska Airlines banned her.

“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,” Tim Thompson, a spokesperson for the airline, told the Daily News. “This suspension is effective immediately, pending further review.”

According to the Washington Post, Alaska Airlines is the only operator of flights from Anchorage, where her residence and constituents in the suburb of Eagle River are located, and Juneau, the state capital where she works. That means instead of getting to hop on a flight of roughly an hour and forty minutes to Juneau this weekend for the resumption of legislative work on Monday, Reinbold instead had to drive for over 14 hours on a winding route that went through part of Canada to reach one of the ferry ports located in the cities of Skagway or Haines. The additional ferry ride from Skagway to Juneau takes “less than six hours,” according to the Juneau tourism website (Haines is slightly closer).

That’s not exactly a convenient trip, adding up to around 20 hours, and Reinhold will likely have to take it or another convoluted route again and again in the future. A spokesperson for the airline told the Daily News that the length of her ban has yet to be determined and will require a review.

Reinbold posted to Facebook complaining that “until there is a fair determination” Alaska Airlines should have kept the situation confidential. She further claimed that “corporate covid policies” are potentially unconstitutional: “Alaska Airlines sent information, including my name, to the media without my knowledge nor permission. I do believe constitutional rights are at risk under corporate covid policies.” According to Reinbold, the situation was the fault of “uptight employees at the counter.”

In other words, yet another Republican official claiming personal inconvenience arising as a consequence of their own actions is a violation of their civil rights. Technically, Reinbold was demanding the airline allow her to violate federal law. The Transportation Security Administration began enforcing an executive order in late January mandating “individuals to wear a mask at TSA airport screening checkpoints and throughout the commercial and public transportation systems.”

Reinbold’s Facebook page is littered with instances in which the state senator baselessly questioned the efficacy or safety of coronavirus vaccines, and in one instance, she urged constituents to develop “natural immunity” until the vaccines are formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration. So there’s ample justification for anyone looking to not get the virus to avoid being in her proximity. According to the New York Times, this isn’t even the first time she’s been banned from something — after Reinbold was reprimanded by Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy in February for spreading coronavirus misinformation and refusing to respect safety protocols, she was banned from much of the state capitol:

In February, Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, a Republican, sent a letter to Ms. Reinbold asking her to stop sharing misinformation about the pandemic.

“It is clear you have abdicated the tenets of your oath as a public servant,” Mr. Dunleavy wrote. “You impugned the motivations of unelected and nonpolitical employees working for the State of Alaska with baseless allegations that, on multiple occasions, were demonstrated to you to be false.”

In March, Ms. Reinbold said on Facebook that she was asked to leave a committee hearing because she was not wearing an approved face shield. After that, Ms. Reinbold was banned from the State Capitol until she complied with health and safety protocols.

Reinbold is in bad company: hundreds of other arseholes who don’t care about the hundreds of thousands of pandemic dead across the country have been banned from airlines (and in some cases thrown off planes) for violating mask requirements. According to the Daily News, Alaska Airline’s club of prohibited jerks was 506 as of April 23.