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Alaska Airlines bans state lawmaker for her ‘continued refusal to comply’ with mask mandate

An Alaska state lawmaker who had called flight attendants “mask bullies” and clashed with airline employees on video over mask rules is now banned from Alaska Airlines for her “continued refusal to comply” with the mask policy, the airline said in a statement.

The restriction on Republican state Sen. Lora Reinbold will make her job more difficult: Alaska Airlines operates the only regular flights between her home north of Anchorage and the state capital in Juneau.

The ban meant Reinbold on Sunday had to drive more than 14 hours, including a portion of the trip through Canada, and take a ferry to reach Juneau on Monday, where a bill she opposes that would extend Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic is scheduled for action.

She wrote on Facebook Sunday night that she had gone to “new heights” to serve Alaska. “I am keenly aware of the monopoly in air transport to Juneau that needs reviewed! … Nothing could get in the way to be in the Capitol to fight to executive branch infringement on the legislature & defending your rights by trying to stop HB76 which is on the Senate floor tomorrow!” Reinbold wrote.

Alaska Airlines suspended Reinbold from flying after “her continued refusal to comply” with the mask policy, the company said in a statement Sunday.

The airline told CNN in a statement that they have notified Reinbold of their decision.

“This suspension is effective immediately pending further review,” Alaska Airlines spokeman Tim Thompson said in the 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.”

Reinbold said she was “reasonable with all Alaska Airlines employees” in a statement posted to her Facebook page, and felt the airline should have kept the issue confidential until further review.

“I inquired about mask exemption with uptight employees at the counter,” Reinbold said in the statement. “I learned about (Alaska Airlines) decision before I knew there was even an inquiry and before I had a chance to talk to or discuss this with anyone at Alaska Air,” she said. Reinbold said she didn’t receive a warning per their policy.

CNN has reached out to Reinbold for comment.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Monday that it is “looking into an incident” involving a state lawmaker who Alaska Airlines said refused to wear a mask on its flights. The FAA did not provide further details about its investigation but said it is “strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions.”

Last month, the FAA extended stricter enforcement against unruly passengers until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifts its order requiring face masks be worn on mass and commercial travel. At the time, the FAA said it had received more than 500 reports of misbehaving passengers since December.

Reinbold, a coronavirus vaccine skeptic, has frequently clashed with airline employees over mask requirements. In November, after complaining on Facebook that flight attendants had been “mask bullies,” according to The Anchorage Daily News, for asking her to wear a mask aboard a flight, she posted a cake with icing that said: “AK Airlines flight attendants, I’m sorry if I offended you.”

The latest incident happened last week. In videos posted by The Alaska Landmine, which the website said was filmed Thursday at the Juneau airport, a police officer responded to a clash between Reinbold and Alaska Airlines employees. One worker insists that she pull her mask up over her nose or she won’t be allowed to board the flight.

Senator has been critical of Covid-19 health policies

Reinbold has been critical of the Covid-19 public health policy and has used her position as the chair of the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on whether restrictions are constitutional.

“Transparency, accountability, and basic information looking at the impacts of the disaster declarations are being denied or delayed at this time by Dunleavy,” Reinbold wrote on her Facebook page on January 30 after the governor’s office declined to participate in an upcoming hearing on his disaster declarations.

In March, Dunleavy told Reinbold that she would get no further cooperation from his administration after she repeatedly questioned the constitutionality of Covid-19 restrictions.

“It is clear you have abdicated the tenets of your oath as a public servant,”Dunleavy wrote in a letter to Reinbold which his office shared with CNN.

“You have used your position as a member of the Alaska State Senate to publicly misrepresent the State of Alaska’s response to a global health crisis,” Dunleavy said in the letter to Reinbold. “You impugned the motivations of unelected and non-political employees working for the State of Alaska was baseless allegations that, on multiple occasions, were demonstrated to you to be false.”

Dunleavy also disputed Reinbold’s suggestion that the governor might declare martial law to implement restrictions, or that Alaskans would be forced to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

This story has been updated with a statement from the FAA.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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