October 20, 2021

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Alaskan lawmaker says airline ban for not masking has stopped her getting to capital for votes

Alaska state Senator Lori Reinbold was banned from Alaska Airlines earlier this year  (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Alaska state Senator Lori Reinbold was banned from Alaska Airlines earlier this year (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A Republican lawmaker in Alaska who was banned from the only airline offering year-round service to the state capital after refusing to comply with federal law and wear a Covid mask is now blaming that company for preventing state business.

State Senator Lori Reinbold complained to Anchorage Daily News and on Facebook about the airline ban as she explained her request for the state legislature to excuse her from votes and move to a remote system.

Ms Reinbold is a state senator representing an area of Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city. She was banned from Alaska Airlines in April which is the only airline which offers year-round flights to the state capital, Juneau.

Delta Airlines is the other airline in operation but only for part of the year.

“I believe what Alaska Airlines has done by my political ban, restricting my movement from the state capital as a senator, is unconstitutional,” she told the Anchorage Daily News.

On Facebook, she continued: “I asked to be excused because [Delta Airlines’s] last flight out is Sept 11. To be excused does NOT mean you will not be here, it means the legislative process cannot be inhibited if you are not there.”

“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.”

The Independent has reached out to Alaska Airlines for comment regarding Senator Reinbold’s latest claims.

The airline confirmed that it would refuse service to the senator earlier this year after repeated violations of mask-wearing policies which are required by federal law. US law also requires passengers to obey flight attendants and other crew at all times when onboard.

“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,” Alaska Airlines spokesman Tim Thompson said in April.

A spokesperson confirmed to The Independent on Sunday that the ban was upheld.

In April, Senator Reinbold took an alternative route to Juneau from Anchorage following her ban. She drove roughly 700 miles to a ferry crossing which she then took to the capital.

Alaska is the US’s largest state by land mass, and travel by land can be time-consuming and difficult especially during winter months.

Republican lawmakers across the country have continued to spread disinformation related to masks, Covid 19, and vaccines while encouraging disobedience of public health guidelines meant to thwart the virus’s spread.

The US death toll from Covid is just above 660,000, more than any other country. The more contagious Delta variant has seen a resurgence of the disease and increasing rates of hospitalisations in communities where unvaccinated numbers are high.

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