Alaska Legislature

Banned from Alaska Airlines, state Sen. Lora Reinbold asks to be excused from votes at Capitol

JUNEAU — Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold has asked to be excused from legislative business in the state Capitol, telling fellow lawmakers that her ban from Alaska Airlines makes it impossible to fly into Juneau.

In a procedural request Thursday morning, she asked to be excused from votes in the Capitol starting Sept. 11. The excusal ends Jan. 15, three days before the start of the next regular session.

Explaining the request, Reinbold said “there’s no airline that flies into Juneau other than Alaska Airlines that I’m aware of.”

Reinbold was banned from Alaska Airlines earlier this year for failing to follow the company’s COVID-19 rules on mask wearing.

Delta Airlines is the only other large carrier that flies into Juneau, and Reinbold is currently in the capital after flying from Anchorage to Seattle and on to Juneau via that airline. Delta’s service to Juneau is seasonal and ends in September.

“I believe what Alaska Airlines has done by my political ban, restricting my movement from the state capital as a senator, is unconstitutional,” she said by text message on Thursday afternoon when asked whether she is unable to work in the Capitol because of the airline’s actions.

Earlier this year, Reinbold drove through Canada, then took an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry to Juneau. No hard-surface roads connect Juneau to the North American road network.

“Driving through Canada is a long haul and complicated and restrictive process,” she said Thursday.

Ferries also cross the Gulf of Alaska between Whittier and Juneau twice per month.

Federal rules require mask-wearing aboard ferries and other public transportation. Last month, the Transportation Security Administration extended the mask requirement through Jan. 18.

Reinbold called those rules illegitimate and illegal.

Travelers in other states have sued to challenge the rules, but no final verdicts have been reached.

Alaska is experiencing a major surge in COVID-19 cases, and the number of ill Alaskans has strained hospital capacity. Masking and vaccinations are the best proven ways to both avoid illness and reduce the severity of symptoms.

[Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Reinbold did not tell fellow lawmakers that she couldn’t reach Juneau; she said that her ban from Alaska Airlines makes it impossible to fly into Juneau.]

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