A state lawmaker in Alaska has taken a nearly 40-hour trek by car and ferry to the state capitol after being banned from the route’s only air carrier over a dispute about mask rules.
State Senator Lora Reinbold completed her more than 500-mile journey from Anchorage to Juneau on Sunday, in time to vote against a key bill extending Alaska’s pandemic state of emergency.
Reinbold, a Republican from the Anchorage suburb of Eagle River, was banned indefinitely from Alaska Airlines after she was last week caught on camera arguing with airline employees, who appeared to warn her that the surgical mask she was wearing must cover her nose.
The state lawmaker in a statement insisted that she had been ‘respectful’ of the airline’s policy, and darkly insinuated that the airline ban was part of a plot to prevent her from voting against the disaster bill.
After the video of her in the airport emerged on social media, Alaska Airlines told local press that Reinbold had been banned from flights indefinitely — a ruling she says she was never informed of and plans to appeal.
‘I was reasonable with all Alaska Airlines employees,’ Reinbold said, noting that she has ‘MVP gold’ status with the carrier. ‘I inquired about mask exemption with uptight employees at the counter.’
‘The timing of complaint and a specific employee is of keen interest. The most divisive disaster bill hb76 is up Monday. I have been assured this be looked into,’ she added.
The video in question appears to have been taken in Juneau as Reinbold was returning home to her district, and she said that she was allowed on the flight and wore a mask on the plane, despite having an ‘exemption’.
‘I was respectful of Alaska Airlines policies. We had a pleasant safe flight with happy flight attendants and great talented pilots. I hope to be on an Alaska Airlines flight in the near future,’ she said.
On Sunday, Reinbold documented her triumphant return to Juneau on Facebook, posting a picture of herself and her husband Eric on the deck of a ferry as it approached the state capital.
‘Alaska I went to new heights to serve you & have a new appreciation for the marine ferry system. I am keenly aware of the monopoly in air transport to Juneau that needs reviewed!’ she wrote.
Plane vs Boat: Anchorage to Juneau
Alaska Marine Highway System Ferry
Alaska Airlines Flight
‘Please thank my husband for giving up his birthday to make a long unexpected trip to Juneau by road/ferry system!’ she added.
The exact route that Reinbold took was not clear, but ferries departing from Whittier, about an hour’s drive from Anchorage, take about 36 hours to reach Juneau, according to ferry timetables.
The price for a single adult ticket along the route is $266 dollars, and the ferry runs three times a month at this time of year.
The journey takes place aboard the MV Kennicott, which is designed to carry 499 passengers and approximately 67 to 78 vehicles.
The 382-foot vessel 48 cabins for four and 58 cabins with two berths.
Amenities include observation lounges, a covered heated solarium, a cafeteria-style restaurant, a movie lounge, showers, coin-operated lockers, writing and quiet lounges, and a child’s play area.
Photos posted by Reinbold show a ferry that appears to be smaller than the Kennicott, so it is unclear whether she drove part of the way and caught a local ferry.
Reinbold’s staff did not immediately respond to an inquiry from DailyMail.com about her travel arrangements on Monday evening.
Alaska Airlines, the only carrier that runs the route, has flights between Juneau and Anchorage that take about an hour and a half. The airline runs three flights a day and tickets run about $400.
‘Nothing could get in the way to be in the Capitol to fight [the] executive branch infringement on the legislature & defending your rights by trying to stop HB76 which is on the Senate floor tomorrow!’ Reinbold added, referring to the disaster bill.
On Monday, Reinbold appeared on the Senate floor of the state legislature, wearing an unusual mask made of clear plastic that covered her nose and mouth.
HB76, which extends the emergency powers of Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy, passed the evenly divided state House, but faces opposition in the Senate, where Republicans wield a 13-7 majority.
The video of the encounter which apparently led to Reinbold’s airline ban seems to show airline staff telling Reinbold her mask must cover her nose and mouth. In a second video, Reinbold appears to be filming the staff.
In both videos, Reinbold is wearing a surgical-style face mask, and the exact nature of the dispute is unclear from the footage. Reinbold says she was seeking an exemption to the airline’s mask rules.
‘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 said in response to the video.
Reinbold has been a vocal opponent to Covid-19 mitigation measures and has repeatedly objected to Alaska Airlines’ mask policy, which was enacted before the federal government’s mandate this year.
Last year, she referred to Alaska Airlines staff as ‘mask bullies’ after being asked by flight attendants to wear a mask aboard a flight, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
After the incident, she reportedly sent a cake to some flight attendants bearing the inscription: ‘I’m sorry if I offended you.’
It is not the first time Reinbold has stirred controversy over her stance on pandemic mitigation measures.
In March, fellow Republican lawmakers accused her of breaking COVID protocols and slammed her unique clear plastic mask, which they said runs afoul of masking guidelines.
The Senate held a 18-1 vote allowing leadership to enforce COVID-19 mitigation policies on members ‘until they are fully compliant,’. It marked the first apparent public signs of pushback against Reinbold’s strange face shield by leadership.
Senate Rules Chair Gary Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, said Reinbold also is not following testing protocols or submitting to temperature checks and questions that are standard for admittance to the building.
‘Inordinate’ amounts of time have been spent ‘trying to reason’ with her or provide masks that meet U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, he said.
Senators on the floor do not use each other’s names but after recent dustups, including a back-and-forth between Reinbold and Senate President Peter Micciche before Wednesday’s floor session, it was clear who Stevens was speaking about. Reinbold was not present for the vote.
Micciche later told reporters things came to a head following COVID-19 cases associated with the Capitol, including a person he says is close to him and hospitalized with the illness.
He said the Legislature needs to ensure it can get its work done, and staff have raised safety concerns. While many people do not like the rules, ‘we recognize the responsibility to keep each other and our employees safe,’ he said.
‘And we have a zero tolerance at this point for anyone unwilling to observe those rules,’ said Micciche, a Soldotna Republican.
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