Former Alaska legislator sues Alaska Airlines over mask-related ban

Laura Reinbold, sitting
Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, at an Alaska Legislature listening session at the Anchorage Baptist Temple on Nov. 22, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

A former Alaska legislator who was banned from flying on Alaska Airlines for refusing to comply with coronavirus masking policies is now suing the airline and more than a dozen of its employees.

Former state Sen. Lora Reinbold, a Republican from Eagle River, says in her federal civil complaint filed Friday that the airline violated her constitutional rights and caused her stress and humiliation.

Reinbold is representing herself in the lawsuit and asking for at least $6.5 million in damages from each of the 15 defendants, for a total of at least $97.5 million.

According to the lawsuit, Reinbold had a medical condition that she says made breathing through a mask difficult.

Reinbold says in the lawsuit that the airline failed to publish clear policies around exemptions to mask-wearing for people like herself, which she says had been ordered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection.

The lawsuit says Reinbold was getting ready to board a flight out of Juneau on April 22, 2021, when she asked an Alaska Airlines check-in agent about an exemption to the airlines’ mask requirements. According to the lawsuit, there was some discussion about whether Reinbold had gotten a negative test result in the days prior to flight and whether providing her medical records to an Alaska Airlines doctor would violate medical privacy laws.

Ultimately, Reinbold was told she needed to wear a mask, and she was allowed to board the flight.

A video of the interaction posted on social media shows Reinbold arguing with several Alaska Airlines employees.

According to the lawsuit, Reinbold’s reserved flight back to Juneau disappeared from her bookings the next day and she received a letter saying she had been banned from flying on Alaska Airlines, which had the only regularly scheduled flights to Juneau.

As a legislator, she was due back in Juneau a few days later, and after unsuccessfully negotiating with the airline, Reinbold drove hundreds of miles and boarded a ferry to get there.

Various attempts to reach Reinbold on Monday were unsuccessful.

Alaska Airlines declined to comment.

Reinbold served in the Alaska Legislature first as a member of the House from 2013 to 2019 and then in the Senate from 2019 to 2023, when she retired.

Alaska Public Media

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