For most people, flying is rarely a hassle-free convenience. You show up early to get through security, take off your shoes, empty your water bottle, remove your laptop from your carry-on and good luck if you didn’t cram your travel-size toiletries inside a tiny plastic bag.
We have been doing this for years, all in the name of safety. Arguing over whether to wear a piece of cloth over your face seems like hardly the hill to die on. Yet here we are. Just ask Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold.
The Republican lawmaker requested she be excused from any legislative sessions until next year because she can’t fly to Juneau after she was barred from Alaska Airlines for violating mask policies. In April, police responded to Juneau International Airport when Reinbold clashed with airline employees over mask rules. She was banned shortly after.
Since then, the legislator had been flying Delta, but that carrier’s seasonal service to the state capital has ended for the year, leaving her facing a 19-hour trip — via car, ferry and Canadian border crossing — from her suburban Anchorage district.
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines did the right thing in grounding Reinbold, which was a fitting reaction to her juvenile antics. Mask use continues to be an effective way to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and consistent enforcement and accountability are vital — especially as some travelers refuse to act responsibly.
Since the Transportation Security Administration announced in February that most passengers must wear masks on airplanes and in airports, the agency has received more than 3,000 reports of mask-related incidents. As of Monday, Alaska Airlines alone had placed 857 passengers on a ban list due to failure to comply with mask policy.
“Our mask policy is part of running a safe operation,” the airline said in a statement. “It’s also federal law.”
That law got a welcome boost last week after President Joe Biden announced the TSA would double fines for those who refuse to wear masks in airports and on commercial airplanes. The minimum penalty for first-time offenders was raised to $500, while a second infraction could cost anti-maskers as much as $3,000.
“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Biden said. “And, by the way, show some respect. The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong; it’s ugly.”
As for Reinbold — whose state’s seven-day average of COVID cases and hospitalizations reached new pandemic highs this week — she continues to shirk blame, showing about as much contrition as understanding of the Constitution.
“If the only airline that has flights during session to Juneau can unconstitutionally impede a legislator’s ability to get to the capital in a safe and timely fashion, it could undermine our representative republic,” she wrote on Facebook.
Alaska Airlines has told her to hit the road. But with her irresponsible intransigence interfering with her job, Alaska voters should consider saving her the trip next time.