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Alaska senator drives, takes ferry after airline suspension

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold drove through part of Canada and took a ferry to reach Alaska’s capital city after Alaska Airlines said the Eagle River Republican was not permitted to fly on the carrier for what it called her "continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy."

Reinbold on Monday described as "adventuresome” the trip — during which she said she saw caribou and whales — and said it went smoothly. She said she had a "new appreciation" for the state ferry system.

"As we pulled into Juneau, Juneau never looked so good to me, I will tell you that much, just because I wanted to be here for my work," she told reporters.

Juneau is accessible only by air or water. Alaska Airlines is the largest commercial air carrier currently flying between Juneau and Anchorage. Eagle River is an Anchorage suburb.

Alaska Airlines, in a statement, said federal law "requires all guests to wear a mask over their nose and mouth at all times during travel, including throughout the flight, during boarding and deplaning, and while travelling through an airport."

Tim Thompson, an Alaska Airlines spokesperson, said the suspension took effect Friday. It was unclear how long it might last.

Thompson said an initial suspension is considered temporary until a safety and security team further reviews evidence in the matter. "It's another level of scrutiny, and another indication of how seriously we take prohibiting someone from flying with us. A temporary suspension can then become a permanent one for the duration of the mask enforcement policy," Thompson said in an email Monday.

Reinbold said there were "some uptight employees in regards to my mask inquiry, trying to figure out a mask exemption, what the policy was." She said she didn’t want to get into too many details, especially while the matter is under review.

Reinbold praised the flight attendants as "absolutely lovely" and said the airline has skilled pilots. She said she is a longtime Alaska Airlines customer.

"I hope we can put this issue behind us, and I hope to be on an Alaska Airlines flight again soon," she said.

Reinbold has been critical of masking rules, including at the state capitol.

Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press