Chicago woman quarantined in airplane bathroom for 3 hours after testing positive for Covid-19 mid-flight

Dec 30, 2021, 3:22 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:25 pm
Travelers walk through the concourse at BaltimoreWashington Airport (BWI) in Baltimore, Maryland, U...
Travelers walk through the concourse at BaltimoreWashington Airport (BWI) in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. Air traffic for the Thanksgiving holiday is expected to approach pre-pandemic levels and travelers are likely considering their plans with some dread, given fresh memories about thousands of canceled flights. Photographer: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(CNN) — After a woman tested positive for Covid-19 midflight, the bathroom became her seat for the next few hours.

Marisa Fotieo was on an Icelandair flight from Chicago to Reykjavik, Iceland, on December 19, en route to her final destination of Switzerland with her brother and father.

Before the flight, Fotieo told CNN she took two PCR tests and about 5 rapid tests, all of which came back negative. But about an hour and a half into the flight, Fotieo started to feel a sore throat.

“The wheels started turning in my brain and I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to just go take a test.’ It was going to make me feel better,” Fotieo told CNN. “Immediately it came back positive.”

Fotieo, who is fully vaccinated and has received the booster, is an early childhood teacher in Chicago. She tests consistently since she works with an unvaccinated population.

When she got her results in the airplane bathroom, over the Atlantic Ocean, she said she started to panic.

“The first flight attendant I ran into was Rocky. I was hysterical, I was crying,” Fotieo said. “I was nervous for my family who I just had dinner with. I was nervous for the other people on the plane. I was nervous for myself.”

Ragnhildur Eiríksdóttir, or Rocky, the flight attendant Fotieo ran into, helped calm her down.

“Of course, it’s a stress factor when something like this comes up, but that’s part of our job,” Eiríksdóttir told CNN.

The flight attendant said she did what she could to try to rearrange seats so Fotieo could be seated in a spot alone, but the flight was full.

“When she came back and told me she couldn’t find enough seating, I opted to stay in the bathroom because I did not want to be around others on the flight,” Fotieo said.

A note was then put on the bathroom door saying it was out of service, and that was Fotieo’s new seat for the remainder of the flight.

CNN contacted Icelandair on Thursday for comment but has yet to hear back.

Policies vary among airlines as to how to handle a Covid-positive passenger. This comes just weeks after the US and other countries have made travel restrictions amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

She was inside the bathroom for about three hours. Eiríksdóttir continuously checked up on her and provided her with plenty of food and drinks.

“I was in shock that I was missing out on a family trip. I was in shock that I was going to be in Iceland alone. I was in shock that I had 20 families back home that just had me in their classroom,” Fotieo said.

While inside the bathroom, she said she bought internet access and made calls to let her school know. She also made a TikTok video, which has been viewed more than 4.3 million times, as of Thursday afternoon.

Fotieo said she did not feel crammed inside the bathroom and was just happy to not be in the main cabin with the rest of the passengers, one of which was her 70-year-old father.


Quarantined in Iceland


Once the plane touched down in Iceland, Fotieo and her family were the last ones off the flight.

Since her brother and father didn’t have any symptoms, they were free to take their connecting flight to Switzerland. Fotieo was given both a rapid and PCR test at the airport, both of which were positive, she said.

She was then shuttled to a Red Cross hotel where she began her 10 days of quarantine.

Doctors checked in on her three times a day, she was given meals and medication was readily available. “Honestly it has been an easy experience,” Fotieo said. “It’s partially due to Rocky and the breed of Icelandic people. Everyone here is so kind.”

Throughout her quarantine, she continued to document the experience on TikTokShe even received Christmas gifts and snacks from Eiríksdóttir, who she had stayed in contact with over social media.

“I knew she was going to be by herself in Iceland,” Eiríksdóttir said. “So even if it’s isolated, if you have someone there that can bring you something is nice. So, I just had to be that someone.”

Fotieo’s last day of quarantine was December 30 and her family planned to meet up with her then. They will be able to experience Iceland together to make up for the lost time, as their flight back to the States is on January 3.

And Fotieo has plans to meet up with Eiríksdóttir before she leaves the country. Eiríksdóttir also mentioned visiting Fotieo when she has flights over to Chicago.

“Coming out of this experience I have a new friend and I have a new outlook on how much flight attendants have to do,” Fotieo said. “Rocky and the flight crew had me, but they also had the other passengers to deal with on the flight.”

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Chicago woman quarantined in airplane bathroom for 3 hours after testing positive for Covid-19 mid-flight