No announcement yet.

Three tips for air travel with severe dry eye

This topic is closed.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Three tips for air travel with severe dry eye

    My wife and I have been travelling to and from North America (from Australia) quite a bit in the last few years. Additionally we have taken more than 15 internal flights in the US or Canada. Kathy has severe dry ye and until this last year even a short fight was proving to be very taxing and painful for her eyes. But, with all of this flying, we have slowly worked out a few tips that have made flying, even long trips, much more bearable for her.

    ONE: Wearing Tranquileyes goggles with moistened Swisspers (cotton eye makeup pads) under them. Kathy wears these one the plane and also in airport if we are sitting for any length of time. Previously Kathy had tried wearing her Wiley-X gasketted sunglasses, but these do not provide as good a seal as the Tranquileyes. Also the Tranquileyes mean Kathy keeps her eyes shut which helps a lot. To keep from going insane on the longer flights, unless she is sleeping, Kathy listens to a talking book on her smartphone. (She has good noise cancelling headphones.)
    Kathy likes an aisle seat and I sit next to her, which mean she can put drops in without worrying about her neighbour. If she were flying on her own, she would take a window seat as then she would not have to worry about people climbing over her and would still have some elbow room for putting drops in.

    TWO: Take a wheelchair through the airports. This has proven to be a real boon for her air travel. Once Kathy started wearing the goggles on the plane we found that it was the time in the airport, not the time on the plane, that was causing the eye pain. Airports are very dry, usually air conditioned or heated with a fair bit of air movement. Not good for dry eyes at all.
    Earlier this year we had flown from Melbourne to LA and had to wait over an hour in an immigration queue – we had to stand and Kathy had to have her eyes open. Even with Wiley-X’s on and putting in a lot of drops her eyes deteriorated – they had been OK when she had disembarked the plane and this was a 14 hour flight. Then we saw someone being pushed in a wheelchair wearing dark glasses.

    So, on our next trip we reserved a wheelchair for Kathy when we bought the tickets. It seems there are 3 categories of wheelchair use you can pick from – we choose the one where the passenger “cannot walk long distances”. This means you can get on and off the plane on your own, but they meet you at the gate with a wheelchair and push you around. So Kathy could sit in the wheelchair with her Tranquileyes on, and we suddenly went to the front of the immigration queues! We went to the front of the airport security queues too – a big advantage in US airports. We were first to board the planes too. And, on many US domestic flights, we were upgraded from economy to premium economy seats if they had them free.

    At first Kathy felt a little guilty about all this as she didn’t feel she “deserved” this treatment – or to put it another way, perhaps she did not feel she was so infirmed as to deserve it. But, she really is. Dry eyes mean airports were excruciating for her – the wheelchair stopped most of this pain, so she needed it and so deserved it. We also worried about what other people may think, but soon found that a) other people in airports don’t really think about you anyway, and b) sitting in a wheelchair with goggles or dark glasses on makes you look like you need a wheelchair. So everyone assumes you really do need one (which she does) and everyone treats you that way – that is they treat you with great kindness.

    The airports provide someone to push the wheelchairs and won’t let anyone else (i.e. me) push them. In the US you need to have some change to tip the pusher, but such tipping is not the practice in Australia. If these people ask about Kathy’s illness, as many do, we think it a good opportunity to let them know about dry eye.

    THREE: This is only for long distance flights, but it is a good one. A travel agent first suggested it to us and since we have been using it, it has worked on 7 out of 8 flights across the Pacific, even though some of these were 99 % full. The only failure was a flight that was absolutely 100% full.

    This is a method to get 3 seats for the two of us, and, as such, will only work if you are travelling as a couple. When you make your booking go onto the airline website and select your seats. You can try this anywhere on the plane but we were advised (and have always followed this advice) to select a row very close to the back and in the central lot of seats. It could work for the 3 seats next to a window but it carries a bigger risk that way. Do not choose the very back row as often those seats do not incline as much.

    Kathy selects an aisle seat and then I will select a seat, not next to her, but one over from that. This means there will be a seat vacant between Kathy and me. If there are 4 seats in a row (e.g. on an A380 or a 747) then the seats will look like this – KxNx, where x is vacant. If there are only 3 seats (e.g. on a 777) the seats will be like this – KxN.

    With this configuration no-one would want to select the seat between us. Who would choose to seat between people on a long flight unless no other choice were available? And this has proven to be the case. So we have 3 seats between two of us giving us much more room to spread out and Kathy can usually lie down for a fair bit of the time and get some better sleep than if she were sitting up. Much better for her eyes.

    On the one time the flight was full and there was someone sitting between us when we got on the plane, I just apologised and asked the person if they would mind moving over a seat as “I had stuffed up the seat selection when I made the booking”. This meant at least Kathy and I were sitting together and the person certainly did not mind as they effectively had the same sort of seat.

    I know this trick is a bit cheeky, but we do not feel guilty about it. Dry eyes have meant air travel is a lot worse for us than for most other travellers, so we have to take as much advantage from the system as we can for some small compensation (and comfort).

    Sorry for the length of this, but I hope it may help some people.


  • #2
    This is excellent thank u for tips . especially like the idea of wheelchairs as i often try to walk with eyes shut which results in bumps . in a wheelchair u can just relax and rest eyes and having an airport person pushing chair would save work of reading signs and minimise stress.
    Will keep this handy ! I agree lets take advantage as airports are so expensive anyway and eye pain is not fun.


    • #3
      luckily when i am flying i dont have to transfer .its a direct flight.. so i will be dropped off at AA terminal.. get to my gate and check in.. my eyes should be able to handle this. and then the airport i am flying to is teeny tiny.. you walk off the plane to the outdoors-and then u walk into the airport-that is how small so not much walking there. whooo hooo!