People who love writing with their fountain pen probably want to bring it with them all the time (let’s be frank–we don’t want to be without them. Who wants to use normal pens? Ew).
So, are fountain pens allowed on planes?
As long as you follow a few easy rules, you can absolutely bring your fountain pen along for air travel. However, inks are considered liquids, so there are a few precautions you should take to avoid confrontations with TSA, etc, and also prevent spills!
- Store in plastic baggies (similar to other liquids)
- Don’t store pens in your luggage
- Store pens upright (nibs up) whenever possible
- There’s more!
Fountain pens can be problematic because they use an ink cartridge that is pressurized. If the cartridge isn’t fitted properly or fails while being used on an aircraft, it can create too much pressure and burst open inside the pen causing it to leak ink everywhere.
But have no fear!
Below we’re going through some easy tips for fountain pen travel 😉
First, what happens to fountain pens during air travel?
Among other things, a fountain pen is filled with 2 important things:
- liquid (ink)
During the takeoff and landing of an airplane, cabins pressurize, and the air inside your pen wants to expand.
Obviously, this could push your ink out, and if you haven’t taken any precautions, make a mess.
Can you use a fountain pen on an airplane?
Actually, yes! I’m generally able to use a fountain pen on flights with no problem, but there’s a catch.
During the takeoff and landing phases of air travel, you won’t want to use your fountain pen! This is when the air pressure changes in the cabin, and you’re likely to make a mess.
As soon as you’re a cruising altitude (i.e. when the seatbelts signs turn off), you can feel free to use your pen. I’ve never had any issues with writing at this point in the flight.
But also–better safe than sorry. If it’s a short flight, just keep the pen stowed away.
How to pack a fountain pen for air travel
Here’s a few tips for not making a mess (or getting your pen confiscated by your stewardess).
1 – Store in a plastic bag
Fountain pen ink is considered a liquid, and must be treated as a liquid for air travel.
This means that it’s wise to store your pens in a clear, plastic, zip-top bag. (But you don’t have to do this–see below).
If you’re bringing multiple pens–I’d recommend storing most of them in the bag, and keeping one out to use during the flight.
2 – Don’t store in checked luggage
Your luggage is absolutely going to bounce around, and with it, your fountain pen.
Your stored luggage is the WORST place to keep a fountain pen–so don’t do it! That ink is absolutely going to explode all over the place, and you’ll be left with a big mess (and possibly a ruined pen).
3 – Keep your pens on your person (easiest way)
Honestly, the best way to travel with fountain pens on an airplane is to keep them with you, in your seat. Or in your carry-on bag below your seat, etc.
For one thing, this is where you have the most control over how they’re stored! You can keep an eye on them, and make sure they’re not getting jostled around too much.
Plus, if the ink DOES happen to leak, you’ll be there to clean it up immediately, rather than finding out about the mess hours later when you open your luggage.
4 – Store pens upright (nibs up! 😎)
I’ve read from multiple people that storing your pens upright allows the pressurized air in the pen to escape easier!
If you think about it, the ink will be below the air, allowing the air to escape first.
This is the best way to store your pens if you’re keeping them in a bag. Nibs up!
But it’s also worth noting that some ink CAN still escape–so further precaution is needed.
5 – Wrap nibs in paper towels or napkins
To be frank, you’re probably going to experience at least A LITTLE bit of ink leakage, no matter how well you think you’ve sealed your pen.
So it’s always a good idea to wrap the nibs of your fountain pens in paper towels or napkins. You can even bring a few small rubber bands to help keep them in place.
This way, if any ink does happen to escape, it’ll be soaked up by the paper.
6 – Consider using a fountain pen case!
If you’re a complete fountain pen nerd (you’re on this site, aren’t you?), you’ve probably seen pen cases before.
Pen cases come in all shapes and sizes, but we recommend getting a multi-pen case (even if you only have one pen for now! You can always expand your collection later on)!
A case can be handy for making sure your nibs are facing up, and for keeping your pens organized.
It’s also a great way to make sure your pens don’t get jostled around too much in your backpack, etc.
7 – Fill your pens with ink before you leave!
Remember what we said about air expanding?
The less air in your pen, the better! So try to refill your pen with ink before you leave for your flight. This will help reduce the amount of ink that might leak out during the flight (ironically).
8 – If your pen has a shutoff valve, use it!
Some fountain pens are a bit more airplane-friendly than others.
- Opus 88
- TWSBI Vaccum pens (700, etc)
- Pilot 823
These pens all contain some sort of ink shutoff feature. You should refer to the manufacturer’s website, documentation, etc, but just be aware that these pens are a bit more “leak-proof” than others!
9 – Mind the takeoff and landing parts of your air travel
I know we’ve already mentioned this, but the takeoff and landing phases of your flight are when you’re most likely to experience issues with your fountain pen.
The cabin pressure changes can push the air in your pen out, and with it, ink!
So be extra careful with your pens during these times, and make sure they’re stored upright. Once you’re airborne, you can probably whip out your pen and write with it 😉
10 – Remove the ink from your pen
Here’s another “duh” one…
You can also just remove the ink from your pen before you fly!
Remove the ink, give it a good clean, and simply travel with more ink? (bottled ink is less likely to escape due to the cap–and cartridges are less likely to spill as well. Just keep them in plastic bags just in case).
Bottom line: Are fountain pens allowed on planes?
Yes, but you should take the following precautions:
- Keep them with you in your seat.
- Store them upright, with the nibs pointing up
- Wrap the nibs in paper towels or napkins.
- Fill your pens with ink before you leave (to reduce the air in the pen that expands during takeoff and landing).
Other than that, fountain pens make good travel buddies!
Pen air travel F.A.Q.s
Can you take a pen in hand luggage?
Yes, you can safely bring pens in your luggage. However, some types of pens (fountain pens, specifically), require a few extra precautions to prevent ink from spilling. But for ballpoint or gel pens, you should be fine.
Can you carry ink pens on a plane?
Yes, you can carry ink pens on a plane. Most common pen types won’t experience any airport security issues or leaking issues, but fountain pens need to be handled with a bit more care (due to the ink and the way they operate).