Definitely in the top 5 questions I get asked is this: ‘Can I take a fountain pen on a plane?”‘
The answer is yes and this is how.
There are two key options but first I will explain what the problems can be.
As a plane ascends and descends the outside air pressure changes so the plane will pressurize the cabin. If you are carrying a half-filled cartridge or converter, then the air inside the plastic container will expand and contract.
The risk of this expansion is that the pressure change will be more than the plastic can handle and the cartridge or converter can crack and leak. The last thing you want is for your ink to leak all through your bags – particularly if you were expecting to use that pen soon after landing.
Modern fountain pens are much less likely to leak – but this advice is much more important for vintage or well-used pens.
Option 1 – Completely Fill the Pen with Ink
The key objective is to remove the air from the cartridge. The simplest option is to just install a new, full cartridge, or make sure your converter is absolutely full.
This eliminates the issue of internal air from expanding and over-pressuring the plastic container.
This also means that your pen is loaded and ready to be used on your trip.
Option 2 – Complete Empty the Pen of Ink
The second option is to travel with an empty converter. There is no risk of a leak here as there is no ink.
Treat this as an opportunity to clean out your fountain pen with clean water – this maintenance task is generally not done often enough anyway.
The caveat is to check your converter for leaks when you go to fill it up next.
To be completely honest – the likelihood of getting a leak is on the low side. But the consequences of ruining your bag with ink is just too high to ignore. Ink bottles are much less likely to leak – glass bottles are generally strong enough to sustain the pressure changes (just don’t open one mid-air!).
Some other key tips for flying with a fountain pen are:
- Plane carriers often have limits for transporting liquids – check with yours so that you don’t have to throw out that brilliant new ink.
- Always wrap up your pens and ink in a plastic sandwich bag to protect against leaks – minor or major.
- Store your pens safely – a nib can be easily damaged if a heavy-handed luggage mover throws your bag around. Wrapping them in a shirt or socks is a good way of protecting them and minimizing valuable luggage space.
- Layout your pen vertically with the nib skyward – this will eliminate any gravity-driven leaks through the nib.
Please let us know in the comments below if you have any other tips. If you are interested in getting started with a fountain pen then please have a browse through our store.