Planet Nine, the Van Nuys, California-based private charter operator, celebrated its third anniversary on 22 June by taking the keys to its latest ultra long range business jet. The Global Express BD-700, a managed aircraft, is ready for charter on Planet Nine's Part 135 AOC, from the UK's Southampton airport.
With a second Gulfstream GIV-SP coming online later this month, the company will have added five managed, charter aircraft during the first half of 2021.
“It has been a very interesting year, full of operational challenges, but the global pandemic gave us the chance to shine and demonstrate that when time matters, business aviation can deliver,” says Planet Nine co-founder and director of business development Matt Walter. “Our people are our biggest asset. We retained all 75 of them during the disruptions. The majority have been with us from the outset, so turning three is quite a milestone. Everyone has worked incredibly hard since the pandemic hit in March 2020. We performed countless repatriation flights; flew medical equipment/PPE and, in a race against the clock, just before the US border closed in the first lockdown, we delivered a mother-to-be to her surrogate as the birth date was brought forward. That was an especially rewarding flight.”
Walter and co-founder and director of operations James Seagrim attribute the company's success to growth in its aircraft management business these past 24 months. “Owners have come to us when they haven't had such a good experience before or, because of the pandemic, they're flying less and want to put their aircraft up for charter,” says Seagrim.
Planet Nine, which marks its anniversary with an enhanced website and logo by UK based aviation brand agency Design Inc. has built its niche in the ultra-long-range market.
“We have an impressive list of regular clientele who know we can respond quickly when they want to make nine-hour plus flights,” Walter adds.
Planet Nine's Falcon 7X, Bombardier Global Express/Global 6000 and Gulfstream series aircraft are all capable of landing at smaller airports, eliminating the need for connecting flights. The floating aircraft model Planet Nine operates saves clients money on positioning. “In any given day we will have a jet available for charter on either side of the Atlantic,” Walter confirms.
Partnerships built along its journey have also benefited the business. Among them is the management and staff at its Van Nuys airport, California headquarters and FBO partner Castle and Cooke Aviation. Van Nuys is leading the way in the US with sustainable aviation fuel provision, and Planet Nine is increasingly offering it to environmentally-conscious clients. It also works with Flight Terrapass for carbon offset initiatives.
Planet Nine has seen its business return to within 10 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. US and Caribbean travel is especially strong. Bahamas and Mexico have been the biggest hotspots, as popular summer destinations in their own right, but also serving as convenient gateways for Europeans who, after spending 14 days there, can cross US borders.
“With France and Spain opening up to US travellers without requiring quarantine on arrival, we expect good demand from the US to Europe. Now we're hoping other countries will loosen their entry requirements for those who've been fully vaccinated,” says Walter.
This will benefit the film industry, a relatively new sector of clientele. “Film studios are travelling again to film new productions in Europe. There is a desire to fly actors and crew safely and securely on optimum itineraries.”
Planet Nine's latest Global Express features a generous cabin layout seating up to 13 passengers for daytime flying and five beds, sleeping six in night-time configuration. With a range of 5,830 nm, up to 12 hours' flying time, it can fly direct from Los Angeles to London or Tokyo. It has a generous galley for food and drink preparation, two bathrooms and offers inflight Gogo wireless internet.