In the past five years, Planet 9 has transitioned from its founding as a charter provider that owned its aircraft to a charter-management company operating 31 large-cabin jets. The company celebrated its growth with an open-house event last Thursday at its Los Angeles base in the Castle & Cooke hangar at Van Nuys Airport.
When it launched in 2018, Planet Nine owned one Dassault Falcon 7X, which soon grew to three. Today, the company’s managed fleet ranges from Bombardier Globals to Gulfstream G550s and G650s and the Falcon 7X.
Planet 9 has bases in Los Angeles, Miami-Opa locka, London Stansted, and Teterboro, New Jersey, with a client services office in Houston and an operations team in Lisbon, Portugal. Maintenance is done in-house at the Planet 9 facilities in Los Angeles, Miami, and London.
With the increase of customers new to business aviation during the past two years, director of business development Matt Walter said, “We made a significant pivot to a new business model: traditional aircraft management.”
Most of the owned Falcon 7Xs were sold, and now 90 percent of the managed aircraft fleet is available for charter. Half don’t require owner approval for charter flights, which gives Planet 9 much more flexibility to handle the demand for charter flights. “We specialize in international, complex missions,” he said. Almost every flight carries a professional flight attendant.
With its own team of dedicated operations specialists, Planet 9 “reacts to changes quickly,” Walter said. Getting flight permits where they are required for international travel is much faster with the in-house team, he added.
Planet 9 uses MySky’s spend-management software to keep management clients up to date on their aircraft’s activities and expenses. “It’s a game-changer for us,” he said. “Owners love it; they can log in and see their expenses in real-time.”
While Planet 9 saw an influx of customers during the Covid pandemic, “The pendulum is starting to swing back a bit,” Walter said. “There’s been a decrease in utilization and charter rates are down.” Nevertheless, while some customers have returned to flying on airlines, he added, “many will stay [with business aviation]. We got a lot of people exposed to that luxury and they saw it was a valuable tool to manage their business and their life.”
After experiencing rapid expansion, Planet 9 is settling down to “controlled, steady growth,” said Walter. The company will continue adding aircraft, “but we don’t want to sacrifice service and the personal touch,” he said. “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”