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Why Japanese Retailers Decided to Jump Into the Budget Airline Battle

AirAsia aircraft parked at boarding gates at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang, Malaysia
AirAsia aircraft parked at boarding gates at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang, MalaysiaPhotograph by Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg

Airlines around the world are trying to turn into retailers to boost profits. In Japan, retailers are instead getting into the airline business.

A year after it ended its pursuit of the Japanese budget market, Malaysian carrier AirAsia is planning a second attempt in the nation next year with the help of a trio of Japanese companies. Rakuten, Japan’s largest online retailer, announced on Tuesday that it will buy an 18 percent stake in the new airline, which is expected to begin flying in the summer of 2015.