Online retailer Rakuten Inc. is planning to enter the airline business in partnership with Malaysian discount carrier AirAsia, sources said Thursday.
Rakuten is looking to invest in a low-cost carrier set up by AirAsia in Japan and to cooperate in establishing a seat-reservation system and other areas. The two companies aim to start services next year after winning approval from the government.
AirAsia has already established its new group firm at Chubu Centrair International Airport near Nagoya. The new airline is expected to link Nagoya to other cities around Japan.
Details, including how much Rakuten will invest in the carrier, have yet to be decided, the sources said.
Rakuten is apparently seeking to build a new revenue stream in the airline business using the customer base backing its online shopping mall.
Its knowledge of online retail will likely reduce the cost of developing a system for selling tickets on the Internet, the sources said, and promote synergy with its travel business.