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Lion Air: How a secretive startup became a major player

Aggressive aircraft buyer tapped various financing sources amid turbulent rise

JAKARTA -- When Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the sea on Oct. 29, an international spotlight was cast on a budget carrier that has placed multibillion-dollar aircraft orders but remains little known outside of Southeast Asia and aviation industry circles.

In less than 20 years, Lion has become Indonesia's top aviation group, with its share of scheduled domestic flights exceeding 50% for the first time in 2017, according to the CAPA Centre for Aviation. It has also become the largest airline group in Southeast Asia by fleet size, with 302 aircraft in service as of Aug. 1 -- nearly 100 more than second-ranked AirAsia and its branded airlines, according to CAPA.

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