An Indonesian flight was temporarily grounded after passengers created a stink over the pungent odour of sacks of the world’s smelliest fruit in the cargo hold.
About two tonnes of durian, a controversial delicacy which is banned from many hotel rooms across Asia, had been loaded onto a Sriwijaya Air flight bound for Jakarta from Bengkulu, before passengers began to complain about the odour.
A journalist with the local Antara news agency reported that several passengers began arguing with flight attendants and almost came to physical blows, said Australia’s ABC news.
Videos circulating online showed verbal altercations on the tarmac between disgruntled travellers and ground staff and the fruit finally being taken off the plane after the flight had been delayed for one hour.
The durian, regarded by many people in Southeast Asia as the “king of fruits’, often provokes a deeply divided response. Some regard its strong smell as pleasantly sweet, while others are repulsed by an odour sometimes described as resembling raw sewage.
Sriwijaya's management released a statement justifying the airline's initial decision to carry the fruit. "It's not illegal to carry durian in a flight as long as it is wrapped properly in accordance with flight regulations — carried inside the hold," the airline said.
Some passengers reportedly feared that the fruit would present a safety hazard, but their claims were dismissed by Gerry Soejatman, an Indonesian aviation expert, who gave a scathing response on Twitter.
“3 tonnes of durian offloaded from a Sriwijaya Air jet after pax complained of the smell. The problem is, videos circulating where a passenger taking the video accused carrying durian as a safety hazard. Dude, tell me, what glue did you sniff today?”
3 tons of durian offloaded from a Sriwijaya Air jet after pax complained of the smell. The problem is, videos circulating where a passenger taking the video accused carrying durian as a safety hazard. Dude, tell me, what glue did you sniff today?— Gerry Soejatman (@GerryS) November 6, 2018
The fears may have stemmed from earlier rumours that 2.7 tonnes of durian caused a 2005 crash of a Mandala Airlines plane in Medan in 2005 that killed 149 people.
This theory was torpedoed by air crash investigators who discovered that the plane had been brought down by retracted flaps on take-off.