The Sriwijaya Air domestic flight was ready to take off from the airport tarmac on the island of Sumatra bound for Jakarta, but none of the passengers wanted to get on board, due to the two tons of durian fruit loaded into the cargo hold.
When travelers complain how the service on an airline really stinks, chances are they don't mean that literally. But on Monday, noses of passengers on board an Indonesian flight became judges, juries, and executioners during an experience that had stench written all over it.
To those unaware of durian fruit, the prickly-looking edible reportedly has a pungent taste, but only if you're able to endure its odor that resembles a blend of onions, paint thinner, and dirty laundry.
Two tons of the stuff permeated the cabin to the point where passengers recognizing the fruit odor wanted to deplane immediately. To some on board, the smell was so bad, passengers started arguing with the crew almost to the point of fisticuffs until authorities relented and the cargo was eventually unloaded.
The removal of the offensive-smelling fruit took roughly an hour, which likely inconvenienced Sriwijaya Air officials keen to keep things on schedule. Spokespersons for the airline defended their decision to load the fruit onto the flight, claiming it wasn't illegal to transport the cargo on a passenger flight as long as the contents were securely wrapped.
One procedure includes the use of coffee powder and pandan leaves — vegetation often used to sweeten desserts — to absorb the odor of the cargo. But one airline official admitted that in the wake of this incident, the company would have to look at other ways to secure durian fruit in such a way to prevent smelling up the cabin.
Elsewhere in southeast Asia, a number of countries have bans in place concerning the offending fruit. It's not allowed on subways in Singapore. In Japan, Hong Kong, and Thailand, durian fruit is banned in a number of hotels. Elsewhere in the region, visitors regularly see "no durian allowed" signs outside several premises.
Technically durian fruit is not considered a hazardous material. That said, the consideration is any comfort to those passengers on that Sriwijaya Air flight.