An Indonesian commercial airplane loaded with a 2-ton shipment of durian was delayed when passengers complained of the smell and successfully lobbied the airline to remove the notoriously stinky fruit prior to takeoff.
A video clip made by reggae musician Amir Zidane went viral on Tuesday with footage of passengers exiting Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ091 at the Fatmawati Soekarno Airport in the town of Bengkulu on Sumatra Island on Monday morning.
Zidane, who posted the video on his Facebook account, had complained about the unpleasant smell in the cabin and later led other passengers in refusing to fly unless the durian fruit were unloaded from the plane.
Some passengers also reportedly expressed concern that the plane might have been overloaded due to the durian shipment.
After some debate between passengers and the airline's ground staff and cabin crew, the airline relented, delaying the 10:50 a.m. flight from Bengkulu to Jakarta for an hour to remove the durian fruit from the cargo hold.
In arguing for the fruit's removal, some passengers referred to the crash of a Mandala Airlines plane in the North Sumatra provincial capital of Medan in 2005 that killed 149 people. The plane, which failed to take off, was later revealed to have been carrying 2.7 tons of durian.
The National Transportation Safety Committee, however, said in its final report that an improper takeoff configuration with retracted flaps and slats caused the airplane's failure. Technicians had not identified the problem due to inadequate execution of checklist procedure, it said.
In a press statement after the Monday incident, Sriwijaya spokeswoman Retri Maya said that carrying durian fruit did not violate any flight regulations.
"It's normal for every airline to carry durian during a flight as long as it is packaged properly and put inside the cargo hold in accordance with the standards and procedures," Retri said.
She added that the total load in the cargo hold including the durian shipment had been 3 tons, which comes in well below the plane's maximum carrying capacity.
Responding to the incident, Pramintohadi Sukarno, acting director general for air transportation, said that "carrying durian, terasi (fermented shrimp paste), dried, salted fish and other stinky goods in a plane is not forbidden because they are not categorized as dangerous goods."
Durian, according to Pramintohadi, is one of Bengkulu's commodities and has been transported out for sale since 2005.
"However, its process of packaging must be proper," he said.