A flight was grounded in Indonesia after fights broke out over a two-tonne cargo of pungent durian.

Considered the "king of fruits" in many South-east Asian countries, the distinctive odour of durian is very divisive – food writer Richard Sterling once described it as "turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock".

Passengers on the Sriwijaya Air flight from Bengkulu province in Sumatra to Jakarta on November 5 complained to cabin crew after smelling the fruit and refused to board the flight, the ABC reported.

Posted by Amir Zidane on Monday, 5 November 2018

The airline admitted it was carrying more than two tonnes of the smelly fruit and said the smell would dissipate once the plane took off.

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A journalist from Indonesia's Antara news agency was also on board and reported that some passengers had arguments with staff that nearly ended in physical blows.

A decision was made to remove the durian from the cargo hold and the flight took off an hour later than scheduled.

Footage posted by a passenger on Facebook showed passengers watching as the fruit was unloaded.

Sriwijaya Air later released a statement justifying the 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," it said.

The pungent cargo was eventually unloaded from the aircraft, which took off an hour later than scheduled. Photo / Facebook
The pungent cargo was eventually unloaded from the aircraft, which took off an hour later than scheduled. Photo / Facebook

On Twitter, Indonesian aviation expert Gerry Soejatman ridiculed passenger concerns that the fruit posed a safety threat.

"Three 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?" he wrote.

Reportedly, passengers referred to a 2005 Mandala Airlines plane crash in Medan, where 149 people were killed – and a 2.7 tonne load of durian was initially thought to be the cause of the accident.

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Observers reported smelling the fruit in the crash, but an examination revealed the take-off weight and centre of gravity met requirements.