• Air India Express flight IX-411 was forced to divert back to Cochin International Airport because passengers reported a strong burning smell inside the cabin.
  • The aircraft in question was quickly back in action the following morning, operating a flight to Muscat International Airport.
  • This incident is not uncommon, as other airlines have also experienced similar occurrences due to the transport of fresh produce in the cargo hold.

Air India Express, flight IX-411, on the night of Wednesday, August 2nd, bound for Sharjah International Airport (SHJ), was forced to divert back to Cochin International Airport (COK) shortly after taking off. This was primarily due to passengers complaining of a heavy burning and pungent smell detected within the aircraft cabin.

The flight

Flight IX-411 is a scheduled operation by Air India Express, serving the COK-SHJ route, using the Boeing 737 aircraft type. It has a scheduled departure time of 22:15 from COK, and after an estimated flight time of 4 hours and 10 minutes, it has an arrival time of 00:55 in SHJ.

Data from shows that on the day, a Boeing 737-800 (VT-AXQ) was scheduled to operate the flight. While the aircraft departed 21 minutes later than scheduled, around 15 minutes after departure, the aircraft can be seen turning around and heading back towards COK. The aircraft landed about 30 minutes after its departure.

However, the aircraft in question appeared to be fine, as it was back in action the following morning. Data indicates that the aircraft operated a flight to Muscat International Airport (MCT) the following morning.

The incident

As noted by Devdiscourse, passengers onboard the aircraft reported a burning smell inside the cabin shortly after the aircraft departed from COK. While initially, only one passenger smelt it, soon, several other passengers reportedly smelt the same. This forced the flight crew to make a precautionary decision to turn around the aircraft and divert it back to the point of origin.

Upon landing, the aircraft was inspected by the engineering team, and no technical faults or evidence of smoke could be discovered. The preliminary feedback released indicates that the source of odor could potentially be onions and other vegetables, which were being carried in the aircraft's belly hold.

Air India Express 737-800 flying
Photo: Wirestock Creators | Shutterstock

Furthermore, it was reported that the airline carries large quantities of vegetables, fruits, and flowers in its cargo hold on flights to the Middle Eastern region as it is a source of income for the carrier.

While this incident affected the 175 passengers who were onboard flight IX-411, the airline operated a special flight to accommodate the passengers on another flight which departed from COK at 05:45 and landed in SHJ at 07:44 after a flight time of 3 hours and 30 minutes.

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Similar incidents

While it is uncommon, there have been similar incidents reported previously of aircraft having to divert due to a strong smell in the cabin caused by the transport of fresh produce in the aircraft cargo hold.

Most recently, earlier this year, an Airbus A330-200 aircraft operated by Turkish Airlines, en route to Barcelona from Istanbul, had to divert back to the point of origin due to an alarm being triggered in the cargo hold of the aircraft.

Turkish Airlines A330 flying
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Upon inspecting the aircraft after landing, it was found that the strong smell of the Durian fruits being transported in the cargo hold of the aircraft was pungent and powerful enough to trigger the sensors in the cargo holds, designed to detect the presence of dangerous gases. In that instance as well, another aircraft was deployed to transport the passengers to their destination.

Sources: (1), (2), Devdiscourse.