An airline spokesperson says the stench came from a leaking cargo bin filled with fish.
"It smelled somewhat like rotten fruit juice or like smelly cheese," said passenger Judith Chase of Bakersfield.
The plane returned to its gate at Miami International Airport, and passengers had to go back to the terminal. Five flight attendants became so sick they had to be taken to a nearby hospital. They were all treated and released.
Passengers said the whole situation was frustrating and stressful.
"We didn't really know what was going on. We really did not know how long we were going to be there," said passenger Claudia Checchini of Italy.
The crew was replaced and the cargo area was cleaned up. The flight was delayed for five hours and finally arrived at Los Angeles International Airport just before midnight.