Southwest Airlines canceled about 50 flights Wednesday because of bad weather and a high number of flight attendants calling in sick.
Both the airline and the flight attendants’ union said the action was not a protest.
“It’s just a coincidence,” said Shea Spencer, an officer for the Transport Workers Union. “It is not organized by any means.” She said the attendants were sick with colds or flu.
Southwest spokeswoman Kristie Kerr estimated at least 90 flight attendants called in sick at the airline’s bases in Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Chicago and Oakland, Calif. Some workers showed up for flights but were sent home by doctors.
“The doctors are just saying a lot of illnesses are circulating right now,” she said. “For everyone’s benefit, we don’t want anyone flying who is sick.”
Southwest has 4,400 flight attendants and must have three available for each of its 2,300 flights per day. Because many trips cover short distances, an attendant can fly as many as eight per day.
Weather problems in the Midwest and along the East Coast also contributed to flights being delayed or canceled, Kerr said.
Kerr said the day before Christmas is one of the five busiest of the year for the carrier, but many passengers can be put on later flights because of a high rate of no-shows.