Dragonair was forced to cancel five flights over the holiday weekend as cabin crew phoned in sick in an unofficial protest over their pay and working conditions. Last night the Hong Kong airline said it had cancelled five flights out of 154 scheduled to leave Hong Kong for 'operational reasons'. Three flights were cancelled on Saturday afternoon - two to Shanghai and one to Beijing - as cabin crew phoned in sick for a second day in an action called by a group of flight attendants to protest about their workload. An airline spokeswoman, who declined to comment on whether the cancellations were all caused by the action, said: 'Dragonair staff ensured passenger inconvenience was kept to a minimum and alternative travel arrangements were made for all of those affected.' Scores of flight attendants phoned in sick on Friday and Saturday in response to an e-mail appeal from a breakaway group urging cabin crew to phone in sick to show the airline how 'helpless and disappointed' they feel. Employees complain the airline is chronically understaffed and that some flights with a normal quota of 13 cabin crew are taking off with a legal minimum of eight, who deal with up to 290 passengers. About 100 phoned in sick on Friday in an action not endorsed by the Flight Attendants Association, which represents half of the airline's 1,000 cabin crew. Association officials, who met union management on Friday, said in a memo to members on Saturday that they had presented 11 complaints and demands. They include demands for cabin crew to be given enough free time for inflight meal breaks, have the right to say no to overtime work requests and not help cleaning staff tidy up planes between flights. Association chief Chavanachinda Marayart said in the memo that more talks would be held tomorrow and urged them to contact committee members with other complaints. Dragonair has acknowledged the staff shortage but has appealed to cabin crew to show 'patience, understanding and co-operation', promising that 60 recruits will join in the next two months. A flight attendant who took part in the weekend action said: 'No further action is being planned at the moment ... Dragonair needs to be sincere in easing the strain on us and we feel the union should be doing more to represent the interests of its members.' Flight Attendants Association officials have disassociated themselves from the weekend protest.