Three cheers for the exec who defends business class

Alan Yentob, the BBC’s creative director, has today defended his right to fly business class by claiming that he can’t really do his job without it.

According to a report in The Guardian, here’s how he described a recent trip:

“When I went to New York I immediately when I arrived I went to give a talk to an organisation,” he told a Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in central London today. “I was filming in the afternoon [for his BBC1 arts show Imagine] and I then returned within about 24 hours back to London back to work straight away. Do you think I should have travelled economy? I wouldn’t have been capable of doing the job.

“I try to limit the number of times that I go. I am not capable of doing all those things at once. That’s all I can say.”

Much is written about executive perks and how top management is supposedly shameless when it comes to claiming them. Much of it is quite right – especially in this climate – but I sometimes wonder if the discussion hasn’t gone too far in the opposite extreme.

The truth is a lot of executives do have to travel a heck of a lot, which entails all sorts of sacrifices. Take a look at some of our CEO interviews and you will see that these people will sometimes be on the road for 200 days a year.

To many people, the idea that an executive of a publicly funded organisation like the BBC flies business class is especially egregious. Personally, if what he says is true about the workload he faces, then he deserves to fly on the other side of the curtain from me. And I for one think it is great that someone is honest enough to say what many will no doubt have been thinking.

Now, if I could just get a business class flight the next time I travel…

About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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