BBC boss Alan Yentob has said he could not do his high-flying job if he were unable to travel business class.
The creative director was defending expenses claims, the latest round of which were published earlier this month.
For Mr Yentob, they included booking a return business-class flight costing £3,381 to New York last September.
The senior figure, who fronts the arts show Imagine, set out his case at a Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in London yesterday.
He said when he arrived in the Big Apple he had to give a talk immediately.
Mr Yentob was reported as saying: "I was filming in the afternoon and I then returned within about 24 hours back to London, back to work straight away."
Mr Yentob asked: "Do you think I should have travelled economy?"
He continued: "I wouldn't have been capable of doing the job."
When the latest expenses were published, the BBC said Mr Yentob had been involved in "back to back" meetings in the US city regarding production and talent and had also been filming his Imagine programme.
The corporation has said it is within BBC policy to fly business class on such long-haul journeys.
Mr Yentob's comments come after Roger Wright, director BBC Proms and controller of BBC Radio 3, last week defended his hotel arrangements.
Figures released by the BBC showed Mr Wright claimed £3,561 for hotel accommodation in expenses submitted during the latest quarter, covering the summer Proms season.
Mr Wright, who does not live in London, said: "I attend something like 99 per cent of the Proms ... I leave the hall often at 1am and I still have my day job to do."
He said the claims were "part of my contractual arrangement with the BBC".
A BBC spokesman said: "With specific exceptions, such as long- distance travel where senior managers are, for example, addressing a conference or attending meetings immediately on arrival, all travel is economy class.
"In this instance, Alan was attending a meeting immediately after he arrived and was filming in the afternoon before a short turnaround for his flight back."