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Sun 6 Jun 2010 06:00 PM

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Flanagan shuts the critics up

Critics have accused Emirates Airline of being propped up by Dubai's government but its executive vice chairman has finally hit back.

Flanagan shuts the critics up

It's time for the sniping to stop. For years Emirates critics have claimed the Dubai airline has had an unfair advantage over other carriers due to Dubai government subsidies but last month the airline's executive vice chairman, Maurice Flanagan hit back. "It is rubbish," he said. "We incur social costs these guys don't have to think about. Full family medical service, free furnished accommodation for pilots, cabin crew and managers, school fees... Those amounted to about $600m this year, these guys don't have to think about that," he added.

It's an argument the 83-year-old has had to endure for some years now. In fact ever since the Dubai-based airline was launched 25 years ago Emirates senior executives have been singing from the same song sheet. But if you don't believe Flanagan then take a look at the figures. Emirates is the only carrier in this region to actually make it out of the red. Last month Bahrain's Gulf Air said it has cut more than 500 staff in the past six months and it doesn't have any plans to make a profit until 2013. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad doesn't expect to turn a profit this year.

Last year, Emirates announced revenues were up 0.4 percent from the previous year to $11.8bn and net profit had increased a huge 416 percent to $964m. It might not seem much but set those figures against the backdrop of one of the worst years in aviation since the Second World War and it soon puts things into perspective. Globally airlines lost around $9.4bn last year, according to the International Air Transport Association. No one can deny that those passengers that did continue to fly during 2009 opted to fly with Gulf carriers.

Which brings us onto the small matter of service. In an interview with Arabian Business several months ago Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific CEO, Tony Tyler, lambasted Gulf carrier's poor service and claimed the region's airlines needed at least a "generation" to catch up with levels of in-flight service that it offers. You've got to love Flanagan's response to this one. He might be well over the age of retirement but his age certainly hasn't affected his ability to fight back; claiming Tyler talks "b***ks".

I gave up on the likes of the traditional Western flag carriers a long while ago. And I know I'm not the only one that would rather fly on a brand new plane that offers better in-flight service than any other airline. World Cup worries

What do Facebook and the World Cup have in common? Both have the ability to dramatically reduce the level of productivity in your office. Consider this, 57 million Americans visited social-networking sites from a work computer last month, spending an average of fifteen minutes on them per day, according to comScore. Across the pond at least 54 percent of Britons told ISP Eclipse Internet that they would be watching the World Cup via the internet at work while only just over a third (37 percent) believed it would not affect their productivity at work.

Now I don't want to be a spoilsport, the World Cup is, after all, one of the world's greatest sporting events, but what does that mean for your office?

Luckily here in the Gulf most of the major games are scheduled outside of working hours with the first game, South Africa versus Mexico on Friday, June 11th 6pm (UAE time). Despite the fortuitous timing of many games, it's unlikely to stop many lost work hours watching game highlights on YouTube, nursing hangovers or checking scores updates.

The solution for many employees in the UK? Let their staff watch the games in the workplace. "To make it as easy as possible for staff to watch the World Cup without compromising work we are showing England's last group game at head office on a big screen and where appropriate we will ensure our plant staff can see games when they are on shift with TVs in the canteen," a spokesman for ISP Eclipse Internet recently said. I know a lot of football fans who would agree with him.

Claire Ferris-Lay is the editor of CEO Middle East.

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