Private Investor: A high-flying BA might even help solve the pensions crisis

It's a little strange to watch a huge national debate take place and not feel that it has anything much to do with me. The Turner report on pensions will make very little difference to me, even if every one of its recommendations is adopted.

I'm too old for the change in the retirement date to make any difference, and I already save like crazy for fear of an old age spent munching cardboard and shivering before an unlit fire.

There are a few of us out there - not many, I agree - who might actually be in danger of overproviding for our twilight years. After all, we may never get as far as that, and you can't take it with you, can you?

I've been greatly helped in these efforts over the past year by the general rise in the value of equities. Almost all the shares I bought at the bottom of the market are well in the money now, and most of the stuff bought during the boom, and before it, is in the black too. If and when the market regains and surpasses its peak - say, a FTSE 100 level of 8,000 - a lot of the pension crisis will dissolve away.

Few companies have rewarded the patience of investors better than British Airways. True, the dividends haven't exactly been flowing out of the company lately, but for those who've bought into the shares on any of its many moments of weakness over the past few years will have seen some very respectable returns. September 11, Sars, bird flu, periodic terrorist outrages all over the globe, the Iraq war, budget airlines, the oil price - you name it, it's knocked BA.

Many flag carriers have gone under, most of the US airlines seem to be technically bust and the British Government shows a distinct lack of interest in securing a level playing-field for what is still a major employer (45,000 souls rely on it). BA is continuing to fly the flag through some terrible turbulence.

It may soon be a rather less big employer than it was, if the remarkable Willie Walsh, the new chief executive of BA, gets his way. He is not a household name yet, but I suspect he will soon be one of those few industrialists - Michael Edwardes, Arnold Weinstock, John Harvey-Jones, Richard Branson and Stelios are others - who will be as well known as, say, the contestants on Big Brother.

The reason is that he is going to take an axe to BA's costs, just as he did at his old employer, Aer Lingus of Ireland. He's already announced that he's going to reduce the managerial headcount by one-third, and that's unlikely to be the end of the matter. The unions will hate it, they'll fight it, and the chaos we witnessed over the Gate Gourmet catering affair will look like a storm in an in-flight coffee cup by comparison. On the telly every evening, defending his position, Walsh will become famous.

He is right, though. In the toughest industry of all there is no room, if we can put it this way, for passengers. The fact that one-third of the management can apparently be dropped without any deterioration in the service suggests that there may be more efficiency savings out there. The unions are too powerful in BA, a throwback to the days when it was a nationalised industry. BA has to compete with some of the most cut-throat old-fashioned capitalists out there, who may or may not project a cuddly public image, but whose attitude to the labour market is decidedly unprogressive.

BA also has to contend with carriers whose governments regard it as a matter of national pride to keep them in the air at almost any cost, and an EU Commission happy to turn a blind eye to hidden subsidies and sharp practice.

If Walsh doesn't sort out BA, then no one will. The shares rallied on his moves - a good sign. Shareholders, the flying public and the more sensible staff should back him all the way.

s.ogrady@independent.co.uk

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

    Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

    £280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little