I feel your pain, says BA boss giving up a month's pay (£61k)

When Willie Walsh, the ruthless boss of British Airways, decides that he needs to make a self-sacrificing gesture, the rest of his staff know it is time to fasten their safety belts and grab the sick bags. There is turbulence ahead for the world's favourite airline.

Yesterday, BA reported a loss of £401m in 2008-09, the worst figures since the airline was privatised under Margaret Thatcher more than two decades ago.

That means more redundancies for BA staff, who have only just come out of their previous round of job cuts, which has reduced the payroll from 43,100 to 40,600 since last summer. They are also urged to take unpaid leave. "I want everyone to consider these options," Mr Walsh said ominously.

But an obvious question was what about Mr Walsh? Was he prepared to share some of his employees' pain?

Yesterday, he had a ready answer. He is already self-denying by British boardroom standards. He refuses to drive an expensive car or employ a secretary. He writes his own letters and answers his phone. He is going further – he will work for nothing throughout July. Instead of his full salary of £735,000 this year, he will do without the £61,250 of his July pay cheque, and get by on just £673,750. Finance director Keith Williams will make a similar sacrifice, losing £36,667 from his £440,000 salary.

"Personally, I do not want extra leave or to work part-time," he explained. "But I want to make a contribution in recognition of the extremely challenging position we face. This is no stunt. I do not easily give up anything I have earned."

The losses announced yesterday resulted principally from a 44.5 per cent rise in the world price of oil last year – BA's fuel bill was nearly £3bn. But with the recession reducing passenger numbers and holding down ticket prices, BA's future looked so cloudy yesterday that analysts wondered whether a planned merger with Iberia airlines was still on. BA shares have lost 23 per cent in 12 months. When Mr Walsh called it "the harshest trading environment we have faced", he did not sound like a man on the verge of pulling off a major deal.

The last time BA was in real trouble, along with most of the other major airlines, was when the September 11 terror attacks put Americans off flying. In the year that followed, BA recorded a loss of £200m. At the time, Mr Walsh had just taken over as chief executive of the Irish airline Aer Lingus, having started as a cadet pilot. As the business went into a nosedive, he turned Aer Lingus into a profitable no-frills airline. He eliminated 2,000 jobs, reduced the number of aircraft, sold assets, and cut costs by 30 per cent. He even took the pictures off the walls and sold them.

The unions tried to block the redundancies, so he locked the staff out for three days. He knew about unions, because in his younger days he was chief negotiator for the Irish Airline Pilots' Association. It was then that he is alleged to have said that "a reasonable man gets nowhere in negotiations".

His willingness to be unreasonable undoubtedly made him attractive to BA's board, which had been plagued by bad industrial relations. At the height of the summer season in 2005, 70,000 passengers were prevented from flying after staff walked out in protest against the sacking of 600 employees by catering firm, Gate Gourmet.

There have been no strikes at BA since Willie Walsh was appointed chief executive in October 2005. Instead, profits hit a record peak of £922m in 2007-08. But this has been followed by a year of record losses and Mr Walsh will not be the only person at BA seeing his income make a rapid descent.

Salary sacrifice: CEOs' wage cuts

Rick Wagoner and Bob Nardelli, CEOs of General Motors and Chrysler

Both took salaries of $1 under pressure from the US Congress after their firms received billions of dollars in state aid.

Lars G Nordström, President and CEO of the Swedish post office

Posten, head of the beleaguered Swedish post office, announced last year that he will forgo his pay of Skr10.8m (£900,000) in 2009 the equivalent of 45 postmen, following media criticism of his high salary.

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Life and Style

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: I am currently recruiting level 3 n...

Are you a Teacher interested in Special Needs?

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified Teacher w...


£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job:* The Tutor will prepar...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album