13 January 2019.
The year hasn’t started well and 4 January was ‘Fat Cat Friday’, the day by which the average FTSE 100 CEO had trousered the take-home pay that an average worker will take the entire year to get. CEOs are paid around £1,020 per hour (11% more than last year), 133 times more than the average worker.
This has understandably upset both unions and shareholder groups and 63 companies faced investor rebellions over directors’ pay last year. Jeff Fairburn of Persimmon, against whom I’ve railed before, ended up getting chucked out and 70% of shareholders voted against the Royal Mail CEO’s pay packet. The same large companies have been gratifyingly embarrassed by having to publish their gender pay gap and justify why they pay men so much more than women; why don’t they all just reduce men’s pay to the same as the pay of women doing equivalent work? (Charities provide an interesting contrast: more than half the fundraising directors of the top 100 charities are women.)
But some businesses are happy to be ethical: one of the largest cooperatives in Europe, Suma, a wholefood collective and ethical wholesaler founded in 1977, makes decisions collectively so it doesn’t even have a CEO and everyone gets paid the same regardless of gender, age or height. They deliver over 7,000 vegetarian, natural, responsibly sourced products across the UK and internationally. Have a look: www.suma.coop
Trump said he’d be proud to shut the government down if Congress didn’t approve a budget giving him money for his wall; Congress didn’t approve the budget so he shut the government down, telling everyone the Democrats had forced him to do this; Congress said no budget will be approved until the government is reopened; “that’s blackmail” says Trump, who’s a bit slow on the uptake, give me the money or I’ll declare a national emergency. Next week, Trump will threaten to take the lid off the teapot to free the dormouse.
Ryanair has been rated as the worst airline for the sixth year running by ‘Which?’ magazine. In their annual survey of short-haul airlines, passengers gave the airline the lowest possible rating for boarding, seat comfort, food and drink, and cabin environment.
Ryanair carries more passengers than any other airline in Europe (but not always to the place or on the day they wanted to go) and is also now the airline most consumers refuse to fly with; 70% of those who expressed a preference in the survey said they would not use Ryanair. Ryanair’s response was that their flights are cheap but even this isn’t true when you’ve paid for ‘extras’ like having a seat inside the plane (these extras contribute 25% of Ryanair’s revenue or, putting it the other way round, increase the average headline cost by a third).
Meanwhile Boom Supersonic has raised $100m (£79m) for the next stage of its project to create a supersonic commercial aircraft, known as Overture, which will fly at speeds exceeding Mach 2 with a range of more than 5,000 miles. A half-size prototype is set to take to the air later this year, crewed by very small people (guess which bit I made up).
Once the Overture is in commercial use, it’ll get you from Edinburgh to Vancouver in roughly four hours, about half the flight time of conventional aircraft. (From here, getting to Edinburgh will take even longer.) Virgin Atlantic has already taken options on 10 of the things.
It will only have 55 seats but will be able to fly further, more economically and more quietly than Concorde – the company claims it will be “as quiet as the subsonic aircraft flying similar routes today” and its sonic boom will be “at least 30 times quieter”. The latter claim worries me because I don’t know what it means. Does it mean the bang, measured in decibels, will be 1/30 of Concorde’s bang? It seems unlikely somehow. Anyway, the bang is just that, over and done in a second, even if it does leave half your windows on the floor, whereas the noise of Concorde accelerating after take-off rattled the fillings in your teeth. (Younger readers might like to know that fillings are … oh, forget it.)
They also reckon it will ‘only’ use between five and seven times as much fuel per passenger but that seat prices will be approximately the same as business class seats in subsonic aircraft. I don’t really understand the maths in that either so let’s just hang onto their plans as something to look forward to in 2019 – there ain’t much else.