In an age when too many corporate bigwigs seem to feel entitled to outsized pay for pint-sized performance, one CEO has boldly flown against the prevailing winds. Hopefully, he'll become an example to others.

According to a British Airways spokesperson, CEO Willie Walsh has decided that refusing his $487,000 bonus is "the most appropriate thing to do."

Appropriate, indeed! British Airways' unionized workforce is hopping mad about cuts to their benefits and employment contracts -- all framed as byproducts of the company's current financial difficulties.

Walsh's decision to forgo his bonus is probably more common-sense than saintly. He obviously understands that it's difficult to argue for worker-unfriendly cost cuts when top brass continues to rake in big bucks. Alas, too few CEOs here in the U.S. seem to have made that same distinction.

In just one example of asinine audacity, AIG (NYSE: AIG) executives flipped out when threatened with compensation cuts last year, even though the government had saved their company from destruction. If a chief executive or highly paid employee can't prove that he or she did a "heck of a job," maybe they don't deserve a giant bonus.

Even beyond massive corporate bailouts, few chief executives or corporate boards here have seemed to understand that the sacrifices they expect from their workers ought to extend to their own pay packages as well.

U.S. execs willing to eat their own cost-cutting cooking have been few and far between. Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz did voluntarily forgo some pay during the tough times -- but in late 2009, the board turned around and gave him a discretionary bonus. (Granted, he defended employees' health benefits, and I give him credit for that.) But in general, too few chief executives seemed to even remotely acknowledge that their own big pay was ripe for cutting when operating performance languished.

At least Willie Walsh seems to be thinking about appropriate behavior for a company facing tough times. I only wish we'd see a little more of that thoughtfulness on this side of the pond.

Which CEOs could use a pay cut? Which have shared the pain with their workforces? Let loose with your cheers and jeers in the comment box below.

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Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.