British Airways will begin a new £4.5bn investment & improvement programme which will take place over the next five years.

The airline’s Chief Executive Alex Cruz, made the announcement at the annual World Travel Market event in London on Monday (7 November) and pledged to improve the customer experience in a number of different areas, including the re-introduction of a second in-flight meal on all long-haul flights and the roll-out of high-speed wifi in all cabins.

BA has come under increasing criticism over the last two years since Cruz joined the airline from low-cost Spanish carrier Vueling. Several cost-cutting measures, including the outsourcing of the company’s IT systems, resulted in a major IT meltdown earlier this year and provoked widespread anger from both passengers and staff who were caught up in three days of chaotic global cancellations and delays.

72 new aircraft will be purchased, including Airbus A350s, Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners and the neo (new engine option) variant of the Airbus A320 & A321 as well as new interiors for 128 existing aircraft and at-seat power for customers in all cabins.

Cruz said: “British Airways is facing a combination of competitive forces more challenging than at any point in our history. We face waves of new competition on all fronts. And we also face changing customer behaviour as online price transparency has opened a world of almost unlimited choice.

“As a national flag carrier, we are not granted some special immunity from the way the industry has changed. Incumbency does not grant any privilege. We have no divine right to flourish, and we don’t ask for one. The current plight of Alitalia is testament to that. We must shape BA for the future, as a premium airline committed to customer choice and one that is a byword around the world for British know-how and excellence.”