BA’s chief Alex Cruz has warned the carrier is facing “a combination of competitive forces more challenging than at any point in our history”, as he unveiled a new £4.5 billion investment programme aimed at creating “A British Airways for everyone”.

The CEO said that “As a national flag carrier, we are not granted some special immunity from the way the industry has changed”, adding that the carrier had “no divine right to flourish”.

Cruz said that the five-year investment programme would include 72 new aircraft (including A350s, B787-10s and A320 / A321 neos), new interiors for 128 existing aircraft, at-seat power for customers in all cabins, and the rollout of wifi in all cabins across short and long-haul services.

He also confirmed long-haul economy catering would be upgraded, something which was announced at last week’s IAG Capital Markets Day.

Cruz warned that BA was being challenged by four key “competitive forces”, namely the growth of low-cost long-haul airlines, the continuing expansion of low-cost short-haul, the premium offerings of the Gulf carriers and the financial revitalisation of US transatlantic operators.

“Incumbency does not grant any privilege,” said Cruz. “We have no divine right to flourish, and we don’t ask for one.”

But he said that he was “passionate about setting British Airways on the right path to deliver for our customers and fulfil our potential”, and said that “If we continue to embrace change while staying true to our values, there is no limit to what we can achieve”.

The former boss of Spanish low-cost airline Vueling (now part of the IAG stable) said that BA “would continue to offer more low fares, such as the current £30 one-way offer on a range of routes, so it could take on all types of airline competitor”.

A further £200 million will be invested into the carrier’s Club World cabins, on top of the £400 million already announced, and lounges at New York JFK, Rome and Aberdeen will be refurbished next year.

“We want to be the airline of choice for everyone,” said Cruz “Every customer matters – short-haul or long-haul, economy or premium. So we must have an offer that is attractive to everyone.”

In other news BA has announced a new route between Heathrow and Figari in Corsica next summer, making a total of 264 routes for summer 2018, a rise of 17 per cent in two years.