The boss of British Airways says the airline could not exist without travel agents and that it is “totally committed to the trade”.

Speaking at World Travel Market, Alex Cruz, BA’s chief executive and chairman, was asked by Joe Adler, from independent agency Traveldesk Services Ltd, about his view on the matter – with the airline recently introducing an £8 fee on bookings made via GDSs.

Cruz said: “An airline like BA is totally committed to the trade. It could not exist without the trade. We will continue to work with you and the other travel agencies and remain very, very committed to making sure that your customers – while they are under our care – are being delivered the very best product.”

Cruz said that 60% of BA’s sales come from non-direct channels, stressing the importance of sharing data to give the best service possible.

Cruz was announcing £4.5 billion of investment in British Airways at WTM, where he spoke candidly for nearly 45 minutes on the problems it has faced over the last year with the introduction of the GDS fee and the IT meltdown that led to thousands of flights being cancelled earlier this year.

Cruz said he wants BA to become the “airline of choice” but insisted it will not copy its low-cost competitors and remain a premium carrier.

The money will be used to fund 72 new aircraft, new interiors on 128 aircraft in the existing fleet, introduce at-seat power supplies for passengers in all cabins, upgrade catering for long-haul economy customers and roll out Wi-Fi in all cabins.

Travel Weekly coverage of World Travel Market