British Airways commercial director Martin George has resigned, four months after taking leave of absence in the wake of a regulatory investigation into long-haul fuel surcharges.

The airline’s head of communications, Iain Burns, who also took leave at the time, has similarly resigned.

The moves come ahead of an investigative journalism television programme on the issue of airline cartels to be aired on the BBC in the UK this evening.

BA has named director of planning Robert Boyle as its new commercial director. Boyle takes up the post with immediate effect.

US and UK regulators revealed in June that they were investigating alleged cartel activity involving BA and other airlines, centred on the adoption of fuel surcharges and the pricing of passenger air transport.

While George has not been found to have committed any wrongdoing, he says he is resigning because he bears responsibility for any “inappropriate” conduct within his department.

In a letter to BA chairman Martin Broughton, George says: “I now recognise that within my department there may have been inappropriate conversations in violation of company policy in relation to long-haul fuel surcharges.

“I was not involved in such conversations. Although the board of BA has not found that I have behaved in a dishonest way, I fully recognise my responsibilities as head of department and as a board director.”

George, who joined BA in 1987 and became commercial director two years ago, adds: “I have always taken my responsibilities as a director and board member very seriously and I therefore depart with deep regret, whilst believing that departing is, in these circumstances and for these reasons, nevertheless, the right course.”

Former communications director at Abbey National bank Thomas Coops takes on the role of interim head of corporate and media relations, succeeding Iain Burns.

Martin George and Iain Burns of British Airways may be the first high profile heads to roll in the on-going probes into fuel surcharges, but are unlikely to be the last, says Airline Business editor Mark Pilling.