EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou today backed the airline’s CEO Carolyn McCall in calling for the UK to remain part of the European Union.

The man who helped start the European low-fares reforms in the 1990’s remains the budget carrier’s largest shareholder.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s referendum vote, Haji-Ioannou said: “Europe’s ‘open skies’ gave me, an airline outsider, the opportunity to help start the low-fares airline revolution.

“And as someone who continues to hold one of the biggest financial stakes in this industry I can state categorically to the British people that flights have become cheaper in the last 20 years because of free and fair competition between airlines competing for your business.”

He added: “It is certainly not my place to tell people how to vote, but it is very possible that in a post-Brexit Europe a more restrictive aviation environment would mean fewer flights from the UK to Europe and hence less competition between airlines.

“That in turn would mean higher air fares so that the price of a family holiday to the Med will go back up again to levels last seen in the 1980s.

“An ‘open skies’ policy in Europe has been good for travellers, good for airline employees and, yes, good for shareholders. Let’s keep it that way.”

McCall reiterated the airline’s support for the UK remaining within the EU.

“It was the EU which helped revolutionise aviation in Europe by creating the single aviation area around 20 years ago,” she said.

“It enabled airlines like easyJet to offer passengers lower fares to more destinations.

“All airlines were forced to respond to this new competitive environment and all passengers have benefitted.

“People can live, work, study and travel across Europe in a way previous generations could not have imagined.

“The only way to guarantee that this continues is for the UK to remain part of the EU.”