What happened when Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary went on Twitter for live Q&A? He crash-landed spectacularly

The combative CEO seemed unaware that his inappropriate response to one of the first questioners – a woman – would be seen by everyone as critics lined up to fire shots at airline's ill-prepared and inappropriate boss

Four days after the head of British Gas received a torrent of abuse on Twitter as he answered questions about the company’s latest price rise, so Europe’s biggest budget airline put up its chief executive to field questions today – apparently without briefing him.

Ryanair’s first venture into that world of the live Q&A was a shambles from the start. The idea was that passengers could post questions to the airline’s boss, Michael O’Leary, using the hashtag “#GrillMOL”. But the combative CEO seemed unaware that his inappropriate response to one of the first questioners – a woman – would be seen by everyone.

His comment (“Nice pic. Phwoaaarr! MOL”) was rapidly re-tweeted, with responses such as  “@Ryanair how is it appropriate for an airline CEO to be a sexist pig?”, and: “People who fly Ryanair: do you also think this is an acceptable thing to tweet at a woman?”

Mr O’Leary eventually responded: “Just found out what hashtags are. Learning on da job! Always compliment ladies pics”.

Even before the “Twitter chat” got under way – 50 minutes early, due to a scheduling error – it was clear that many disgruntled travellers saw it as an opportunity to take revenge on Europe’s biggest low-cost airline.

“What type of people do you enjoy mistreating most? I’m guessing elderly and disabled?” was one of the earliest tweets, quickly followed by: “Were you born an arsehole or has it progressed throughout your life?” and: “Is it company policy for your staff to be rude and unhelpful as possible?”

Other popular topics included baggage charges, the distance from Ryanair’s terminals to cities it says it flies to and the perceived lack of comfort in its spartan cabins.

Among the many tweets to go unanswered were some about tragic personal circumstances. “Due to fly to Riga on Saturday but can’t go as my mum in law is losing her cancer battle. 388 quid to re-book seems unfair,” read one. “Why no response for a refund request (sent reg. post) in over a month from seriously ill girl with special needs? @Ryanair #scum” went another.

When Mr O’Leary entered into a discussion, it did not always end amicably. One questioner asked: “Is there any truth in the rumour that you plan to charge passengers for each inhalation they make after take off?” The chief executive responded instantly with: “Hi Beth, great idea. Have a team workin’ on it as we breathe!” The riposte read: “I thought you might like that one you money-grabbing bastards”.

One Ryanair employee who dared to join the conversation by tweeting, “So my boss is on Twitter right now,” received the immediate response: “Get back to work you slacker or you’re fired.”

Andy Gilderdale mocked the airline’s policy of using “secondary” airports. “Tried to send you a question on Twitter but it ended up on Facebook instead. Still, by your standards that’s close enough.”

Among the mud-slinging, Ryanair passengers learned a few things about the airline’s plans. It will be introducing smartphone-enabled check-in by the summer, which should reduce the number of passengers obliged to pay £70 for failing to arrive at the airline without one printed out. And there are no plans to introduce assigned seating, as easyJet has recently done.

By the end of the scheduled hour, Mr O’Leary appeared to be enjoying the banter. Stuart Robinson asked: “Is it true that one in four Ryanair flights is fueled by leprechaun urine?” It prompted the immediate response: “Dat’s an outrageous slur. All [Ryanair] flights are fuelled with Lep wee and my bulls**t!”

“What do you think has been Ryanair’s biggest failure and biggest achievement”, asked Adam Ringland. “Biggest achievement, bringing low fares to Europe and still lowering ‘em. Biggest failure, hiring me!” O’Leary replied.

And as if to demonstrate that the criticism had fallen on deaf ears, the Ryanair feed appeared to ignore the question: “Will you be looking for a new social media manager tomorrow?” only to later ask for views on a future Twitter chat.

Plane speaking: Top tweets

@digital_times Don’t you just hate moaners and proles? #GrillMOL What plans have you to make  @Ryanair even more uncomfortable for people?

@Ben_Yates I’ve sent one #GrillMOL tweet to @Ryanair and already an invoice for £18.50. Or £18.25 if I take their credit card.

@TripeUK How far is Ryanair Frankfurt to Frankfurt to the nearest 100 miles? #GrillMOL

@AdamParsons So #GrillMOL is yet to take off. Now running more than ten minutes late. @Ryanair’s punctuality under scrutiny again

@jamesrquinn Worth pointing out #GrillMOL wasn’t 10 mins late – it was 1 hour early – advertised to be 4-5pm GMT! Ryanair can’t get anything right

@andymcgeady Hi @Ryanair. How much will Michael charge per reply? And are you charging me to send this tweet? #GrillMOL

@andrewtheplane #GrillMOL Why do you abandon passengers at airports and tell them to leave when flights are cancelled?

@Ball00n_knot Are you tempted to make rude unhelpful replies, like your staff? #GrillMOL @Ryanair

@realhatsmatter#GrillMOL   Do you have a valid export license for your cattle business?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer (PHP & Wordpress) - Central London

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Web Dev...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative - Unskilled & Skilled

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen to jo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Law Firm - Bromley

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Market...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee