Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary was splattered in the face with a pair of cream pies by eco-activists as he prepared to speak to the media in Brussels earlier today.
O’Leary, 62, was in the Belgian capital to speak at a press conference and deliver a petition to protect overflights in Europe amid the news Ryanair pilots based in Belgium had called a strike.
He was delivering an interview – alongside a cardboard cut-out of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen – when a black-clad woman ran up and smashed the pie into his face.
O’Leary reeled away and ducked his head down to avoid a potential blow – giving a second woman the opportunity to run up behind him and deliver a second spatter of cream down the back of his neck.
‘Welcome to Belgium!’, the activists cheered as they ran off, before O’Leary sportingly replied: ‘Well done!’
The ordeal didn’t appear to trouble the Ryanair boss too much. Speaking to media after the incident, he jokingly declared: ‘I have never had such a warm welcome.
‘Unfortunately it was environmentalists and the cream was artificial. I invite passengers to come to Ireland where the cream is better!’
Activists throw cream pie on Ryanair CEO Micheal O’Leary
Activists throw cream pie on Ryanair CEO Micheal O’Leary as he is on his way to deliver the ‘Protect Overflights: Keep EU Skies Open’ petition to EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen’s office in Brussels, Belgium, 07 September 2023
‘Welcome to Belgium!’, the activists cheered as the ran off, before O’Leary sportingly replied, ‘well done’
Ryanair CEO Micheal O’Leary wipes cream pie from his face after activists threw it at him while he is on his way to deliver the ‘Protect Overflights: Keep EU Skies Open’ petition to EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen’s office in Brussels
Ryanair’s feed on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, later posted that O’Leary got a ‘warm welcome in Brussels’.
‘Passengers so happy with our routes and petition that they’re celebrating with cake,’ it said.
Ryanair pilots based in Belgium’s Charleroi airport announced they would strike on September 14-15 – dates chosen specifically to coincide with a general meeting of Ryanair shareholders.
The pilots are demanding ‘an immediate end to the blackmail carried out by the company to correlate the negotiation of a new collective work agreement with the abandonment of all individual legal procedures in progress’.
They demand ‘strict compliance with Belgian law, the payment of arrears and the opening of negotiations without prerequisites’.
The drama is the latest twist in a long-running saga that saw Ryanair go toe-to-toe with the European Commission in a battle to protect overflights from being cancelled.
In May, O’Leary delivered another petition, signed by more than 1.1 million passengers, to von der Leyen’s office, calling for the European Commission to protect overflights from being adversely impacted when air traffic controllers go on strike.
The airline argues it had been forced to ‘disproportionately cancel’ thousands of overflights from Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK and Ireland, blaming European aviation authorities for prioritising short-haul and domestic flights during strike times while leaving international travellers in the lurch.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary (pictured in 2022) says he has still not been told by UK air traffic control firm NATS what caused the system-wide crash on Monday
The EC said several European states already had protections in place to prevent overflight cancellations, but Ryanair wants the same protections to be enforced in all EU member states.
‘Europe’s passengers are sick and tired of suffering unnecessary overflight cancellations during ATC strikes. The European Commission must now act upon the petition of more than 1.1 million EU citizens and insist that all states protect overflights during national ATC strikes as is already done in Greece, Italy and Spain,’ O’Leary’s petition read.
Last month, O’Leary hit out at national air traffic control (ATC) provider National Air Traffic Services (NATS) for failing to provide answers as to what crippled its system for several hours and forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
NATS, which boasts on its website that it is the ‘leading provider of air traffic control services’ in the UK, admitted that the bug was caused by ‘flight data’ but has not elaborated on who was responsible.
‘It’s not acceptable that UK NATS simply allow their computer systems to be taken down and everybody’s flights get cancelled,’ O’Leary said.
The pie attack on O’Leary in Brussels today was the latest in a line of recent stunts by climate activists.
Activists who want the planet to survive without using gas or oil invaded Westminster Bridge during rush hour to light flares and display a banner earlier this week.
Protesters Fossil Free London are calling for a stop of the further development of the Rosebank oil field.
The stunt was timed to coincide with MPs’ return to Parliament after their summer recess.
Campaigner Joanna Warrington said: ‘Rishi Sunak wants to give billions of pounds of public money to a giant oil company in exchange for the climate time bomb, which will do absolutely nothing to lower our energy bills. It’s reckless and absurd.
‘People want clean, cheap renewable energy, but the government is on autopilot, handing money to their oily chums. Yet again, they are prioritising fossil fuel industry profits over a future safe from climate breakdown. We need to stop Rosebank and drive oily money out of our politics.’
The protesters – whose identities are not known – are calling for a stop of the further development of the Rosebank oil field
Eco-vandals deflated the tyres of more than 80 SUVs in the latest environmental protest against ‘gas guzzler’ cars
Every car that had its tyres slashed had a note left on it titled ‘attention – your gas guzzler kills’ – the group described it as its ‘biggest action in Cornwall yet’
In August, eco-vandals went on a spree of slashing and deflating tyres of SUVs in a protest against ‘gas guzzler’ cars.
Vehicles were targeted in St Mawes and Falmouth, Cornwall on August 23 by a group who call themselves ‘The Tyre Extinguishers’.
Every car had a note left on it titled ‘attention – your gas guzzler kills’ in the group’s ‘biggest action in Cornwall yet’.
Despite the aggressive approach, the group said it was a ‘peaceful protest’ and their intent was ‘not to incite harm but rather catalyse change and ensure a safer environment for all’.
In response to the tyre slashing, one Twitter user said: ‘I trust the person’s tyre you let down was not someone getting medication for a loved one, or a member of the emergency services on call. Notices I don’t mind but to cause a vehicle to be driven dangerously is reckless.’
Devon and Cornwall Police said enquiries were ongoing after ‘multiple reports of car tyres having been deflated in residential streets’.
Weeks earlier, a group of protesters were arrested after climbing onto the roof of the Prime Minister’s house.
Four Greenpeace activists were detained following the seven-hour demonstration at Rishi Sunak’s £2million home while he was away on a family holiday.
The protesters arrived at the Prime Minister’s mansion in Richmond, North Yorkshire, at 6am on August 3, two hours before police were alerted just after 8am. They eventually came down around 1pm before being loaded into the back of police vans and taken away.
A fifth person was later arrested in connection with the protest.
Greenpeace activists are led away by police after they climbed on the roof of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s house in Richmond, North Yorkshire, and covered it in black fabric today
Greenpeace activists are led away by police from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s house today
Police holding climbing gear after Greenpeace activists climbed onto Mr Sunak’s roof today
Greenpeace activists on the roof of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s house in Richmond today
North Yorkshire Police initially said that two men and two women had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and public nuisance. The force later added that a fifth man had been been arrested on suspicion of causing public nuisance.
Now, major security questions have been raised over how the stunt was carried out.
The security arrangement at Mr Sunak’s house has not been revealed, although witnesses pointed out that any camera surveillance that may be in the area did not trigger an alert because police were not informed for two hours. Experts said Mr Sunak is normally protected by close protection officers, MI5 and anti-terror police.
Greenpeace said it draped his home in ‘200sq m (2,150sq ft) of oil-black fabric’ in a protest at his backing for a major expansion of North Sea oil and gas drilling.
At the same time, two further activists on the ground unfurled a banner featuring the words ‘Rishi Sunak – Oil Profits or Our Future?’ across the grass in front of the house.
The group claimed they knocked on the door upon their arrival and said: ‘This is a peaceful protest.’ But there was no answer. It is not known who reported them to police, but by the time officers arrived, the four were on the roof, 40ft above ground.