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Outspoken Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary's Twitter Live Chat Was Fascinating, Inappropriate and Helpful

A CEO who has made being offensive part of his brand identity took to Twitter to face his customers and critics.
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Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, the European airline with bargain-basement ticket prices and service to match, took to Twitter today to answer his customers and critics. In the process, he congratulated himself, flirted and even managed to give some genuine answers to customer service questions.

He also broke some news of interest to passengers -- namely, that Ryanair's unappealing website is in the midst of a major redesign, and that the air carrier is planning to introduce mobile boarding passes.

O'Leary is famously outspoken. In the book Plane Speaking: The Wit and Wisdom of Michael O'Leary (Aurum Press, 2010), the CEO says, "Frankly, I don't give a rat’s arse about my personal dignity."

He also makes injudicious remarks about competitors, supplier, consultants and even customers. "People say the customer is always right, but you know what -- they're not," he says in the book. "Sometimes they are wrong and they need to be told so."

All this "plain speaking" makes Ryanair an anomaly. In an age when blogs will seize on any scandal, however small, and inflate it out of all proportion, an age of punitive Twitter backlashes and corporate boycotts organized around hashtags, most companies do their utmost to put their best foot forward and tread lightly.

Not Ryanair. The discount airline joined Twitter only last month, and it lost no time in taking swipes at its critics. But today O'Leary personally joined the fray. Promoted with the hashtag #GrillMOL, the one-hour Twitter live chat saw the top executive fielding questions that ranged from the highly technical ("Will Ryanair install Scimitar Blended Winglets on new Boeing 737 deliveries and retrofit fleet?") to the rather silly ("When are you considering charging fat people more?").

Related: Angry Customer Used Promoted Tweets to Chastise British Airways

As the live chat kicked off, Matt Owen, whose Twitter bio identifies him as head of social at research firm Econsultancy, tweeted that he was "settling back for an afternoon of PR stunt excellence/arrogance and shouting courtesy of #GrillMOL."

"Who, from moi?" O'Leary protested. "Humility, courtesy, service. My middle names!"

Learning of the live chat, Claire Phipps, an editor at the Guardian, a liberal British media organization which O'Leary seems to revel in mocking, simply said, "Uh-oh."

Phipps's reaction may have been a foregone conclusion, considering that O'Leary has publicly praised former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and advocates stealing hotel pens to keep costs down. As he says in Plane Speaking, "The meek may inherit the earth, but they will not have it for long."

Check out some highlights from O'Leary's live chat below, and scroll to the bottom to answer our question.

@manama70 Bonjour Michael, possibly next summer, mon ami! MOL

October 21, 2013

@eatlikeagirl @GusQuad Dear Eat, traffic up, profits up, fares down, growing like gangbusters, and improving our No 1 customer service. MOL

October 21, 2013

@stretchos Steve, thanks prefer kiss to handshake, but u not my type. Sorry. Any sisters? Tks MOL

October 21, 2013

@IrishAero Boring techno babble questions not allowed. Sorry. MOL

October 21, 2013

@jclanoe Call me genius, Jesus, Superman, or odious little s**t, whatever takes your fancy as long as you fly Ryanair! MOL

October 21, 2013

@CheapestOil Cos the lowest fares are always on Why waste time on comp sites? MOL

October 21, 2013

@MaryTCon They always do on my flights. Write me if they don't on yours. Tks MOL

October 21, 2013

@EricaLennie Hurts mine too. Big redevel underway. Major improvements coming shortly #GrillMOL

October 21, 2013

@Shaz_DubGal Yes. Big digital relaunch coming soon. #GrillMOL

October 21, 2013

@The_No_Show Can't see pic. Our customer experience is gr8 savings, gr8 service, on time flights, fab crew. What's not to like? #GrillMOL

October 21, 2013

@Ridler83 Have always opposed charging fat people more, and am also against giving skinny discounts. We welcome all #GrillMOL

October 21, 2013

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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