Michael O'Leary, the CEO of Irish airline Ryanair, had cake smashed in his face while attempting to deliver a petition to President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in Belgium today, Thursday, September 7.
“Welcome to Belgium!” one of the two protesters shouted while hitting O’Leary with the cake.
“Stop the pollution with the f---ing planes!"
O’Leary, who was unloading materials from a box beside a cardboard cutout of von der Leyen, let out a laugh but largely ignored the two protestors as they ran off.
“Well done,” he uttered as he took off his jacket and began to wipe cream from his face.
Naturally, reporters at the unexpected scene began to ask O’Leary for his opinion on what had just occurred.
“No, no, no, we’re here to discuss the petition,” O’Leary said before adding, “I love cream cakes. They’re my favorite.”
With cake smeared on his head, O'Leary continued: “We’re here this morning to submit our latest passenger petition to our close friend Ms. Ursula von der Leyen.
“We submitted the first petition about six months ago when we had only one million signatories, we now have 1.5 million signatories who have now signed our petition calling on von der Leyen and the European Commission to take action to protect overflights during strikes.”
Licking some of the cake from his hand, O’Leary remarked: “It’s delicious cake.”
According to Dutch outlet DeMorgen, O'Leary further said: “I've never had such a warm welcome.
"Unfortunately, they were environmentalists and the cream was artificial. I invite the passengers to come to Ireland, where the cream is better.”
Irish outlet The Journal shared video of the incident:
Never ones to miss a marketing opportunity, Ryanair swiftly shared several tweets poking fun at the cake smash in Belgium.
"Passengers so happy with our routes and petition that they’re celebrating with cake," the first tweet said. "We’ve got tasty low fares!"
Warm welcome in Brussels today to celebrate RYR’s 7 new routes for Winter 23. Passengers so happy with our routes and petition that they’re celebrating with cake. We’ve got tasty low fares! pic.twitter.com/MpT6ssSX6a— Ryanair (@Ryanair) September 7, 2023
Another tweet said the protesters "could have bought a flight from Belgium for the same price" as the cake.
Instead of buying cream pies, could have bought a flight from Belgium for the same price 😏 pic.twitter.com/8jruYI3ZxE— Ryanair (@Ryanair) September 7, 2023
A follow-up tweet said it was a "shame" that the cake was "soy-based cream."
Shame it was soy-based cream, definitely not as tasty as the real stuff 🥴pic.twitter.com/lcf23C674L— Ryanair (@Ryanair) September 7, 2023
The fourth quipped about "sneaking past security."
Michael O'Leary 🤝 sneaking past security to deliver 1.5M signatures to Ursula von der Leyenpic.twitter.com/lcf23C674L— Ryanair (@Ryanair) September 7, 2023
According to RTÉ, Ryanair, Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers, says it is one of the most efficient airlines in the world due to the large number of passengers it fits into its aircraft and the low number of empty seats.
Earlier this year, however, Brussels-based think tank Transport & Environment (T&E) found that "Ryanair was again Europe’s top polluting airline last year , emitting 13.3 million tonnes of CO2."
While the protesters hit out at Ryanair's environmental impact on Thursday, the Irish airline was hitting out at the European Commission's inaction to protect overflights during strikes.
Ahead of the incident, Ryanair said on Thursday that it would be delivering its ‘Protect Overflights: Keep EU Skies Open’ petition to the EU Commission in Belgium.
The petition, according to Ryanair, "has over 1.5m signatures from fed-up passengers demanding that the EU Commission protect overflights and EU citizens’ freedom of movement during repeated ATC [air traffic controller] strikes."
Ryanair said: "While EU citizens flights are cancelled, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has failed to act and allowed over 1.2m EU passengers to have their flights cancelled at short notice, even when they are not flying to/from France.
"Even now, French ATC unions have called yet another strike (the 64th in 2023) for Fri, 15 Sept while Ursula von der Leyen continues to do nothing.
"Ryanair calls on the EU Commission to act on this 1.5m citizen petition and demand that all EU States protect overflights during ATC strikes as is already done in Greece, Italy, and Spain."
Meanwhile, Ryanair pilots in Belgium announced on Thursday a new strike on September 14 and 15 over pay and working conditions, their fourth stoppage in two months. According to Reuters, the strike will affect Ryanair flights to and from Belgium's Charleroi airport, but it is unclear yet how many pilots will join the strike and how many flights will need to be canceled.