OUTSPOKEN Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary tried to row back on a foul-mouthed attack on a mother last night after he was reported to have called her an "idiot".
His clarification came after mother-of-two Suzy McLeod (35) complained about being hit with €300 worth of fees when she arrived for a return flight home without printed the boarding cards for herself and her family.
He was unrepentant about calling passengers in general who turn up at airports without printed boarding passes stupid and added that they were idiots.
But he insisted to the Irish Independent last night that his comments should not be interpreted as a personal attack on the British mother who had sought compensation from him.
"I was not calling her stupid, but all those passengers are stupid who think we will change our policies or our fees," he said.
Passengers using the carrier are expected to check in online and print their boarding passes. They can can do this up to 14 days in advance. The fee for not having a printed boarding pass is €60 per passenger.
Because Ms McLeod was in Alicante, Spain, over 15 days and staying in a rural villa without internet access, she says she was unable to print a pass online.
Her plight had prompted no sympathy from Mr O'Leary, who had blasted at a press conference on Tuesday: "Mother pays £200 for being an idiot and failing to comply with her agreement at the time of booking."
Mr O'Leary earned €1.3m last year and his airline is on course to carry 79 million passengers this year.
However, when challenged by this newspaper about his boorish comments, Mr O'Leary denied last night that he had been aggressive and offensive to the mother, who is from Berkshire in England.
His comments were not directed personally at her, he argued, but at all those who forget to print a boarding pass, especially if they then seek compensation afterwards.
On Tuesday, Mr O'Leary had said: "She wasn't able to print her boarding card because, as you know, there are no internet cafes in Alicante, no hotels where they could print them out for you and you couldn't get to a fax machine so some friend at home can print them and fax them to you."
He admitted he uses strong language and can be forceful in arguments in general, but last night he denied that he set out to offend ordinary people.
Ms McLeod went on Twitter to complain about her treatment. She also wrote to Mr O'Leary, seeking compensation and a gesture of goodwill.
On Tuesday Mr O'Leary said about this: "To which we have replied, politely but firmly, thank you Mrs McLeod but it was your f***-up and if you screw up, you compensate us and you send us a gesture of goodwill."
Yesterday, he accepted that Ms McLeod had made a mistake and admitted that he himself had been stupid to forget his passport once. But he refused to apologise for his comments, adding: "I had not been intemperate, I had not lost my temper and it was not a tirade."