Simon Calder: No scrum for the XV flying to 'Munich West'

Fifteen: the degrees of longitude corresponding to a one-hour zone as you make your way around the planet; the name of Jamie Oliver's "global social enterprise brand" which now has restaurants in London, Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne; and the number of passengers on flight FR2406 on Tuesday.

Anyone who succumbed to Ryanair's invitation to pay an extra few pounds for Priority Boarding for this flight from Stansted to "Munich West" would have felt foolish when they reached to the gate. Fifteen happens to be the complement for a Rugby Union side, but there was no sign of the usual boarding scrum. We ambled on board and chose the dozen seats to which, in the absence of other takers, each of us was entitled; I took rows 15 and 16, A to F inclusive. A couple of seats remained for each of the crew – for once, underworked. And one was left over for any Ryanair executive contemplating the 8 per cent "load factor" and the stain of red ink on the airline's accounts. Not as bleak as British Airways' losses revealed yesterday, perhaps, but still as dismal as the clouds that smothered Essex before the Boeing 737 broke through into the morning sun.

One of the more hopeless French airlines, Air Liberté, had a short-lived link from Gatwick to Paris in the early 1990s. Because its Fokker 100 aircraft offered leather seats and ample legroom, the airline used the questionable slogan "It's all business class on this Fokker" to promote its £99 return fare.

My as-close-as-Ryanair-gets-to-business-class experience cost a lot less than £99; £3.40, including taxes, fees and charges. Ryanair was about £17 down on the deal when I boarded, and its finances remained unimpressive when I declined the opportunity to pay £3 for an inflight bottle of water. A fellow passenger who booked only the previous day paid £30. The total fare take could hardly have topped £300, which would not even pay for the air-traffic control charges on the 80-minute hop to the final frontier of Bavaria.

Why should so few people choose to board a plane with 189 seats? Fifteen plausible reasons present themselves, starting with:

1. It's Tuesday, traditionally the day when planes are emptiest.

2. The route is a new one, and it always takes time to build traffic.

3. If "Munich (West)" were any further west, it would no longer be in Bavaria. Anyone with a desire to travel to Munich and in possession of a map would realise that Aer Lingus, British Airways, easyJet and Lufthansa adopt the useful policy of flying to the Bavarian capital's airport, not to a town 70 miles away.

And the list ends with:

15. Could it be that Memmingen, the actual location for "Munich (West)" is the most unpopular place in Europe?

I was about to find out.

Memmingen airport is notable for several things: it is the first I have seen with a log cabin adjacent to the terminal that serves as a cheery bierkeller; with a giant yogurt pot (celebrating a local dairy firm); and with a rather forlorn woman holding a big sign reading "Bus to Munich €18 – follow me". No one did. It had become clear from the window of row 16 (and 15) that the airport was an easy walk from the town. So I strode out into the bright Bavarian morning, through meadows sprinkled with flowers and augmented by birdlife, the pastoral bliss only briefly interrupted by the returning flight.

The middle of Memmingen is a treat for the soul. It grew rich on the salt trade, with graceful inns such as the Gasthof zum Schwanen created in the 16th century. This was also the era when the world's first known charter of human rights was conceived in the town, snappily entitled The Just and Fundamental Articles of All the Peasantry and Tenants of Spiritual and Temporal Powers by Whom They Think Themselves Oppressed; not believed to be a reference to Ryanair passengers.

At the town's heart is the fine facade of a renaissance town hall. Beneath its curvaceous gables a flourishing market was taking place, at which I found the only trace of conflict in this serene stadt: Spargelzeit. Intense competition flourished between vendors of asparagus, which is at its prime right now. But the only weapons in evidence were the asparagus spears on sale, €8 per kilo.

An early summer's day drifts dreamily by in Memmingen. Ornate frescoes bring colour to street corners, while even the bus shelters are decorated with maple leaves. The mighty gothic St Martin's church boasts a 500-year-old choir, whose elaborate carving provides the ideal harmonious finale for a visit.

The oompah may not have faded from this cheerful corner of Bavaria, but back at the airport, the meadow was being patrolled by a wheeling eagle. As prospective passengers opt out of flying, expect the aviation giants to swoop on enfeebled prey.

Mexico makes waves again

Mexico is safe again for British travellers: that was the Foreign Office's conclusion last Friday evening. It no longer warns against travel to the country at the centre of the swine flu outbreak. To fill thousands of unsold aircraft seats and hotel beds, tour operators are cutting prices to el hueso (the bone). So, if you are tempted by our Complete Guide to Mexican Shores, you can find some formidable bargains if you are prepared to leave soon. Fly tomorrow on Thomas Cook from Manchester to Cancún, and the price for 10 all-inclusive nights at the four-star Sandos Caracol is an astonishing £473.

Not to be sneezed at: two years ago, I paid that much for a return flight alone. But the firm may wish to alter its online promise that visitors to Mexico will discover "a bullish, confident country with a booming economy, lively tourist industry and a new found swagger".

Contact The Independent Traveller via email: travel@independent.co.uk.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    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
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness