Upgrades completed on Tijuana’s decades-old airport to accommodate more cross-border travelers
In a food truck courtyard outside the Cross Border Xpress airport terminal in Otay Mesa, Jesus Reyes from Anaheim sat down and reminisced with family members about his just-finished trip to Pénjamo, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Having flown home from Guanajuato to Tijuana, Reyes crossed over the five-minute walkway from Tijuana into Otay Mesa. The 62-year-old beamed as he caught up with his family and grabbed a bite.
“I went to Mexico to visit my grandmother and celebrate her 100th birthday,” said Reyes.
Cross Border Xpress in Otay Mesa and Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico announced Friday the completion of a $95.3 million renovation project for the decades-old Tijuana International Airport (TIJ), making flying into or out of Tijuana faster, nicer, and more convenient.
“I bought her a wheelchair and we danced all night with her in her wheelchair,” Reyes laughed.
At the table next to him, Chula Vista resident Thalía Vergara sat with her daughter and granddaughter, showing off a picture of a giant marlin she caught in Ixtapa, a Pacific Coast beach resort in Guerrero, Mexico.
Reyes and Vergara are among the 6,000 travelers a day who pay $16 to walk across a 390-foot cross-border overpass to fly into or out of Tijuana, which usually comes with the benefit of a reduced price on airfare rather than taking an international flight.
For example, a round-trip June flight from San Diego to Cancún is currently on sale for about $550 among various U.S. airlines, including United Airlines. For passengers wanting to fly out of Tijuana to Cancún on Volaris, a low-cost Mexican-based airline, round-trip tickets are currently priced at about $250 for June.
As the Trump administration continues to push for stronger barriers between the U.S.-Mexico border, international travelers Friday gushed about the improvements to one of the only airports in the world that straddles two countries.
“We’re an airport terminal in San Diego with our departures taking off from Tijuana,” said Nancy Gudiño, CBX’s international and public affairs manager.
The renovations improved terminal infrastructure in Tijuana and technology for check-in desks and baggage claim areas.
The project, which has been underway for the past five years, is the biggest investment made by and Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico to date, according to a news release about the finished renovations.
Tijuana International Airport’s main terminal building was expanded and modernized, and a new turbo pipeline was added to supply and service aircraft more efficiently.
“The Tijuana airport is excellent,” said Sonía Angelo, another traveler from Mexico walking into San Diego before heading to Los Angeles. “It’s very clean, pretty and convenient.”
And the Cross Border Xpress and Tijuana airport have a variety of duty-free luxury shopping opportunities, with stores like Estee Lauder, she added.
Completed this week, the project was aimed at accommodating increased numbers of travelers since the cross-border terminal opened in 2015. It included two additional security checkpoint lanes for CBX passengers and a total of 91,493 square feet of expanded space.
“The investments were made to accommodate the immense increase in passenger traffic that Cross Border Xpress has brought to Tijuana International Airport,” said Eduardo González Pérez, administrator of the Tijuana airport. “Since Cross Border Xpress opened in 2015, we’ve seen a cumulative growth of more than 60 percent.”
Before 2015, passengers arriving in Tijuana to cross into San Diego would have to drive about 15 minutes from the airport to the congested San Ysidro border-crossing and often wait hours in line before entering the United States.
The Cross Border Xpress airport bridge is a five-minute walk to a U.S. border agent.
The Tijuana airport, built in the 1950s, is a stone’s throw from the international border line in Otay Mesa, a large area of undeveloped and industrial buildings and warehouses.
On the other side, the Cross Border Xpress terminal occupies less than half their 55-acre parcel with plans to later build a hotel, restaurants and gas station, said Gudiño.
On the Friday before the Easter holiday weekend, the parking lot for rental cars on the U.S. side was completely empty, which Gudiño said was a great sign.
“That’s all tourism dollars coming into Southern California,” she said.
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