Tijuana International Airport opened a new 430,000-square-foot terminal this week to facilitate travel for thousands of passengers who use the Sky Bridge Cross Border Express daily.
The new processing facility adds more southbound immigration and customs check lines in Mexico. It will also add nearly 40 check-in desks and two new boarding gates.
Monday’s opening of the two-story terminal stems from passenger growth at Tijuana Airport and Cross Border Xpress, or CBX. Both have reported a significant economic recovery after the peak of the epidemic.
In 2021, CBX handled more than 2.7 million passengers, an increase of 64 percent compared to 2020. Tijuana Airport finished 2021 with 9.7 million passengers.
In the first four months of 2022, both saw an increase compared to the same period last year. Based on these numbers, CBX estimates that 2022 will end with 4 million passengers, while Tijuana Airport estimates another record year with 11 million passengers.
“The economic impact that California and Baja California have is a factor that fuels the airport’s growth and development,” said Eduardo Gonzalez, director of Tijuana International Airport. “It’s a component that contributes to the capacity and demand of travelers.”
About 30 percent of passengers arriving at Tijuana Airport use the cross-border bridge.
The $100 million project is the largest not only in the history of Tijuana Airport, but among the 12 airports in Mexico operated by Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico, Gonzalez said.
With the opening of the new terminal, Tijuana Airport has nearly doubled in size. Gonzalez said the new building will meet expected passenger demand by 2034.
It is estimated that by that year more than 17 million passengers will pass through Tijuana Airport.
The idea of this modernization and expansion is to once again attract international flights. In the past, Tijuana Airport had flights to Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Narita (Japan). We want them to come back, but we (also) are ready to take planes from anywhere else. “
Marina del Pilar Avila, the governor of Baja California, said she is working with the Mexican Ministry of Tourism to achieve this goal. “(This facility) opens the door to the world to receive Tijuana thousands of visitors daily, and also to be able to receive international flights to our beloved Tijuana,” she said.
Avila attended the opening ceremony along with other binational leaders, such as Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero, and Director of Customs and Border Protection Field Operations Sidney Ake, among others.
The second phase of the project includes the expansion of the northbound area of Tijuana Airport. Construction is expected to be completed within the next few months.
The new building in Tijuana is directly connected to the CBX station in Otay Mesa. Passengers with boarding passes can transit either to the airport on the Mexico side or to the arrival hall on the US side.
Jorge Guitortua, CEO of CBX, said the new building “will transform our traveler experience”.
CBX has recently expanded from four to eight double inspection booths for a total of 16 lines available to process passengers arriving from Tijuana Airport.
Goytortúa said the expansion, along with incorporating new technology, made it possible to speed up passenger processing.
It is up to US Customs and Border Protection to determine the number of US officers assigned to the northbound border crossing. Goytortúa said more customers have been ordered. “We are working with the authorities,” he said.
He estimated that the average wait time to cross from Mexico to the US on CBX during off-peak hours is about 24 minutes. The goal, he said, was to reduce the waiting time to 15 minutes.
The San Diego Association of Governments regional plan includes a proposal to connect the CBX station to San Diego International Airport by subway.
Hassan Akhrata, CEO of SANDAG, said the agency expects the environmental phase to begin soon. In a best-case scenario, he said, the project could become a reality within five years.