I’ve lived in San Diego on and off for about five years, and one thing that surprised me at first was how much interaction there is between San Diego and Tijuana. It seems normal now, and we have many friends who live in TJ and commute, others who frequent Mexican beaches on weekends, and so forth.
There’s a great deal of traffic between the two cities, and as both airports primarily provide “domestic” service, it’s not uncommon to use one airport or the other based on where you’re traveling, though it’s not particularly convenient due to the frequently long wait times at the crossings.
As border cities with populations that have long-since outpaced their relative infrastructures, San Diego and Tijuana have a history of proposed airport solutions that never really go anywhere. Discussions have ranged from relocating one airport, to building a new shared facility, to developing a “floating” airport in the Pacific.
For one reason or another those plans have never really gotten off the ground, but one has finally come to fruition. After decades of discussion and several years of intense construction and planning, the San Diego terminal of the Tijuana airport opens today.
The new terminal consists of a passenger facility and a pedestrian bridge, with the idea being that most “landside” services will be available on the San Diego side of the border. Passengers will be able to use the Cross Border Xpress facility like any other airport terminal, cross the border using the skybridge, and enter the main Tijuana terminal directly.
Spanning 390 feet, the CBX skywalk is the first ever to connect a facility in the U.S. directly into a foreign airport terminal. Cross Border Xpress serves the approximately 2.4 million passengers who already cross the border as part of their travels, helping them avoid unpredictable, often long delays at congested San Ysidro and Otay Mesa land ports of entry.
The pedestrian bridge is a great solution, but it’s the passenger facility that really makes this work. The main border crossing is about seven miles away, so building a bridge from there would have resulted in miles of hamster tubes, which is I think how many people have been imaging this project.
How does the skybridge work?
To start, you have to be a ticketed passenger with flights departing or arriving in Tijuana. In order to cross the bridge, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for the bridge, and show your boarding pass.
When arriving at the Tijuana airport, you’ll claim your luggage prior to crossing the bridge, then will clear U.S. Customs on the San Diego side of the facility.
Does this work for any flights from Tijuana?
Yes, and all the airlines operating out of TIJ (Aeromexico, Aeromexico Connect, Interjet, VivaAerobus, Volaris, and Aero Calafia) have service desks on the San Diego side of the facility.
You can buy tickets or request extra services (such as wheelchairs and unaccompanied minor services) on the San Diego side, but baggage still has to be checked on the Mexico side.
What about Global Entry?
The CBX has been designated an official point of entry to the United States, so all Customs and Border Protection services are available.
This means you can use Global Entry and SENTRI, or take care of I-94s or other immigration processes. For the latter, however, remember that the CBX facility can only be used by ticketed passengers of the Tijuana airport.
How much does it cost?
The Cross Border Xpress is a private venture, so there is a fee associated with using the terminal (sorta like a toll road).
You can buy tickets in advance on the CBX website, or by using the kiosks in either terminal:
While crossing tickets are free between today and December 18th, going forward each passenger will pay to use the facility:
- Adults (12-65) | $18
- Seniors (65+) | $14.40*
- Children (3-12) | $14.40*
- Infants (0-2) | Free
* The $14.40 price reflects a 20% discount for Seniors and Children per the CBX press release. The website isn’t currently displaying this discount.
How does parking/ground transportation work?
Just like any other airport! Once you’ve cleared immigration and crossed to the San Diego side of the bridge you’ll have access to shuttles, Uber, and car rentals from Avis, Alamo, Enterprise, and Hertz.
Long-term parking will be $10 per day, with short-term parking at the following rates:
Note that you cannot take the San Diego Trolley to the new cross-border terminal. The trolley goes to the main Otay Mesa crossing (which is miles away), so you’re better off going to the terminal directly using other methods.
What else does the San Diego terminal offer?
It seems CBX is attempting to make this as much like the usual airport experience as possible, and will have retail and concessions in addition to their other services:
I’ve also heard mention of a VIP lounge, but I can’t find any details about the access rules as of yet. Stay tuned!
This is certainly a creative solution, and I’m excited to see how it works in practice, even if it is on the pricey side. We often see compelling fares to Central and South America from Tijuana, but up until now the border hassles have negated the discounts somewhat.
For those traveling out of the Tijuana Airport on a regular basis, this should certainly be an improvement.
Anyone frequently use the Tijuana Airport? What are your thoughts on the new bridge?