A privately funded airport terminal called Cross Border Xpress is a unique port of entry that allows only airline passengers using the Tijuana International Airport to cross from the United States to Mexico, and it generates enough revenue to pay the salaries of all the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who work there.
“We’re a port of entry exclusively for the use of passengers of the Tijuana airport,” said Nancy Gudino, international and public affairs manager for Cross Border Xpress.
Crossing countries is quick: On average it only takes 15 minutes. But in order to cross here, passengers must have current passports as well as documentation showing that they’re departing on a flight within 24 hours, or just arrived on a flight and crossed within two hours, Gudino said.
Access to the crossing terminal, even for journalists, is not allowed unless you have an airline ticket. But the 390-foot bridge that connects directly to the Tijuana Airport and rises behind the border wall can be seen from the outside.
In addition to having valid travel documents and a ticket, there is a charge of $16 per person each way to use the terminal, or $30 roundtrip.
“The region always recognized this was something we needed. The Tijuana Airport has always seen 50% of its passengers purchase their tickets with U.S. ZIP codes. So the knowledge was there that it would be well utilized, but it was: How do you capture those passengers?” Gudino said.
Private investors — 75% of whom are Mexican and 25% American — put up the funds, which allowed the terminal to open in 2015.
In general, flights are 40% less expensive for passengers who fly out of this Mexican airport.
Enough revenue has been generated to pay 100% of the salaries of all U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers who work there, Gudino said.
“All of their computers, X-ray machines, everything needed to operate at our facility is paid 100 percent by CBX,” she said.
A lot of families utilize it to take weekend trips to the Pacific resort of Cabo San Lucas, or places in the interior of Mexico, like Leon. They especially like being able to park in the United States, walk across a terminal to Mexico and fly out of Mexico without having to pay high fees for flying international from the United States, Gudino said.
Passengers coming from Mexico can take an inexpensive shuttle bus to downtown San Diego, the San Diego Airport or even to Los Angeles. There also are rental cars available and a tourist information stand to help facilitate cross-border commerce.
“Last year I went to Leon, in Mexico, and it was very comfortable and reasonable for the flight,” said taxi driver Ray Asgari.
Jonathan Mendoza, of Guadalajara, Mexico, arrived Friday morning on a flight with his father-in-law Eduardo Rodriguez. Mendoza’s parents live east of San Diego in Ramona, and he says a ticket costs him only about $70 from his hometown to the Tijuana International Airport.
"It is very easy to enter in Tijuana and it’s much more economical,” Mendoza said in Spanish.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com. She is reporting from the Border Report Border Tour, which left from San Diego and is traveling to Brownsville, Texas.