Luis Palacios, chief commercial officer for Cross Border Xpress // © 2017 Cross Border Xpress
Feature image (above): Cross Border Xpress bypasses hours of waiting in line at the traditional border crossing. // © 2017 Cross Border Xpress
Tijuana International Airport has long been an option for cheaper travel between Mexico and Southern California, yet the logistical nightmare of passing through customs remained. Enter Cross Border Xpress (CBX), the pedestrian bridge that spans two nations.
As awareness increases and operations are improved, CBX is becoming a more viable and popular alternative to waiting for hours in a car at one of the most congested border crossings in the world. In 2017, 1.07 million northbound and 870,000 southbound travelers utilized the service.
We spoke with Palacios about the impact this had on the region and abroad, as well as what’s next for CBX.
What exactly is Cross Border Xpress, and how has it changed travel between the United States and Mexico?
Founded in 2015, CBX is a pedestrian skywalk bridge that connects the Tijuana Airport with San Diego. It functions as a U.S.-based terminal of the Tijuana Airport in which southbound passengers can print boarding passes and check their bags, and northbound passengers can avoid the dreaded lines at the traditional border crossing, simply by walking into San Diego.
Some of the benefits this travel option has brought to the region include an increase of Mexican travelers visiting Southern California — Tijuana Airport’s passenger traffic grew by 47 percent over the last two years alone — and Mexican airlines opening more routes and creating more destinations from the Tijuana airport.
How does customs operate at CBX? Is it a quicker option than flying from the U.S.?
CBX functions like any border crossing on the Mexico-U.S. border; the difference is that CBX is only available for people that are using the Tijuana Airport. This means that travelers must show a valid boarding pass in addition to showing all legal documentation required when crossing the border.
As mentioned, one of the ways travelers save time is by using CBX to avoid the long lines at other border crossings. Travelers can also save time by avoiding layovers and booking direct flights to more than 30 destinations in Mexico — a perk no other airports in Southern California can offer. This is in great part why the amount of LA-based travelers using the Tijuana airport has almost doubled since CBX opened.
How is CBX cost-effective compared to traveling directly from Southern California airports? Are there fees associated with using CBX?
Thanks to CBX, more than 4,000 daily passengers who travel to and from Mexico take advantage of lower airfares that airports in Southern California do not offer. By using our bridge, travelers avoid paying international airfares when traveling between Southern California and Mexico. They only need to pay the associated fee for using CBX: $29 roundtrip and $16 for a single trip. There are also group discounts available.
What airlines are expanding in Tijuana Airport due to CBX?
Mexican airlines such as Volaris, Interjet, VivaAerobus and Aeromexico are increasing frequency and opening more routes to the interior of Mexico. Also, Volaris is now expanding to Central America by opening direct routes to San Salvador and Guatemala, and flight connections to Costa Rica and Managua, Nicaragua.
What kinds of investments are being made to infrastructure and technology?
In response to its rapid growth, CBX has made an investment in optimizing and integrating new technologies to its ticket purchasing system and website as well as offering a better buying experience and access to special promotions.
Another important action taking place is a parking lot expansion, with plans of doubling the number of parking spaces in the first trimester of 2018. In the future, we hope to also develop more retail, a gas station and a hotel.
Has there been any sort of pushback from the U.S.?
There has not been loss of business for Southern California airports because the intent behind this bridge is to create synergies in both regions. Recent statistics from October 2017 show that traffic to Mexican destinations shared by both Los Angeles International Airport and Tijuana International Airport has grown 36 percent and 27 percent, respectively.
In the future, do you think this type of infrastructure will be implemented elsewhere?
CBX is very unique because the Tijuana International Airport was already located next to the border, so the opportunity of transforming it into a binational airport was always there. Perhaps in the future we will see other types of infrastructure and services across the U.S. border that will make cooperation between both countries easier.