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Flying to Mexico? Cross Border Xpress sees Southern California traveler count boom

The nation’s only bi-national airport terminal at the southern edge of San Diego County is growing thanks in good part to the thousands of Southern California travelers who use the facility.

Updates to the Cross Border Xpress, or CBX, are coming on the heels of a record number of air travelers, mostly Americans, using the terminal’s enclosed 390-foot sky bridge to walk from Otay Mesa directly into Tijuana International Airport (TIJ).

In September, operators of the privately-owned CBX said the 6-year-old facility had surpassed the 12 million customer mark. And this year, despite pandemic-related travel restrictions, it has served 1.9 million travelers. In 2019, before leisure travel came to a screeching halt, the facility recorded 2.9 million travelers.

Travelers make their way along an enclosed bridge that links the U.S. to Mexico from the Cross Border Xpress building in Otay Mesa to the Tijuana International Airport. The facility allows for a traveler to park in the U.S., and then walk across an indoor elevated walkway to a flight out of the Tijuana airport without ever actually setting foot in the city of Tijuana.(Photo by Mark Rightmire,Orange County Register/SCNG)

The first phase of the expansion should be complete by mid-November, just a week after the Biden administration will ease restrictions at land borders for vaccinated travelers. Border crossings during the pandemic have been limited to essential travelers and Americans.

CBX updates include adding more room for customs agents and improving traveler flow in and out of the multimillion-dollar complex. A $100 million expansion at TIJ is adding a new wing for international flights and ultimately will reconfigure how CBX customers enter the airport. Outside of CBX in Otay Mesa, the owners are considering a parking structure and have entitlements from the county for future hotels, gas stations and retail spaces.

The Tijuana airport has been particularly popular this year as travel-starved Americans made their way to Mexican beach cities such as Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. The airport flies to 35 destinations in Mexico with an average 88 flights in and out of the airport daily.

“The traffic has been really, really good for us,” said CBX CEO Jorge Goytortua, who is leading the facility’s expansion.

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