First opened in 2015, two years after construction on it began in Tijuana and one year after building started on the United States side, the Cross Border Xpress continues to grow in popularity and offerings.
From its beginnings, “our vision (has been) to offer a convenient alternative to accessing the airport and avoiding the congested land ports of entry at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa,” said Karen Higareda, director of public relations and government affairs for Cross Border Xpress.
Better known by its acronym CBX, the privately run 390-foot long land border crossing between Mexico and the U.S. – located on one side in the Tijuana International Airport and leading to a service terminal at the port of entry in Otay Mesa in San Diego on the other side – is becoming increasingly in demand by travelers, officials say.
In 2022, CBX, only for ticked passengers flying into or out of the Tijuana airport, was used by 4.2 million passengers, 52% higher than the 2.75 million travelers who used CBX in 2021. Officials say they are expecting 4.7 million CBX users this year this year.
Overall, the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing is historically the busiest in the world, with more than 50 million people crossing yearly.
“We promote California as the top destination for Mexican travelers,” said Jorge Goytortúa, since 2018 the CEO of CBX. “We partner with organizations such as Visit California and San Diego Tourism Authority to ensure we send the same message: California is fun, nature, and adventure, with activities and attractions for everyone.”
CBX’s design and operation are consistent with U.S. and international security standards, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations located within the CBX facility in the U. S., and Mexican Immigration and Customs located at the Tijuana airport.
The Tijuana airport provides direct flights to 39 destinations within Mexico via four commercial airlines – Aeroméxico, Calafia, Viva Aerobus and Volaris.
The Pacific Airport Group, also known as Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico (GAP), which operates the Tijuana airport, reports that more than 4 million people used the CBX pedestrian bridge as part of their travel needs in 2022.
The figure is 52% higher than the 2.75 million people who used CBX in 2021. It’s also 44% higher than the number of people who used the crossing pre-Covid-19 in 2019.
Higareda said that one of the advantages of using CBX for Southern California residents is that an international flight becomes a domestic flight once you cross the border; and as such, travelers can save up to 40% of the cost of a ticket.
Last May, the Tijuana airport celebrated the grand opening of a new $100 million, 430,000-square foot passenger processing facility. The expansion increased the security screening capacity by 75 percent, increased the amount of immigration and customs booths, airline counters and boarding gates, reduced traveler wait times and expedited the transit process from the U.S. to Mexico.
GAP CEO Raúl Revuelta Musalem, the CBX CEO from 2016-18, said he strongly attributed an increase in passenger numbers at the Tijuana Airport to the opening of CBX.
Data shows that 12.3 million passengers used the airport in 2022, up from about 9.7 million the previous year. When CBX opened in late 2015, the airport was handling nearly 4.8 million passengers a year.
Andy Carey is executive director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership, which supports organizations collaboratively addressing prosperity, equity and opportunity in the border region. Carey said the growing success of CBX is crucial for a number of reasons, including providing a vehicle to grow the binational economies.
“We believe the CBX is an economic engine that will continue to grow and prosper,” Carey said. “Not only are we growing our binational economy, but we are also uniting families between our countries. The CBX terminal is uniting families from throughout the U.S. and Mexico, and allows families to visit one another.”
A member of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, CBX also acts an economic catalyst and offers opportunity for tourism in both countries, Chamber leaders say.
Kenia Zamarripa, director of International Business Affairs at the Chamber, said that while some people may feel that San Diego International Airport and the Tijuana Airport are competing for customers, the reality is that the two spots complement one another. She said that San Diego Tourism Authority and its counterparts in Tijuana promote a “two-nation vacation” that promotes the entire border region.
Cross Border Xpress
CEO: Jorge Goytortúa
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Transportation terminal
REVENUE: Privately held
CONTACT: Via chatbox at crossborderxpress.com
SOCIAL IMPACT: The Cross Border Xpress website says that the company “seeks to have a positive impact in the communities of Tijuana and San Diego, promote teamwork, mutual cooperation and the development of each of our team members’ potential.”
NOTABLE: CBX will invest $7M this year in 4,500 solar panels to help it reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.