Get to Know Cross Border Xpress

Crossing the border doesn’t have to be hard or tedious for travelers.

For those traveling in San Diego and looking to explore Mexico, Cross Border Xpress (CBX) should be on their radar.

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We caught up with CBX CEO Jorge Goytortua to learn more about what his company can do for travelers.

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TravelPulse: What does Cross-Border Xpress offer and how does it work?

Jorge Goytortua: Cross Border Xpress is a unique and binational one-of-a-kind project in the world. We are a Tijuana airport terminal located in San Diego, California. We started operations on December 9th of 2019, and are unique because you can travel from other locations in Mexico to Tijuana´s airport, you tag your luggage, you cross a bridge that connects Tijuana´s airport with the Southern California region, only walking 380 feet and you are already in the US.

It’s a project that was made possible with private investment in public infrastructure. To give you an example, a passenger who wants to travel from Mexico to the United States, or the US to Mexico, they come to CBX, cross the bridge if you’re traveling for instance to Mexico from the US, you cross the bridge and go to immigration and customs and you have special access to the boarding gate to board your flight to then arrive at your Mexican destination from a domestic environment. This alone is a competitive advantage of CBX, when you compare the experience to others where you arrive at other border destinations within Mexico and or the US, having to go through immigration and customs which could take more than an hour.

Therefore, our service commitment, our promise to our customers is to cross the bridge within 20 minutes, in low season. In high season you should expect more people. The experience for travelers coming back to the US means they only need to pick up their luggage at Tijuana´s airport, cross the bridge within minutes going through immigration in the United States, which gives great relief and comfort to our customers. We all know that arriving into some airports in the US and going through immigration and customs, can sometimes take hours, so basically, using the CBX terminal allows travelers to be in US territory within minutes.

TP: So what are the benefits of this terminal and how does it differ from others at the US-Mexico border.

JG: We are the only terminal that connects US to Mexico through this bridge, and one of our key advantages is the connectivity that Tijuana´s airport has been able to develop within Mexico after CBX was launched. Tijuana´s airport, currently serves 35 destinations in Mexico, and only Mexico City´s airport has that many destinations connected, making CBX during certain months of the year, the number one most connected airport in Mexico. Connectivity is the number one benefit, second is costs. Air Ticket prices are always a benefit, because you don’t have to pay all the taxes of an international flight, so you can save 30 to 40% on your air ticket price, leaving from the CBX than if you were departing from San Diego or LA or Orange County airports, so that in itself is a very unique advantage. We also have 6,000 parking spots at the CBX terminal, where passengers can park their car and cross to catch their flight without having the long waiting time. Those are the three key advantages of using CBX.

TP: How did the pandemic impact business and how are things recovering now?

JG: In April 2020 we lost 90% of our traffic, but in May were just down 85% and then we started seeing our recovery by June, which lead us to having only a 40% loss in 2020 in comparison to 2019, which was relatively small when comparing it to other international airports. As people started discovering Mexico was a place to travel, and the tourism industry in Mexico suppliers and destinations did a fantastic job at having the right protocols, people started to think wow!, there are flights out of Tijuana to almost anywhere in Mexico, and this has become a great option to start traveling to Mexico. CBX, as well as Tijuana Airport, were certified by the World Travel and Tourism Council WTTC on the safe travel seal. This couldn’t have been done without airline partnerships. They really bet on this market and put passenger capacity back much faster than for any other destination in Mexico. To give you an example, Tijuana´s Airport did recover from the pandemic starting in May 2020, and was already surpassing 2019 numbers, and is expected to end this year with a 7% growth compared to 2019.

Regarding the flow of Mexicans entering the US by land through CBX, because of the restrictions in place, we did not have the same recovery, but were very close. We’re expecting to end the year with $2.8 million users, which is only 100,000 less passengers than we had in 2019. This is the result of team work between airlines and destinations. We have been mindful about not promoting travel, but airlines were doing a great job with health protocols. Our US based customers grew 30% from 2019, and that really drove our recovery in 2021. So this is very unique and no other airport in the world has had this kind or recovery.

Cross Border Express kiosk
Checking in at Cross Border Express (photo by Toni Aguirre)

TP: What are the current COVID-19 protocols travelers should be aware of CBX?

JG: We want to continue being responsible. In December we expect 400,000 passengers crossing with CBX and we are still sticking to our strict protocols. Number one is the face mask is mandatory, number two we have sanitary stations all over the terminal. When you are arriving to Mexico there is a temperature check, we are encouraging passengers to fill out their health questionnaire as well. We are not requiring passengers to have a negative COVID test, but are requiring passengers to have proof of vaccination, so these are the key things to keep our travelers safe. We have also invested on the expansion of the terminal, and just recently added 7,000 sq. ft. that allow us to have more physical space to keep the safe distance, and we continue to care for our passengers and employees’ safety by following all the protocols.

TP: How does CBX work with travel advisors?

JG: We launched this year a program where travel agents can enroll to sell CBX tickets in both countries. We currently have a small amount of travel agents, but all the travel advisor community, need to know that they can get commission for selling CBX. What we are doing now is working at educating travel agents that when they think of sending customers to Mexico, the first thing that comes to their mind, is that they have to send travelers departing from a US Airport, and it never comes to mind to have them fly out from a Mexican destination, specifically out of Tijuana´s Airport. What we’re doing now is to educate the travel agents that using CBX is a convenient and safe way to travel to Mexico.

Another great advantage is that CBX was granted a “terminal code”, this is not an IATA code, nor an airport code, known as TJX which means that now airlines such as Viva Aerobus and Volaris are promoting the TJX code as part of their US route network, reiterating again without being an airport code, that they can display on their flights like San Diego, which is helping capture the interest of Southern California travelers, 50% of customers come from the Greater LA area, because of connectivity, it´s better to drive south to CBX instead of driving to LAX.

It’s a safe, fast way to travel to Mexico, within Mexico, and back to the US. www.crossborderxpress.com

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