Tijuana International airport is in the midst of adding a new terminal on the US side of the Mexico-USA border, in what will be the first bi-national passenger terminal in either country.
The cross-border terminal project includes a new terminal on the US side of the border – about 32km from central San Diego – connected to the existing terminal in Mexico via a roughly 150m (500ft) bridge, says Tomas Ramirez, chief commercial officer of Tijuana airport operator Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico (GAP).
GAP is responsible for improvements to the existing terminal and the section of the bridge on its property, an investment of about $15 million says Ramirez, while privately held Otay-Tijuana Ventures is building the new facility and the remaining portion of the bridge on the US side of the border.
Mexican customs and immigration facilities will be located on the south side of the border and a US federal inspections facility on the north side. Security screening will be located on the Mexican side.
The entire project is estimated to cost between $60 million and $70 million, according to various reports.
Opening is expected in the first quarter of 2015, says Ramirez.
The new US terminal will be more like a shopping mall than a terminal, says Ramirez. Passengers will have to use electronic ticketing kiosks or can print boarding passes prior to arriving at the airport in order to access the bridge to the Mexican side of the border, he says.
Airlines are not expected to open check-in counters in the new terminal, as these would duplicate those on the Mexican side, he says.
The new terminal is expected to boost passenger traffic at Tijuana by about 100,000 passengers a year, says Ramirez. This will add about one million new passengers to the airport’s existing three million in 10 years, he adds.
Mexico bound travellers from San Diego will likely benefit immediately. They will no longer have to use the existing highway border crossings, where it can take up to two hours to move between the countries, in order to access the Tijuana airport.
Mexican domestic flights from Tijuana are also significant cheaper than international flights to the country from nearby San Diego International airport.
Ramirez is optimistic that the US terminal will attract more than just domestic Mexico traffic. The facility could create a gateway for Asia-Pacific carriers to access both Latin America and Southern California via one airport, he says.
GAP is in discussions with an airline regarding a possible new nonstop from Tijuana to South Korea, says Ramirez.
Mexico allows passengers to transit at its airports without entering the country, which could make a facility like Tijuana a convenient option for international connections to Latin America. However, any foreign airline wanting to do this would need fifth freedom rights to fly from Mexico to a third country other than its own.
By comparison, the USA requires transiting passengers to enter the country and re-clear security before catching connecting flights, even if their final destination is outside the USA.
Tijuana already serves as Aeromexico’s gateway to Asia, with nonstop flights to Shanghai Pudong and Tokyo Narita.