Tijuana’s International Airport in Mexico has been one of the good stories of the last year. Despite the pandemic, the border hub (it’s literally outside of California, and it even connects with the United States through the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) facilities, has increased its number of flights, and seats, even receiving a few new routes from Mexican airlines.
Between January and February, Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) became the second most important domestic hub in Mexico. It had 1.57 million passengers, surpassing Cancun International, something that has never happened before.
Nevertheless, spoiler alert, most likely it won’t happen again, since Cancun has had an impressive domestic growth in March and April, fueled by the Easter holidays.
In the first two months of the year, Tijuana was 29.4 percent below its pre-pandemic domestic numbers. It had one of the best recoveries in the country, just below Cancun and San José del Cabo, two leisure destinations.
Since 2015, Tijuana has had impressive growth following the launch of the CBX, which acts as a point of entry into the United States. Last year, CBX obtained an IATA code that allows airlines to sell tickets into Tijuana as if it were an airport in the United States. All of this has made Tijuana a hot spot.
Compared to 2015 April numbers, Tijuana now offers 69.2 percent more weekly flights, with an increase of over 102 percent in the number of weekly seats, according to data provided by Cirium.
Volaris has made Tijuana one of its most important hubs. The low-cost carrier offers 36 out of the 49 routes the airport currently has. It provides 77 percent of the weekly seats in Tijuana.
Growth compared to 2019
The COVID-19 pandemic led Tijuana to have 6.31 million passengers in 2020, a 29.2 percent decrease compared to the previous year.
So far, in 2021, the airport has performed even better. In 2021’s first quarter, the airport had 1.83 million passengers, a 12.8 percent decrease compared to last year before the pandemic kicked in in the country. Compared to 2019’s first quarter, the drop is 10 percent.
In terms of capacity in April 2021, the airport has had an increase in the number of flights and seats compared to the same period of 2019.
This month, Tijuana is offering 609 weekly flights, with 110,910 seats available. That’s a 9.1 percent increase compared to 2019.
What have we lost due to the pandemic?
Between April 2019 and April 2021, Tijuana lost connectivity on nine routes. Four of them were operated by Interjet, an airline that is no longer flying and looking into bankruptcy. Interjet flew to El Bajío International Airport (BJX), Culiacán (CUL), Guadalajara (GDL), and Mexico City (MEX).
Calafia Airlines also suspended one route to San José del Cabo; Aeromexico closed two routes to Guadalajara and Shanghai. TAR Aerolíneas suspended its route to Hermosillo. Finally, the only international airline to exit Tijuana was Hainan Airlines which suspended its route to Beijing.
Both routes to Shanghai (Aeromexico) and Beijing (Hainan) started in Mexico City but used Tijuana as a middle point due to runway length issues.
Daniel Martínez Garbuno is a Mexican journalist. He has specialized in the air industry working mainly for A21, a Mexican media outlet focused entirely on the aviation world. He has also published on other sites like Simple Flying, Roads & Kingdoms, Proceso, El Economista, Buzos de la Noticia, Contenido, and Notimex.