Last month, a new project was announced that will build a covered walkway connecting Tijuana Airport to the U.S. border. According to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and other sources, the walkway will result in major savings for travelers headed to Mexico, where it's often cheaper to catch domestic flights within Mexico than to fly from the U.S..
Of course, the thought of cheaper flights to Mexico made our ears perk up. But we had to wonder: who will benefit from this? And how much can the walkway actually help you save? Sure, certain flights out of Tijuana may be cheaper than flying out of San Diego or Los Angeles, for example. But once you've factored in the extra time it takes to cross the border, and the possible differences in route options, will the savings outweigh the extra leg work? Though we can't predict how things will change after the walkway opens in 2015, here's an assessment of pricing right now...
A quick look at the departures board over at Tijuana International Airport reveals that the border city's two most popular destinations are Mexico City and Guadalajara. On a given day, that means approximately 15 flights to each, serviced by various carriers such as Volaris, InterJet, AeroMexico, and Copa. Mid-March flights from Tijuana to Mexico City start at around $237 (on Volaris). This is cheaper than flying out of San Diego, which offers Mexico City flights for $334 on United. For some travelers, the $97 savings could make the extra cross-border travel worthwhile, but we know lots of people who would opt for the convenience of flying from the U.S..
Over in Los Angeles, a flight in mid-March to Mexico City is going for around $307 on United. That's $70 more than flying from Tijuana, but consider the hassle of getting from Los Angeles to Tijuana (a 142-mile distance), and it's pretty clear which airport makes more sense.
However, we can't be too quick to write off the Tijuana option – on certain routes, there are savings to be had. For example, those seeking a long weekend in mid-March in laid-back Cancun will spend only $327 to fly out of Tijuana, compared to a much pricier $656 out of San Diego. Of course, this makes the most sense if you're based in San Diego, which lies just 23 miles from the border. If that's the case, and you're willing to get yourself to the Tijuana Airport, that $329 savings is huge.
It's also worth mentioning that while many U.S. travelers already make use of the Tijuana airport by simply crossing the border themselves and taking a $12 cab ride to the airport, the new passageway would eliminate that cost and facilitate smoother connections between the border and the airport.
For non-West Coast travelers, the Tijuana option offers no significant savings as of yet. Travelers in Chicago, for example, will pay around $450 just to get to either San Diego or Tijuana. Compare that to AeroMexico's $383 direct flight to Mexico City, and it ends up being cheaper to bypass Tijuana altogether.