Talk about being close to everything. San Diego International Airport – the busiest single-runway airport in the United States – is just 3 miles north of downtown and across the street from San Diego Bay. It takes less than 15 minutes to drive from the airport to downtown. Mission Beach is 6½ miles northwest of the airport, less than 20 minutes drive time; La Jolla is about 15 miles north, about 30 minutes drive time, and Coronado is about 9 miles south, or 25 minutes drive time. The international border at San Ysidro crossing into Tijuana is less than 20 miles south, or about a 30-minute drive.
San Diego airport has two terminals; Terminal 1 with two concourses (Gates 3-10 and 11-18) and Terminal 2, also with two concourses (Gates 20-32 and 33-51). Only the concourses in Terminal 2 are connected post-security. Otherwise connecting passengers going between concourses must exit the TSA secure area and be re-screened.
The airport is preparing to break ground in late 2021 on a new Terminal 1 to replace the existing facility. The $3 billion, 1.2 million square-foot terminal is to be constructed in two stages to ensure the current number of gates remain available during the build out. In the first phase, scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2025, 19 new gates will be added. The next phase, scheduled to open in early 2027, will add 11 new gates. When work is complete, the airport will have a total of 62 gates.
Ground transportation choices from the airport include app-based rides, taxis, limousines and shuttles, all of which can be reached by following the signs from either terminal to the Transportation Plazas. Car rental companies are all located in a Consolidated Rental Car Center and are reached by using dedicated shuttles that operate continuously 24/7 for the 10-15 minute ride between the terminal and the center.
San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System Route 992 buses depart from outside the airport’s baggage claim about every 15 minutes daily for the 10-15-minute ride to West Broadway and Kettner Boulevard, which is adjacent to America Plaza and across the street from Santa Fe Depot where passengers can connect to other bus routes, the Trolley light rail, COASTER commuter rail and Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner intercity train.
Passengers going to the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) can connect to the CBX Shuttle departing every two hours 9:15 a.m.-9:15 p.m. from the Consolidated Rental Car Center at SAN. (Another option is to take the MTS Route 992 bus downtown and board the CBX Shuttle 15 minutes later at the Santa Fe Depot.) The shuttle’s scheduled travel time is 55 minutes from the airport’s car rental center to the CBX terminal at Otay Mesa, where passengers flying from Tijuana’s General Abelardo L. Rodríguez International Airport can check-in for their flights on the U.S. side of the border and then use a 400-foot skybridge that leads directly into the terminal on the Mexico side. There are fees to use the shuttle and the CBX, which is only available to passengers booked on flights departing and arriving the Tijuana airport.
Southwest Airlines flights arrive and depart San Diego at gates 3-12 in Terminal 1. Be aware that gates 3-10 and gates 11-18 are on separate concourses and passengers connecting between the two must leave the TSA secure area and be re-screened.
San Diego likes to bill itself as America’s Finest City. The temperate climate has a lot to do with it, especially during the summer when they say “zonies,” Arizonans escaping the heat, outnumber locals.
San Diego Tourism Authority has up-to-date travel planning information here.
The plane flown by Charles Lindbergh in the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 was built by the Ryan Airline Co. A flyable replica built by some of the original builders is on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. If the name Ryan sounds familiar to Tucsonans, there is good reason. The man behind Ryan Airline Co., T. Claude Ryan, also built the Ryan School of Aeronautics of Arizona in 1942. It is now known as Ryan Airfield.
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