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Airlines Warn Cancun Tourists To Depart For Airport 5 Hours Early

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It seems there's no end in sight to the travel woes this season. While Mexico has successfully averted most of the bad press directed at Europe recently, the epicenter of the chaos, the situation in places like Cancun seems to be just as bad, with airlines like Delta, Air Canada and Spirit all urging tourists to leave for the airport as early as 5 hours prior to departure.

Passengers Pictured Outside The Cancun Airport International Terminal, Cancun, Mexico

For several consecutive months, Cancun has been a major tourism magnet, attracting millions of tourists even when Covid brought the world to a halt. In order to cope with the high demand and ease movement into and out of Cancun Airport, local authorities decided on reforming and expanding the main boulevard leading to it.

Now, it seems that the ongoing construction is causing some serious disruption Cancun officials had not foreseen:

Roadwork Makes Reaching Cancun Airport More Challenging

Traffic Jam In Mexico City, Mexico

Cancun Airport is one of the busiest in the post-Covid world, having far exceeded the pre-pandemic levels and being the preferred gateway into Mexico for millions of visiting Americans and Canadians. One huge problem facing travelers, though, is the sub-optimal infrastructure that has historically led to delays at the Riviera Maya entry point.

Arriving to Cancun Airport, visitors surely have no shortage of private transfer options to pick from, ranging from shuttle vans to Escalades (and of course, the infamously overpriced taxis). Unfortunately, besides a not-so-popular Airport Shuttle that does not stop at any of the main hotels, public transportation is scarce.

Busy Airport Where Commuters Transit, Read, Or Wait For Their Plane To Depart, International Travel Concept

Unlike major airports of the same league, like London Heathrow or JFK, Cancun's does not have a train system connecting both the hub and the city it serves (yet). While that is poised to change at some point beginning next year, once the long-delayed Mayan Train project is delivered, only the ever-busy roads provide access to the airport – at present.

Naturally, this poses a problem when the Luis Donaldo Colosio Boulevard, the most vital avenue keeping the fragile system in place, is placed under construction for a whole year. The wait lines have become longer, the traffic jams virtually inevitable, and the chances of travelers missing their flights home has increased drastically.

Female Traveler Wearing A Protective Face Mask While Waiting For Her Flight At The Airport

Airlines Urge Their Customers To Plan Accordingly

As a result, three of the biggest airlines operating in Mexico – Delta, Air Canada and the low-cost Spirit – have since updated their travel advisories for Cancun Airport. All three urge visitors to ‘be more cautions' when planning their schedules, taking into account the construction carried out on the Colosio Boulevard.

Passengers Waiting To Check In At Cancun Airport, Cancun, Mexico

More specifically, the trajectory between the city, including the resort strip, and the airport is said to take up to 2 hours amid traffic blockages; on top of that, an average 3 hours are needed for checking into an international flight to the U.S. or Canada, clearing security, and proceeding to the boarding gate when arriving at the airport.

To be on the safe side, perhaps you should consider not traveling to Cancun with any checked bags at all. This may help reduce waiting and get you out of the airport faster, especially now that luggage mishandling is becoming a widespread issue across the industry. Even then, you are still advised to reserve a minimum of 5 hours for commuting.

Passengers Transiting Through Duty Free Zone In Cancun International Airport

On the bright side, security wait times at Cancun Airport have been reducing significantly lately, proving the Mexican Government is keen on ensuring visiting Americans have the smoothest experience possible. Nevertheless, the roadwork is set to be a thorn in the side both of incoming travelers and those leaving.

Will The Situation Improve In The Long Term?

Cancun Sign Pictured Against A Picturesque Caribbean Beach, Riviera Maya, Mexico

It is, of course, temporary, and once it has been completed, the traffic flow is expected to be improved. However, for the immediate future, the complications will probably persist: despite having opened alternative access routes to the airport, the Quintana Roo state Governor Carlos Joaquin Gonzales has conceded those have not been enough to lessen congestion.

In some of them, transfer times are taking more than one hour, up from half an hour previously. Out of the six secondary routes established, five had an increase in traffic between 20 and 85 per cent, going from 4 vehicles per minute to a shocking 28. Needless to say, the lines of cars and private shuttles waiting to bypass the boulevard closure have become extensive.

Couple Of Travelers Looking Bored And Sad With Their Luggages Out On The Street

Soon enough, tourists may be forced to transit dirt lanes as an alternative, according to Gonzales himself, who is quickly running out of options to mitigate the crisis and deliver on his promises: ‘We work day and night, and even so the estimated times are what they have seen until the end of next year‘, admitted the Governor.

It remains to be seen whether the full reopening of the Colosio Boulevard, and the long-delayed debut of the Mayan Train, will help Cancun Airport tackle its operational issues.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Sunday 14th of August 2022

We just came back from quick last minute vacations, our experience was different to what is stated on this article, there is indeed some improvement work on main road connecting Benito Juárez (Cancún downtown) and Playa del Carmen resorts, north to south and vice versa traffic, but this doesn't completely apply to people with bookings at Hotel zone.(except early afternoon) There was indeed recommendations from airlines to arrive 5 hrs. earlier which I consider is too much, unless you stayed at Playa del Carmen or Riviera Maya resorts depending on the flight departure time. Also, there are additional transportation options, efficient and affordable, plus you can use Uber app @ Cancun. Enjoy your vacation at Cancún!


Sunday 14th of August 2022

I live in Cancun & do not know of 5 alternative routes to the airport. They're is only 1 road into it which is accessed from the hotel zone, Colosio from Cancun centro or by highway 301 from the Riviera Maya, which turns into the Colosio. The project to redo the Colosio is long overdue, unfortunately the govt didn't open another access to the airport, for example, from Av Huayacan. I picked my family up last week, what should've been a 40 minute trip took an hour & a half. So yes, allow more time, especially if one is coming from the Riviera Maya. You mention public transportation in your article, there is no public transportation, no Uber, one has to hire a govt authorized transit company, which results in higher prices but are safe & secure.

Catherine Moore

Saturday 13th of August 2022

We are going to Canun Oct 24 please can you keep us updated


Sunday 14th of August 2022

Don't take Frontier or Spirit Airlines. They will charge you for checked or carry on luggage. Keep the customs form , you will need that at Cancun.


Wednesday 10th of August 2022

i went to the airport on monday . i had flight at 22.00 so i went from isla mujers with the 15.30 ferry . i boarded the ADO bus in cancun ADO station at 17.00 and arrived as always in 35 minutes at terminal 4 which , in the afternoon, is an almost desert terminal. in the priority pass loung vip there was me and less than 10 persons. I did see trafic during the trip to airport but it was going TO cancun. Going TO airport ,from cancun , no problem based on the trip i did on monday at 17.00

Marc F

Tuesday 9th of August 2022

The best solution to this? Don't go to Cancun. It's overcrowded, not particularly safe (even on the beach), and overpriced compared to other far better destinations. Both in Mexico, or preferably, in the Caribbean or Central America (Costa Rica?). Why travel here and be stressed out for hours on your arrival and departure days? No thanks.


Sunday 14th of August 2022

@Marc F, We just went there for a week last month. Everything was great, super clean, wonderful service, and cheaper than many other tourist destinations I had checked into before this trip. We had no trouble at airport,arrived 2 hours before flight back to the states. So I say go and have a blast for a fraction of what it would cost to go to another beach destination!