By Corinne Murdock |
Come February 2024, travelers can book a direct flight from Phoenix to the one of the world’s deadliest cities: Tijuana, Mexico.
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport announced late last month that American Airlines will begin offering the direct flights to Tijuana.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego hailed the move as an economic boost.
“This new connection will ultimately strengthen our tourism industry, support business, and create more job opportunities for Phoenicians,” said Gallego.
The Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a Mexican organization, reported that Tijuana had the fifth-highest murder rate of 105 for every 100,000 residents in 2022 (there were nearly 2,200 homicides in one year per two million residents). Nine of the ten deadliest cities worldwide were located in Mexico.
In May, the Baja California’s State Attorney General’s Office reported over 600 murders from this January to April.
The one city to make the top-ten ranking that wasn’t located in Mexico was New Orleans, Louisiana at eighth. Baltimore, Maryland ranked 17th; Detroit, Michigan ranked 23rd; Memphis, Tennessee ranked 25th; Cleveland, Ohio ranked 27th; Milwaukee, Wisconsin ranked 39th; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ranked 46th.
Located in Tijuana is the New Generation Tijuana Cartel, or Tijuana Cartel, formerly the Arellano-Félix Organization (AFO), allied with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel: one of the two leading cartels responsible for the deadly drug epidemic in the U.S. The other is their rival, the Sinaloa Cartel.
Drug smuggling has become an issue on passenger flights; reports identified American Airlines flights among those used to traffic drugs. In May, the American Airlines mechanic was convicted for drug smuggling.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stated in a report last year that cartels have internal conspirators within airlines that assist in smuggling the drugs. Ramon Santaliz, a CBP Aircraft Search Team officer, said he’s seen traffickers posing as all sorts of figures. They store the drugs anywhere imaginable: checked luggage, life vests, bathroom waste tanks, galley carts, garbage cans, toilet paper rolls, aircraft computer cabinets, pilot seats, wing spars, even first class armrests.
“It could be the caterers, cleaners, mechanics, baggage handlers, flight crew, or even the security guards. Money moves a lot of people,” said Santaliz. “The aircraft is its own contained world. [Drugs] could be anywhere on the aircraft — from the tip of the nose all the way to the tail because there are hidden spaces everywhere.”
CBP conducts its drug seizure tactics using a mix of trends and chance. Officers review flight schedules and will “randomly” select flights to search. Airlines pay fines of $1,000 an ounce for any drugs discovered during CBP searches.
Last August, the U.S. Consulate issued a “shelter in place” advisory for Americans residing in Tijuana after dozens of people were killed amid a fight between the Jalisco and Sinaloa Cartels. The advisory succeeded former Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order to finish the border wall by several hours. The violence prompted the descent of military reinforcements to the area.
In recent months, local cartels have engaged in violent public conflict over control of strip clubs, brothels, and bars within Tijuana’s Zona Norte. One confrontation earlier this month resulted in a deadly shootout, with two dead.
In addition to Tijuana, American Airlines will also offer daily flights to Guadalajara, Mexico.