Although it isn’t something I would recommend, yes, a 1 hour layover is enough time in Mexico City (sometimes). The Benito Juárez International Airport is fairly simple, and if everything goes right, sub 1 hour connection times are easy. In a best case scenario:
- Domestic to domestic connections at MEX can be made in as little as 35 minutes.
- Domestic to international connections can be made in as little as 45 minutes.
- International to domestic connections will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- International to international connections will take about an hour.
However, the Mexico City airport isn’t all that efficient (in my opinion). Even though short layovers are possible, consider it a miracle if you can actually pull it off without stressing out. You may even find yourself muttering profanities that would make a Marine blush…
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Reasons why a 1 hour layover is enough time in Mexico City (sometimes)
The main reason why 1 hour layovers are possible at MEX (most of the time) is that it’s a fairly small airport. There are only two terminals, and chances are really good that you won’t have to move between them to make your connecting flight.
If you don’t have to switch terminals, sub 1 hour layovers are easily doable for pretty much any type of connecting situation in Mexico City. Not only is it a small(ish) airport, the terminal designs are extremely basic. There’s no getting lost in this place.
Reasons why a 1 hour layover might not be enough time
Now that I’ve got you feeling good, it’s time for the reality check. Basically, chances are pretty good that you’ll be feeling stress and frustration at some point during any layover at the Mexico City Airport.
- The main reason why a one hour layover might not be enough time will be due to inefficient airport staff. “Casual” is the best way that I can describe the attitude of most of the people who work in this airport. Although most everyone seems to be really friendly, nobody ever seems to give a **** when you’ve got a tight connection to make and time is running out.
- The other reason why a one hour layover might not be enough time is if you have to change terminals. This will require a ride on the inter-terminal train, along with having to go through the security checkpoint again. There’s also a bus that shuttles passengers between both terminals, but it’s extremely slow (and you have to pay for it). Don’t do that.
What is the minimum layover time for domestic flights in Mexico City?
As I noted at the top of this article, 35 minutes is the absolute minimum amount of time you will need for a domestic to domestic connection at MEX. If you have to change terminals, you are going to need at least 1 hour. You are also need to go into run. Fast.
What is the minimum layover time for international flights in Mexico City?
The amount of time that you will need for an international flight connection in Mexico City will depend on the circumstance. Here are my time recommendations for every type of scenario:
Connecting to an international flight
The minimum layover you’ll need to connect from a domestic flight to an international flight in Mexico City is 45 minutes. That’s only if you don’t have to change terminals. If you have to change terminals, the minimum time will be about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Connecting from an international flight
Connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight and will take a little longer since you will have to go through passport control and customs. An hour and 20 minutes would be my minimum amount of time for this. If you have to change terminals, an hour and 40 minutes would be my minimum.
Connecting from one international flight to another
Since you won’t have to go through passport control or customs when connecting from one international flight to another in Mexico City, minimum connection times can be as low as 1 hour. Possibly even less if you get lucky. If you have to change terminals, I would say that an hour and 20 minutes is the minimum.
A brief overview of the terminal layout at MEX
The Mexico City Airport is surprisingly small considering the number of flights going in and out of it on any given day. There are only two terminals, and as you might expect, they are both extremely crowded and chaotic.
It’s important to note that the two terminals at MEX are located on the opposite sides of the airport. The only way to get between them is via the inter-terminal train or the shuttle bus. If you don’t already have a boarding pass for your connecting flight, your only option will be the shuttle bus.
Walking time between all terminals at the Mexico City Airport
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not possible to walk between the two main terminals at the Mexico City Airport. Moving between them will require a ride on the train or bus, and you will have to go through the security checkpoint again to enter each terminal.
That’s sad, here’s how long it took me too get around this airport during my last visit:
Terminal 1 to:
- Terminal 2 via train: 40 minutes (10 minutes to walk to the train station, 5 minutes waiting for the train to arrive, 5 minutes on the train, 20+ minutes to get through the security checkpoint)
- Terminal 2 via bus: 55 minutes (10 minutes to walk to the bus stop, 10 minutes waiting for the bus to arrive, 15 minutes on the bus, 20+ minutes to get through the security checkpoint)
Terminal 2 to:
- Terminal 1 via train: 36 minutes (6 minutes to walk to the train station, 5 minutes waiting for the train to arrive, 5 minutes on the train, 20+ minutes to get through the security checkpoint)
- Terminal 1 via bus: 53 minutes (8 minutes to walk to the bus stop, 10 minutes waiting for the bus to arrive, 15 minutes on the bus, 20+ minutes to get through the security checkpoint)
It goes without saying that these times are just estimates. It might take longer than what I’ve listed to move between terminals if things are really busy (and especially if the airport staff is giving less ***** than usual).
How long of a layover do you need in Mexico City for a no-stress connection?
If you’ve been a reader of SANspotter.com for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m normally the type of person who likes to show up stupid early for every flight. This isn’t the case for the Mexico City Airport. Both terminals at MEX are very prison-like with hardly any views to the outside world. There are a few places to sit, and the food options are minimal. I don’t like spending more time there than I have to.
Domestic to domestic layovers
If all that I’m doing is connecting from one domestic flight to another at the Mexico City airport, 1 hour is all that I would want. Even if I had to change terminals. Yes, that’s a very short connection! However, it would prevent me from being bored to tears and completely uncomfortable in the terminal (as you heard me complain about in my Aeromexico 737 MAX 9 Premier Class review).
Domestic to international layovers
I would want just a little bit more time connecting from a domestic flight to an international flight in Mexico City. An hour and 10 minutes would make it stress-free for me, since it always takes a little bit longer to board an international flight than it will a domestic flight.
International to domestic layovers
Because of the need to go though passport control and customs (and there’s no telling how long that could take), I wouldn’t book any international to domestic layover at MEX that is less than 2 hours.
International to international layovers
One hour and 10 minutes for an international to international layover at the Mexico City airport is what I would want if I could get it. This might be too much, but I like having a bit of spare time on my side to absorb any possible delays.
Useful tips for making a 1 hour layover at MEX
It’s not very often that I would recommend trying to get the shortest layover possible. Because of how small and uncomfortable the Mexico City Airport is, this makes perfect sense. Here’s how to make those sub 1 hour layovers at the Benito Juárez International Airport manageable:
- Most importantly, try to get a seat near the front of the aircraft on your inbound flight. This will allow you to be the first off the plane and into the terminal.
- Bring your own snacks! The food options inside both terminals at MEX aren’t all that great, so spare yourself the time (and effort) of looking for something good to eat by bringing your own food.
- If you desperately need a place to sit and relax between flights, find the first open seat you can get and don’t get up until it’s time to board your flight. Walking around trying to find a perfect place to sit and relax is futile, since those places don’t exist inside the Mexico City Airport.
- Bring something to occupy your time. There are very few windows in this airport, so settling in with a good book might be a good idea. Something light about Mexican drug cartels might be fun…