Even amidst a global pandemic, and more specifically a local area that is teetering on the cusp of having to return to the most restrictive red tier of COVID-19 precautions, there are still tens of thousands of visitors arriving daily into the Cancun International Airport (CUN). In fact, Mexico has been an extremely popular international destination for those in the U.S. during the pandemic — likely due to its warm weather, close proximity and comparatively lax entry requirements.
And after getting fully vaccinated, some friends and I recently decided to take our own trip south of the border for some time on the beach in the Riviera Maya area, about 20 minutes from the Cancun airport.
Having flown to Cancun a number of times — and having seen some pretty overwhelming images online this year — I was concerned about a potentially long wait to clear customs at Cancun. That’s always a less-than-ideal way to start a vacation, but during a pandemic, a long, indoor, non-physically distanced line presents all sorts of new concerns.
This is the airport in Cancun right now. Good luck with your bonds at 1% pic.twitter.com/yD0eoZfoCD
— Oliver Renick (@OJRenick) February 12, 2021
Since we were arriving at the start of the weekend midday on a Friday and weren’t particularly excited about rolling the dice on a scene like the one above, this became the perfect opportunity for me to try and review a paid VIP service that advertises it can zip you right through customs and immigration — even if you happen to land at a time with snaking long lines. Here’s how it went.
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Booking a VIP airport services
While there are other services out there, I booked our international arrival service via Universal Sky VIP. This was my first interaction with this company but based on its website, it operates at a long list of domestic and international airports, including Cancun. There’s no price list on the website, but you can request a quote via an online form.
In less than a day, I received an email response that the VIP arrival assistance service at the Cancun airport is $345 for two people.
The fast-track service would include a greeter who meets you at arrival and stays with you through the airport process. This could include meeting at the gate with a name sign, golf cart transfer, if available, fast track through passport control, assistance with luggage and an escort to the airport exit.
We did have to provide a copy of our ID (not our passport) in advance and paid the invoice online. Naturally, we also provided our flight information, as well as our ground transportation information to (hopefully) enable a smooth hand-off.
Related: What you can and can’t bring through customs around the world
Testing the VIP airport arrival service
Right on schedule, we landed on time in Cancun on a Friday just before noon. I saw several other flights from the U.S. pulling up to their gates around the same time as us, so I was immediately glad we had booked this service.
We were two of the first people off the plane, and while I did notice a man standing at the end of the jet bridge, he didn’t have a name sign, so we kept walking past him. I had some suspicion he was waiting for us, but not wanting to end up behind a plane full of people if the VIP service no-showed on us, we kept going.
This turned out to be an error on our part as he was indeed the man who would get us through customs. While he unquestionably should have had a sign of some sort, if you ever use this service and are in a similar situation, it probably makes sense to inquire if a person waiting at the end of the jet bridge is there for you, even if they don’t have a sign.
Within a couple of minutes, about the time that we were arriving at the immigration hall, I received a call from the man we had just walked past as he was looking for us. After a very brief delay of about a minute, he met us in the immigration hall, promptly took our bags and we followed him through an empty express lane.
Based on the signs we walked past, this seems to be the lane also used by crew and for those in wheelchairs or requiring special assistance. However, no one else was in the line as we zoomed through.
We walked right up to an immigration officer, had our documents checked per the usual process and in less than two minutes we had cleared immigration at the Cancun airport.
The service didn’t end there as our guide continued to escort us through the airport, past the loud and somewhat aggressive car rental and taxi salespeople and even helped us locate our driver. For some reason, there was a little trouble finding our driver, but our guide was able to talk to the other drivers in the outdoor arrivals area who were able to locate him within a matter of minutes.
It would have almost certainly taken us much longer to track down our ride than it took him.
Related: Mexico’s COVID-19 stoplight system explained
As it turns out, our arrival time that day into Cancun likely wouldn’t have resulted in an overwhelming wait or line at immigration. By those metrics, this was a somewhat wasted $345.
However, there are absolutely times when it can take much, much longer to get through Cancun immigration. In that respect, eliminating that stress and absolutely had value, even if we weren’t arriving during a problematic time. For what it’s worth, our guide said that it usually gets very busy an hour or two after we arrived in the afternoon, though I’m sure lines can and do vary.
While TPG paid for me to try out this service, at a $345 price point, I obviously wouldn’t use a similar VIP service on every international trip of my own. That said, other than the sign mishap at the bottom of the jet bridge, the service worked exactly as advertised.
We were through the Cancun immigration hall in under two minutes and didn’t have to just cross our fingers that our arrival time would be a good one. While we didn’t use this service on departure as we already had a pre-dawn arrival time to avoid crowds, you can certainly pay for that service, too.
Whether or not the price is worth the service to you will vary greatly based on your own budget and priorities, but it is indeed possible to pay to essentially skip the immigration line into Cancun and be on your way to margaritas by the beach in just a matter of minutes.
Featured image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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