The Protocol and International Affairs Division engages in protocol, diplomatic and international affairs programs with local, state, federal and international agencies to promote Miami-Dade Aviation Department, foster cross-cultural exchanges and build bridges of understanding through programs, services and initiatives.
Protocol expedite escort service and other assignments are performed 365 days a year from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM. The Office coordinates logistics associated with official missions/delegations, special events and diplomatic arrivals/departures with representatives of the airlines, U.S. government agencies such as Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Secret Service, the Department of State, the TSA, U.S. Southern Command (SouthCom), the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM), etc.
“Protocol is too important, especially in this community
and in view of our efforts to strengthen international ties...
what it boils down to is that if we’re going to perform a protocol function,
we need to do it right and an airport of this type must provide that…”
- George E. Spofford, MIA Deputy Director, 1989
Background & History
- Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport (OPF)
- Miami Executive Airport (TMB)
- Miami Homestead General Aviation Airport (X51)
- Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport (TNT)
Miami International Airport’s (MIA) and the General Aviation Airports’ annual economic impact is approximately $32 billion. MIA and related aviation industries contribute more than 276,000 jobs directly and indirectly to the local economy, which equates to one out of every 4.6 jobs. Also, more than forty-six (46) million passengers travelled through MIA in 2019.
The core mission of Protocol and International Affairs Division of Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD) is to facilitate the movement of dignitaries, delegations, official guests, and VIPs through Miami International Airport and support the airport’s international programs and initiatives. MDAD’s Protocol and International Affairs Division was created in 1988 from the airport’s International Gateway Receptionist Program to provide a lasting and good impression of our community. The receptionist program was funded by a grant obtained from the U.S. Department of Commerce - Travel and Tourism Administration (U.S.T.T.A) - to maintain a service recognized worldwide for projecting a positive image of the community to foreign visitors and to meet the demands of the burgeoning local and international diplomatic communities in South Florida. Subsequently, the international receptionists and front-line supervisors under the U.S.T.T.A program were reclassified into the existing County structure and renamed Terminal Operations Specialists.
Miami International Airport was the first airport in the United States, and one of the few major airports in the world, to offer a full array of services specifically tailored to the needs of traveling foreign diplomats, government officials, dignitaries and VIPs. Ms. Monique Denes served as MIA’s first Chief of Protocol under the Public Services Section at the airport’s Terminal Operations, from 1989 until 1997. The program grew from its original mission to assist arriving international passengers, through the federal inspection process, and expanded into MIA’s primary liaison with international organizations, federal, state, local agencies, etc. The Protocol section also became Miami-Dade Aviation Department’s liaison and link to the Consular Corps of Miami.
In 1994, the Clinton Administration selected Miami as host city for the First Summit of the Americas for leaders from across North and South America to establish the Free Trade Area of the Americas, (FTAA). The Office of Protocol played a pivotal role during the Summit. It created the outdoor national flag display in front of Concourse E and a Consular Lounge (now located in Concourse F) for the purpose of welcoming the Heads of States during the Summit. The Consular Lounge, unique only to MIA, is a private Miami-Dade Aviation Department-operated facility reserved for the international diplomatic community and members of the Consular Corps of Miami. It provides a full range of services and amenities to official delegations at presidential, ministerial levels, etc.
As the functions of protocol at the airport became highly specialized and elevated to the fine art of meeting, greeting and assisting heads of states and other dignitaries, the protocol functions were moved to the Marketing and Communications Section. The Office was subsequently renamed - Protocol and International Affairs Division. Irving Fourcand was the Division Director from 2001 until July 2018.
In April 2019, U. Desmond Alufohai officially assumed the position of the Division Director. He immediately set a vision to solidify MIA’s pre-eminence in protocol and international affairs, while ensuring continued and close cooperation with South Florida’s diplomatic community. He expanded the Division’s strategic role in supporting the airport’s international programs and initiatives and collaboration with organizations such as: Protocol & Diplomacy International - Protocol Officers Association (PDI-POA), The Protocol School ofWashington ®, North American Vexillological Association (NAVA), etc.
Currently, the Protocol Division consist of multi-lingual staff with proficiency in the following languages: Creole, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. The staff have acquired skills from diverse fields, including customer service, cultural diversity, diplomacy, etiquette, intercultural norms, international relations and protocol.
Protocol expedite escort service and other assignments are performed 365 days a year from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM. The Office also coordinates logistics associated with official missions / delegations, special events and diplomatic arrivals/departures with representatives of the airlines, U.S. government agencies such as Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Secret Service, the Department of State, the TSA, U.S. Southern Command (SouthCom), the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM), etc. Support for these functions are also received from other agencies such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Miami Dade Police Department, etc. The Protocol Division also provides escorts associated with diplomatic mail and courier requests and maintains the international outdoor flags located in front of Concourse E.
Protocol & Diplomatic Functions
Courtesies of Port
- Coordinate and facilitate the movement of high level officials, dignitaries, delegates, guests and VIPs through MIA.
- Provide protocol expedited escort service for important guests and greeters.
- Coordinate the pre-clearance of guests and airport greeters
- Provide guests and greeters with“protocol gate passes” and “international arrival access badges.” to expedite post-security acess
- Provide escorts for diplomatic pouches and couriers.
- Coordinate security details with Federal, State and local
- Assist MDAD and other agencies with protocol, ceremonial and official events.
Consular Corps of Miami, Florida
- Provide airport courtesy parking cards to the Consular Corps of Miami.
- Organize an annual airport seminar for the Consular Corps
- Organize an annual end-of-year holiday reception for the
- Assist the Consulates in organizing their national-day event and/or other programs.
- Liaise from time to time with embassies, The United Nations, The White House & U.S. Department of State Protocol
Offices, Office of Foreign Missions, U.S. Southern
Command, Florida’s Secretary of State, etc.
Professional Affiliation & Educational Opportunities
- Coordinate educational, skills acquisition and
professional development programs in furtherance and
advancement of international protocol/diplomacy &
- Collaborate with the Protocol School of Washington ®,
Protocol & Diplomacy International - Protocol Officers
Association (PDI-POA), Office of Protocol - U.S. Department of State, International Ceremonial and Protocol Organization (OICP), World Federation of Consuls (FICAC), etc.
- Operate MIA’s diplomatic lounge located in Concourse F.
- Coordinate and assist with activities organized at the lounge.
International Affairs Programs & Initiatives
Official Missions and Delegations
- Support MDAD’s route development and expansion initiatives.
- Participate in out-going missions.
- Host, coordinate, provide briefings and assist with logistics / protocol for in-coming delegations.
- Organize and coordinate airport tours for members of the
Consular Corps of Miami and delegations.
- Research and prepare intelligence reports, country-background notes and socio-political conditions of countries, upon request.
Sister Airport Program
- Coordinate MIA’s Sister Airport Program (Airport-to-Airport agreements and relationships that promote best practices,
international understanding and goodwill).
Events & Outreach Activities
- Support, host, and coordinate conferences, seminars, meetings and special events, in furtherance of the goals and mission of the Protocol Division.
- Collaborate with strategic partners such to the United Nations agencies, African Union (AU), European Union (EU),
Organization of American States (OAS), international
diplomatic agencies, foreign governments, NGO’s, etc.
- Participate in local, state, national and international
conferences and events to foster protocol, diplomacy and
- Provide translation services upon request.
- Publish a monthly newsletter and an annual report of the
Outdoor International Flags
- Maintain MIA’s outdoor international flag display in front of Concourse E.
- Collaborate with the North American Vexillological
Division Director, Protocol & International Affairs
Direct: + 1-305-876-7087
Desmond Alufohai is the Director of Protocol and International Affairs Division, Miami International Airport (MIA), Miami-Dade Aviation Department. MIA’s Office of Protocol and International Affairs Division was created in 1988 to facilitate the movement of diplomats and dignitaries through MIA and to support the airport’s international programs and initiatives. MIA was the first airport in the U.S., and one of the few major airports in the world, to offer a full array of services specifically tailored to the needs of traveling diplomats, government officials, delegations, dignitaries, official guests and VIPs. MIA also operates a Consular Lounge for visiting dignitaries. For more information on Mr. Alufohai click here.
Sr. Protocol and International Affairs Administrator
Direct: + 1-305-876-7089
Mobile: + 1-305-297-0507
Ms. Philoctete has been with the Protocol & International Affairs Division since 2001. She assists the Division Director in various functions, such as identifying problem areas and determining trends. She presents findings and recommends solutions or alternatives as appropriate to the Division Director. She is responsible for the coordination of all administrative functions pertaining to the Protocol Division and serves as the office liaison person for administrative issues. She manages the disbursement and the accounting of the special funds allocated to Protocol events. She writes and performs protocol assignments as deem necessary. She writes special reports as requested by the Division Director. Ms. Philoctete supervises the Protocol and International Affairs Representative.
Protocol and International Affairs Coordinator
Direct: + 1-305-876-7457
Mobile: + 1-305-213-0477
Mr. Avila is responsible for coordinating the activities of a staff of Airport Protocol Officers and assisting in the development of procedures for the handling of protocol at Miami International Airport. He plans, assigns and reviews the work of Airport Protocol Officers engaged in researching and compiling reports on economic and political conditions of foreign nations, coordinating official visits, translating written materials, and other protocol duties. He develops, updates and manages protocol procedures for receiving VIPs at Miami International Airport. He also provides assistance for developing the courtesies of port programs and initiatives offered to the Miami Consular Corps.
Mr. Avila coordinates with Miami Dade County elected officials the reception of their guests and official guests of Miami at Miami International Airport. He provides training on protocol procedures at Miami International Airport to all new Protocol Officers, arranges for special handling of diplomatic pouches; checks passport and credentials of courier and accompanies through customs and immigration services.
He represents the Miami-Dade Aviation Department at meetings of the Consular Corps, U.S. State Department, U.S. Secret Service, and others to develop and update procedures for protocol projects at Miami International Airport and makes recommendations regarding hiring, discipline and promotion of subordinates.
William E. Herrera
Protocol and International Affairs Officer
Direct: + 1-305-869-4242
Mobile: + 1-305-215-6583
Protocol and International Affairs Officer
Direct: + 1-305-876-3858
Mobile: + 1-305-794-0020
Protocol and International Affairs Officer
Direct: + 1-305-876-3860
Mobile: + 1-786-593-1349
Ms. Keller has worked for the Miami Dade Aviation Department since November 2015. Before joining the Protocol and International Affairs Division in September 2018, she worked as a Public Service Assistant in the Airport Operations Center and for Paging and Information. Cristine has an undergraduate degree in Geography and Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy. After leaving health care to pursue her passion for aviation, Cristine worked briefly for Air Canada before joining the Miami Dade Aviation Department. Cristine speaks French, German, Spanish, and English.
Protocol and International Affairs Officer
Direct: + 1-305-876-3859
Mobile: + 1-305-215-8483
Ms. Mercade-Meijaard is a 30-year veteran of Miami Dade Aviation Department. She joined the Aviation family on December 1988 as an International Receptionist. In this capacity she assisted both international arriving passengers as well as terminal operations. Her passion for interpersonal and international relations brought her to the Protocol and International Affairs Division where she has dedicated the best etiquettes and hospitality practices to domestic and foreign dignitaries since 1994. Ms. Mercade-Meijaard is a highly effective liaison between all government agencies at MIA. As one of the most senior and experienced protocol officers, she has gained the trust, respect and loyalty of the international diplomatic community in South Florida. Her extended knowledge of the airport, the aviation industry, intercultural etiquette, international protocol, diplomacy, and governmental relations have contributed to her recognition as a resource person and instrumental asset to Miami-Dade Aviation Department. In her own words: “We are the ambassadors of first impression for those who arrive at MIA from around the globe.”
Ms. Mercade-Meijaard holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and French from Florida International University. She is married with two wonderful daughters. She enjoys her family here and abroad, loves traveling and reading biographies.
Direct: + 1-305-876-1032
Mobile: + 1-305-439-0128
The Protocol Representative is responsible for researching and compiling reports on the economic and political conditions of foreign nations, coordinating the logistics of official visits by foreign aviation and cultural teams. The protocol representative possesses considerable knowledge of the regulations of U. S. Federal inspection agencies as well as flag protocol. Other important roles of the Protocol Representative in the Division are maintaining the Consular Lounge, administering the Consular Corps Courtesy Parking Program, and maintaining the Consular Corps directory.
Hellen C. Thompson
Direct: + 1-305-876-7142
Hellen C. Thompson assumed is Administrative Secretary to the Director of Protocol & International Affairs Division. Prior to joining the Division, she served in the following capacities:
• Director of Meeting Planning, Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel
• Meeting Planner for Mayfair Hotel & Spa, Hilton Bentley Miami Beach Hotel, and Doubletree by Hilton Hotel
• Event Services Manager, Hilton Miami Airport Hotel, and
• Administrative Assistant & Notary, Zayas Bazan Law Firm
Ms. Thompson is a Certified Administrative & Personal Assistant and Certified Wedding Consultant. She obtained an Associate of Arts degree from Miami Dade College. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.
The Consular Lounge at Miami International Airport is located at the second level of Concourse F, door #14 (pre-security). The Lounge offers the diplomatic community, VIPs, official delegations, etc., the opportunity to relax before boarding or after a flight. The traveling guest can fully enjoy its amenities provided with a special touch of class which proudly reflects our destination and our famed hospitality.
The charming and entrancing ambiance of the Lounge gives you the feeling of being home away from home and the feeling of being miles away from the hustle and bustle of the major hub that is Miami International Airport. Elegance joins with a host of specially tailored amenities to give this Lounge what it takes to make the experience of the guests the most rewarding, comfortable, and a memorable one observed at most major international airport facilities of its class.
The use of the Consular Lounge is further enhanced by the assistance of MDAD’s Protocol and International Affairs staff that the diplomatic community is accustomed to at this airport. This makes for a unique experience for the traveling guest.
The Lounge also offers the opportunity for Consulates, organizations, institutions, and businesses to host special events, including press briefings, dinners, receptions, seminars, workshops, etc. The Lounge has a capacity of up to 180.
Membership is not required. Reservation is on a first come, first-served basis, pending review and approval.
- Free Wi-Fi
- Business center with computers, internet access and faxing capabilities
- Conference/meeting room
- Tele-conferencing (upon advanced request)
- Ability to host special functions (upon advanced request)
- LED televisions
For additional information regarding the use of the Consular Lounge please contact the Protocol and International Affairs Division at 305-876-7457 between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM weekdays or via email at Protocol@miami-airport.com
The offical newsletter of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department Office of Protocol and International Affairs. Published monthly as a communication platform for the traveling public and industry partners.
Publications & Resources
MIA Quick Links
For additional information regarding protocol services at MIA, please contact us between 8am and 5pm
Phone: (305) 876-7457 or (305) 876-7458
Fax: (305) 869-4536