GlobeRunner: Mark Elias, Reporter and Photographer

By Eva Leonard on 24 January 2012
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This is the first in Frequent Business Traveler’s GlobeRunners series. With GlobeRunners, we profile the most frequent frequent business travelers across a broad spectrum of industries.  GlobeRunners are those who spend substantial portions of their lives (and amounts of money) in the air, on the road, and checked in.  These expert business  travelers  share their stories, their expertise, and offer their opinions, from favorite airlines and airports, to ways in which they believe that air travel can be improved.  They are the readers of Frequent Business Traveler, as familiar with Taiwan as they are with Texas, passport in hand, packed and ready to go wherever their business takes them.

“It carries a ton of stuff, without screaming, ‘Look at me; I’m a camera bag!’”

Mark Elias is enthusing about his Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 60 shoulder bag,appreciativeMark Elias that it can accommodate his MacBook Pro, his primary camera, three lenses, a strobe, a point-and-shoot camera, power cords and a computer mouse.

And Elias should know a thing or two about the potential travails of traveling with camera equipment. The soon-to-be Delta million miler is usually on the road about two weeks out of every month, testing and photographing new cars around the world for MNM Media’s and reporting on classic cars for Autoweek magazine.

The knack for doing what seems like a dream job for many was clearly long ago imprinted in Elias’s DNA. “I’ve been a car guy probably from the time I was three years old, and a photographer for nearly as long.”

And what exactly does that dream job involve? “I’m among the first people to get into new cars right after they are designed by the manufacturers for production. (There are around 300 automotive journalists in the U.S.) We drive them, evaluate their abilities and features, comment on their styling, etc. Sometimes the manufacturers listen to what we say, and sometimes not!”

Given the frequency of his travels, it’s no surprise that Elias has some very strong opinions about airplanes, as well as cars. He explains that most of his frequent flyer miles are what he terms “hard miles, not miles that are enhanced with extra Medallion Qualification Mile bonus points that come with increased-cost tickets.”

His preferred aircraft is the Boeing 767-ER (“In front of the curtain! Lie-flat beds!”) but he typically finds himself aboard Boeing 757s, preferring those with in-seat monitors.

He doesn’t mince words when it comes to his least-favorite aircraft: “I absolutely hate the [Boeing] 75N  that Delta has absorbed following their acquisition of Northwest Airlines!”

However, Delta Air Lines wins high praise from the West Palm Beach, Florida-based Elias as his favorite carrier. It’s only natural, then, that he would choose Palm Beach International (PBI) as his top airport, in part, because of his fondness for the staff at its Delta Sky Club. For Elias, after departing from PBI, his trips usually involve connections at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

Along with offering praise when he finds airlines doing things right, Elias also has some suggestions for improving air travel, such as removing two or three rows of seats, and spacing the remaining ones a little farther apart, and providing healthier food for purchase, including salads on every flight. As for jetlag, his remedy is to “Jump right into whatever time zone I’m in. That, and [eating] a Granny Smith apple a day!”

Jetting around the world trying out new cars means that Elias has had some larger-than-life experiences. Like the time he found himself in Rovinj, Croatia, test-driving the 2012 Bentley Continental GTC convertible.

“I didn’t know what to expect there,” he recalls, “but I found friendly people and stellar, lightly-traveled roads. I flew in on a charter to Pula, which still has some vestiges of past Marxist regimes, as well as a Coliseum-style ruin. The Adriatic coastline is stunning, including its version of the French Riviera, the seaside town of Opatija.”

Clearly, such trips go a long way toward making the “hard miles” worthwhile.

[Photos: Gary Anderson (Mark Elias); Mark Elias (sunset)]

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