The trip from Mom's house to my brother's house was about 22 hours, door to door. By the time our travel started on Saturday morning, though, we had already been through the most stressful part.
On Friday morning, I woke up wondering whether I could plug my laptop in on our transatlantic flight. So I pulled up the e-mail itinerary we got back in August to see what kind of plane we'd be on. Strangely, the itinerary didn't say (this was the first time I'd used Orbitz, and apparently, unlike Travelocity, they don't show the plane type).
So I logged into my mother's Orbitz account and clicked on our flight info. Immediately, my heart started to race. Not only were we on a different flight from Atlanta to Paris (before connecting to Nürnberg), but we no longer were booked on a flight from Champaign to Atlanta! The itinerary expected us to check in in Atlanta. It would be an understatement to say I was freaking out.
I didn't want to spike my mother's blood pressure too, so I got on the phone with Orbitz right away. They didn't seem alarmed that we didn't have a flight to Atlanta. The agent said that there were no longer any flights from Champaign to Atlanta. She said something about them being discontinued. What? She asked if there were any other airports we could leave from nearby. I told her Bloomington (45 minutes away) would be okay and she got a Delta agent on the phone. He got us booked on a flight from Bloomington to Atlanta. I asked why we hadn't been notified of this change, and the Delta agent said they didn't have any contact info for us. I gave him my cell number and asked him to call if anything changed.
How lucky it was that I happened to look at our itinerary the day before we left. If I hadn't, we would have shown up at the airport with an impossible ticket and been at least a day (probably more) delayed getting to Germany. Later, when I was on the phone with Orbitz again trying to fix another side effect of the schedule change (an 8.5-hour layover in Chicago on the way home), I asked how they expected us to know about such an important schedule change. The Orbitz agent told me that they had sent my mother an e-mail on Nov 27 with the changes. I scoured Mom's e-mail, including spam and trash, and there was nothing there. I found probably 20 Orbitz promotional offers she'd received since August, but not this very important e-mail we should have received. I don't know what's wrong with their system, but maybe they should sent the important messages via their spambot, which seems to have no trouble getting through. Not sure I'll ever buy a ticket through them again.
So Aunt Jean and Uncle Jim gave us a ride to Bloomington the next morning (thanks, y'all!). I had packed very light, knowing that Mom wanted to send me with one of her checked bags. She had two big bags, each weighing 51 lbs, and a full duffel bag. Easily half this space was full of presents, mostly for my nephews. TSA decided to inspect her big bags. A different agent took each, opening them and removing every single thing and inspecting it separately. The told us we were welcome to watch. The most amazing thing was that they were each able to repack her very full bags flawlessly. I guess they've had a lot of practice!
After leaving the checked, inspected bags with TSA, we proceeded to security. When we showed our boarding passes, they said that Mom had been selected for special screening. They pulled her aside and patted her down, head to toe and everywhere in between. Here she is right after the TSA going-over. I ask you, is this the face of aeronautical terror?