We live across the country from my step-daughter's mother. The agreement that was made originally (4 years ago) was that the parent who was starting their parenting time would fly to the other state to pick her up, and would be responsible for the cost of her travel (as well as the cost of their own travel). That is what we have been doing for 4 years.
Now my step-daughter is getting old enough to consider flying unaccompanied. It is a big change, as it requires a direct flight and no red-eyes. There are no direct flights in and out of our hometown airport, just out of the big city airport 3+ hours away. Mom's city offers direct flights to that big city airport near(ish) us.
Mom wants to change the agreement so that they split the cost of her actual plane ticket rather than each paying for the leg of the flight they are currently responsible for. Her reasoning is that at times one person's ticket is much more expensive than the other person's (usually because of timing of school breaks).
I am NOT interested in changing the way we finance things. Among my reasons are that I want to be able to handle our finances independently of hers-- I want to be able to use frequent flyer miles (we have a TON), I want to be able to use a credit card or an airline's payment plan, etc. Also, I think there are SO many things we haven't considered yet, like what the actual cost of getting to the big city airport is (for example, we only have one car and may need to rent one to get her there, we might have to go down the night before and stay in a hotel for an early morning flight). I want to know what costs are being included before we agree to the change. Third, there may be times one parent or the other chooses to fly out to pick her up in order to participate in an event with her, see a performance she is in, etc. I'm not clear how that would figure into the "new" equation.
I'm not unwilling to consider it, I just want the discussion to be separate from the discussions they are currently having about changing from a parent picking her up to her flying on her own.
In the meantime, I am trying to understand my own thinking and reasons. We have a bad history with her and it makes me hesitant to do anything she suggests because it always seems to have an ulterior motive or ends up having unexpectedly negative consequences. I often fight the desire to say no just for the sake of saying no and I always try to check my thinking and make sure I have *reasons* and not just *justifications* for doing what I want. I'd love any thoughts or discussion you might have as I think through it (and support my husband in thinking through it, as ultimately he is the one having the discussions with her and who must make the agreement). I'm happy to answer questions... I tried (unsuccessfully) to keep it brief, and I know there are lots of things I left out.
And, while I am looking for opinions and input and constructive feedback, I am not really looking to be yelled at, sarcastically belittled, or told what a terrible person I am for feeling the way I feel... so if that is your contribution, please don't feel like you need to share that perspective with me. :)
1- You know my history and I completely agree with you, that splitting the cost of each plane ticket is a bad idea. One party will have to use their credit card to pay the full cost of the ticket and either wait for the other one to send their share (in which time the price may go up), or trust the other one to send their share after the fact (when there is little trust, to begin with). Plus, your DH's ex sending her share can be a new way for her to manipulate/be punitive, etc.
2- Many low-cost airlines (AirTran, Frontier, Southwest...I don't know about JetBlue) make you buy individual tickets, so there's no discount for purchasing round-trip. Therefore, the system you have (each parent purchases the airfare to begin their own P/T) sounds brilliant, inasmuch as the purchaser is also the final scheduler and thereby has the power to be difficult. For example, my DH's ex has (more or less) been responsible for all of DSS's airfare, since she moved. When DSS lived with her and visited DH, his arrival time might be 10pm and his departure, 6am, but Mom counted both travel days as days DSS "spent with his Dad" (ergo, a 7-day visit was really only 5). Naturally, this reversed with the custody change! DSS is more likely to arrive for a visit with his Mom mid-day, and depart from her in the evening, but both travel days are still days "spent with Dad", so a 7-day visit might span 9 or 10 days. Taking this to court makes you look petty, so you mostly have to suck it up. But if each parent schedules 1/2 of the transportation for each trip, you eliminate at least 1/2 of this potential problem.
3- I would handle U/M fees separately. Expect to pay $50/flight. At least on SW, you cannot pay this at the time you pay for the tickets, but ONLY at the airport, when you're putting the child on the plane. (I don't know how other airlines handle it.) Assuming this is standard, it would be easiest if each parent paid the fee when the child LEFT them. Plus, that way, each parent pays their $50 when they DON'T also have the expense of the plane ticket.
4- Your current system eliminates your DH and his ex having to do any accounting: What was the total cost of annual plane tix, who paid what, and who now owes what to whom? That is ideal. Parties who have trouble coming to agreement on anything need to avoid having to share costs, whenever possible. Each parent can do their best to shop for the lowest fares they can get, when it's their turn, or use their FFM as they see fit. If she wanted to go to court over nickel-and-diming your ex about splitting the difference between the cost of flights they each bought, I think she would look pretty frivolous.
5- Don't be hard on yourself, about resisting your DH's ex's ideas. My DH, after weathering so much opposition, is so relieved to just let things go, when it seems like there's finally a cessation in hostilities, that he's sometimes unprepared when they resurface. And I think it's a typical male reaction: Do battle when you have to, then relax when the battle's over. That women (I'm speaking for myself, but perhaps this also applies to you) tend to remember and hold onto things can be an asset, as long as it's channeled properly. Of course, you don't channel your resentments about DH's ex into belittling her in front of the kids, or making her a daily source of conversation with DH! But, if you channel it into maintaining a state of readiness - keeping logs of incidents DH may need to remember, for court; taking a slow and measured approach, before agreeing to anything new; being on the lookout for ways DH might get ambushed...then you're helping maintain your family's stability in the face of someone who has shown her willingness to destroy it. There's nothing wrong with your character. If your DH and his ex had a couple difficult years after their divorce, but now she's cooperative and they've gotten over it, but you can't, that would be one thing. But if you're dealing with a destructive, borderline personality, it is only intelligent to expect recurrent problems.
Personally it sounds perfect as it is. You don't really want to be in a position where she can put through an expensive ticket either and be on the line for half. Presumably over time the ups and downs of plane ticket cost will average out anyhow... and like the previous poster said adding in all that new accounting and money back and forth would be a pain!
My husband is pretty much of the same opinion I am... he is just more likely to question his own reasoning and be convinced that he is being unreasonable. He is also more likely to think just about the current situation/request, and not think about the potential future implications and complications. I tend to think big picture, long term, and consider all the what ifs, and weigh my decisions for a long time with more information taken into consideration. So he doesn't see it as an unreasonable request at face value, and he can talk himself into it even though in his gut he doesn't feel comfortable with it... but as soon as we start talking about and I bring up my concerns, he agrees with all my reasoning against it.