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I am an experienced programmer. I would like to make complex searches such as "Travel from Stockholm to Vancouver between February 14th and 19th and back between March 12th and 18th. I want to avoid any flight-exchanges on the American continent."

I have been using Kayak, and I like their ability to pick multiple dates and the presentation is nice. However, I would like to be able to set the dates more freely and exclude transfers. I do like it to be easy to use but I am tech-savvy.

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    Have you tried the ITA Matrix?
    – Gagravarr
    Oct 30, 2014 at 17:26
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    If you can program, you might find it instructive to skim through this presentation to get a feel for the craziness a flight search engine has to deal with even before you come and want to add in custom restrictions. I wouldn't expect any free service to support custom restrictions specified in a nice general syntax with any appreciable expressive power, only ad-hoc restrictions of shapes that the developers have explicitly written support for. Oct 30, 2014 at 17:35
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    What you're asking is possible with Kayak. Do the search with flexible dates, then on the left you can exclude US airports.
    – Mark Mayo
    Oct 31, 2014 at 3:33
  • @MarkMayo, I'm looking at kayak right now, as far as I can tell, the airports in the lefthand column are only the once you start and end on, none of the once for transit, am I missing something? Oct 31, 2014 at 9:00
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    @KristofferNolgren yep - at the bottom of the left is 'More filters'. click that, then choose 'Stopover airpoirts'. Then you can choose :)
    – Mark Mayo
    Oct 31, 2014 at 10:02

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Frankly, the 'best' raw freely available interface is ITA Matrix.

While you can't actually book flights on it, it allows you to specify any number of airports, combinations, routing codes and more - it's really powerful. It then also breaks down the booking codes, so that you can in theory take those to a travel agent and they can match the route.

Or, once you see that the best flight from A to B via H is with Airline Z, you then start looking at booking sites for that flight with Z, or directly on Z's website.

For amazing detail on how to use it, as well as its undocumented features, Flyerguide has a great wiki page on it.

In some ways it's like a form of programming when you look at it, example:

Ex: from: BOS :: UA UA / f bc=l|bc=y ; -redeye ; -prop 
to: LAX :: UA+ / f ua.bos+lax.yup ; padconnect 20 ; -overnight

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