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Earlier this year I bought and used a somewhat complicated plane ticket: HEL–FRA–LNZ–FRA–SEA–SFO–HGH–PEK–MUC–HEL. This was a single business trip, so I wanted to buy it as a single ticket. However, none of the online booking systems I know would sell me a ticket. Some would not show any hits at all, and the others would not allow me to proceed with the purchase.

Example case: I contacted the ebookers customer service about my inability to purchase tickets for an itinerary that I was able to select in the online shop. I explained my problem and itinerary on the phone, and the customer service person got the same cryptic error message and was unable to help.

Eventually I decided to contact my employer's travel agent by email and ask them to find flights. They found the flights and I got my ticket, and all ended well. But I would have preferred to be able to see several ticket options online, and compare prices and schedules by hand. If I were to fly HEL–MUC–HEL instead, I would have used an online system to pick the flights that I like best.

Is there an online system that would allow me to buy tickets for complicated itineraries? For some reason every one I tried failed for this case, but suitable tickets do exist as proven by the person who found and sold one to me. Is there a site that can deal with more complicated itineraries than others?

Buying the legs of my trip separately (combining tickets for overlays but not longer stays) would have been possible, but far more expensive, perhaps by a factor of two or three.

(I was unable to find a narrower title. Feel free to suggest a better one!)

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    Was this really a round trip or a multi-stop? – Johns-305 Aug 4 '17 at 15:23
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    @Johns-305 What is the difference? I may have gotten the terminology wrong. The places I actually visited from HEL were LNZ, SEA and HGH, each visit lasting several days. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 4 '17 at 15:30
  • Because that's actually 4 different O/D Itineraries, non of which appear to be particularly complicated...unless you absolutely had to connect in FRA/SFO/MUC. Kayak returns 15 routing for the cities you visited. – Johns-305 Aug 4 '17 at 15:45
  • @Johns-305 Unfortunately I don't know the difference between a round trip and a multi-stop, nor have I heard of an O/D itinerary, and Google doesn't seem to be able to educate me on them. The choice of overlay airports is not very important. I could easily buy the four tickets HEL–LNZ, LNZ–SEA, SEA–HGH, and HGH–HEL (with connections) separately, but that would have been way more expensive than making the purchase as a single itinerary. Also, ebookers did return several options with prices, but it did not allow me to buy them. I have never experienced that for simpler trips. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 4 '17 at 16:34
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As long as you can find your itinerary on ITA Matrix, you can contact an online travel agency to get your tickets from them by using the ITA flight code. We have a reasonably detailed guide on how to do so here. By "ITA flight code" I mean something like this:

CPT TK X/IST TK NYC 406.06TA2PXOW NUC 406.06 END ROE 10.146090 XT 1.60EV 2.00UM 18.70WC 32.40ZA 6.80TR 5.50YC 7.00XY 5.00XA 17.20US 278.40YR

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    I believe the code line is called a "fare construction". And note that it is in addition to the actual itinerary with dates and flight numbers ... – Henning Makholm Aug 4 '17 at 16:17
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Terminology: a round-trip ticket is when you have two legs A to B and B to A. A multi-city ticket is when you have arbitrary legs A to B, C to D, E to F, etc., where endpoints need not be distinct. A special case of a multi-city ticket is an open-jaw: A to B and C to A, or A to B and B to C.

So in your case what you want is a multi-city ticket with four legs: HEL to LNZ, LNZ to SEA, SEA to HGH, and HGH to HEL. For some dates in September, Skyscanner returns 68 results.

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Even though you can buy such ticket, it may not always be reasonable. You may win by price if the single airline serves all flights. In this case, you can try to book it via airline site. If there is more than one airline involved it may have the sense to split your itinerary into smaller parts which may end up in much lower price.

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