10 ways to fly from Sydney to Seattle

Whether you're headed to Seattle for business or pleasure – or a bit of both – there's no shortage of ways to get there.

By Chris Chamberlin, October 4 2019

Being home to technology giants such as Microsoft and Amazon plus 'satellite' offices of Silicon Valley-based companies like Google and Facebook, along with a wide range of start-ups, Seattle is a natural magnet for Australian dot-com business travellers.

However, it's also a destination with plenty of appeal in its own right. The scenic national parks and evergreen forests gave Seattle its nickname of 'the Emerald City', and in recent years Seattle has become the premier hub for cruises to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

When planning a trip from Sydney to Seattle, most travellers will reflexively think of Los Angeles as their transit point, as there are no direct flights between Australia and Seattle (although Qantas has teased the possibility more than once).

But while LAX remains a solid option, there are plenty of other ways to make the trip. You can get there as quickly as possible, stretch out in comfort for the entire trip, attend meetings while in transit or even break the journey in between for some much-deserved downtime.

While this article is written from the perspective of a Sydney departure, many of the airlines listed here also fly to other Australian capital cities.

Fly Cathay Pacific from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Hong Kong

Transit time: Choice of two hours (taking CX100 from Sydney) for a quick pit stop, 5.5 hours (on CX162) for longer lounging time, 8 hours (aboard CX110) to leave the airport and enjoy dinner in downtown Hong Kong, or 18 hours (CX138) where you arrive early morning and depart later the same evening, for a full business day in Hong Kong. Cathay also has some great lounges for the stop-over: The WingThe PierThe Deck and The Bridge.

Also read: The business traveller's guide to Cathay Pacific's Hong Kong lounges

Business class: From Sydney to Hong Kong, you'll travel either on a Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 or a Boeing 777-300ER, both of which feature the airline's well-regarded business class seat offering plenty of space to work and relax in a passenger-pleasing 1-2-1 configuration.

On the overnight flight from Hong Kong to Seattle, you'll board an Airbus A350-900, offering an upgraded version of the seat with premium design tweaks by Studio F.A. Porsche.

ET review: Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 business class

Upsides: Unlike some of the other options, choosing Cathay Pacific gives you a true international-grade business class experience from door to door, without spending part of the journey on a domestic-style aircraft.

Unlike transiting through Los Angeles, there's also no need to collect and re-check your luggage while in transit – and with four daily flights from Sydney to choose from, business travellers could take the opportunity to attend meetings or visit clients while on the ground in Hong Kong as part of the same trip, rather than having to take an entirely separate journey from Australia.

Downsides: As you'd arrive into Seattle as an international passenger, US passport control and Customs clearance takes place after your journey is complete, rather than during the transit time between flights as when jetting through LA. Travelling via Hong Kong also takes longer than flying via another city in the United States. It's also a long journey: even with the shortest transit time at Hong Kong, you're looking at a 24 hours from start to finish.

Fly Singapore Airlines from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Singapore

Transit time: 4.5 hours in Singapore after SQ288 from Sydney, which also transits Canberra for 95 minutes in between, or nine hours when arriving on the best-connecting non-stop flight, SQ242.

Business class: Between Sydney and Singapore, Singapore Airlines offers three different business class seats: its newest Airbus A380 business class, its original Airbus A380 business class, and its refurbished Boeing 777-300ER business class, pictured below:

While each has a different look and feel, all provide the expected pairing of a fully-flat bed with direct aisle access, with the latest Airbus A380 business class seats having the added advantage of transforming into a double bed in selected rows, for couples travelling together.

ET review: Singapore Airlines' new A380 business class

Onwards from Singapore to Seattle, Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350s adopt the same seats as found on those Boeing 777-300ER flights above.

Upsides: Whichever flight you choose, be sure to take advantage of Singapore Airlines' Book The Cook service, whereby you can pre-order your preferred meal from a wide variety of dishes not normally offered on the regular inflight menus. As with Cathay Pacific, flying Singapore Airlines also gives you the airline's best business class experience from door to door, with no domestic connecting flights, or need to fetch your luggage when in direct transit.

Downsides: With that transit being either two-stop via Singapore and Canberra or a one-stop journey requiring an overnight stay in Singapore, flying Singapore Airlines between Sydney and Seattle is most appealing for those breaking the journey in The Lion City, but less so for those with no need to do so.

Fly Air Canada from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Vancouver

Transit time: After arriving in Vancouver at 7:30am, onward flights to Seattle are available from 10:35am, providing a comfortable transit of three hours or more.

Business class: On the longest leg between Sydney and Vancouver, you'll find Air Canada's Signature Suites in business class, which are based on the same Super Diamond seat as Virgin Australia's The Business.

ET review: Air Canada Signature Class, Australia-Vancouver

The onward hop to Seattle provides a simple reclining seat for the 64-minute journey.

Upsides: Although flying from Australia to the United States via Canada may not be the first option that comes to mind, Vancouver Airport operates a US Customs pre-clearance facility, whereby travellers clear US Customs and passport control on the ground in Canada, and arrive into Seattle on their connecting international flight just like a 'domestic' passenger.

As an added advantage, there's no need to collect and re-check baggage when travelling via Vancouver – this is taken care of automatically. You're simply shown a photo of your bag at passport control, confirm verbally that it's yours, and it's sent right through.

Downsides: Air Canada's US Preclearance lounge in Vancouver offers standard facilities like showers and WiFi, but is otherwise rather basic. Flying from Australia to the US via Canada also means that in addition to the expected US ESTA or pre-arranged US visa, you'll need to obtain a Canadian Electronic Travel Authority (eTA): forget that key step and you'll be unable to travel.

Fly Hawaiian Airlines from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Honolulu

Transit time: With daily flights from Sydney to Honolulu and then onwards to Seattle, passengers have a typical transit time of 2hrs 40min on the ground in Honolulu.

Business class: Both these flights are served by the airline's Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which offer fully-flat beds in business class in a 2-2-2 configuration.

This makes the outer pairs of seats ideal for two people travelling together, and an aisle seat in the centre group a better pick for solo travellers, where direct aisle access is provided and without anybody stepping over you.

ET review: Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 business class

Upsides: While you can simply change planes in Honolulu and keep moving (clearing Customs in between), you're in a great place to break the journey for a little relaxation between Sydney and Seattle, whether for one night to revive and unwind or as a longer stay – taking the chance to use some annual leave for a Hawaiian holiday in the middle of what's otherwise a business trip.

At 17 hours 15 minutes from departing Sydney to arriving in Seattle, Hawaiian Airlines also offers the fastest journey time of any airline flying between these two cities.

Downsides: While access to Hawaiian Airlines' Plumeria Lounge is available in Honolulu, it's rather basic by international business class standards, serving only light refreshments and snacks: and, there's also no lounge access at SeaTac when flying from Seattle to Honolulu.

Fly Qantas from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Los Angeles

Transit time: Usually a minimum of three hours between arriving on QF11 and connecting onto Alaska Airlines, between which, you'll clear US passport control and Customs, and re-check baggage. On the domestic LA-Seattle leg, Qantas passengers travel on codeshare flights operated by Alaska Airlines.

Business class: Qantas' Sydney-Los Angeles flights are served by the Airbus A380, generally with the airline's SkyBed II business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration on the upper deck.

Qantas has begun refurbishing all 12 of its A380s with Business Suites in a more favourable 1-2-1 layout, but at the time of publishing, only one of these superjumbos has been completed and appears earmarked primarily for Sydney-Singapore-London flights.

Photo tour: See what's new in Qantas' upgraded Airbus A380 superjumbo

Upsides: When it comes to the connecting flight on Alaska Airlines, Qantas' codeshares extend to flights departing throughout the day, not only those that best-connect with QF11. This makes it possible to arrive in to Los Angeles in the morning, venture into the city for any meetings or sightseeing, and continue the journey later the same day, while still earning Qantas Points and status credits on that connecting flight.

Qantas' Airbus A380 also features a communal lounge area at the front of the business class cabin, which is great when travelling as a group – and, with first class downstairs, business class flyers may also be able to use Qantas Points to upgrade from business class to first class on these flights.

Downsides: Immigration lines at Los Angeles can be long, especially in the mornings when the first wave of international flights hit the tarmac, including QF11 from Sydney. Passengers are also required to collect and re-deposit their luggage before continuing to their connecting flight.

The Alaska Airlines lounge that these passengers can use in Los Angeles is also quite basic: its most exciting feature for these morning flyers being a DIY pancake machine as found in many Australian domestic airport lounges.

Note also: Qantas' partner American Airlines flies from Sydney to Los Angeles and also from Los Angeles to Seattle, but the transit time between flights operated by American Airlines is roughly six hours, with passengers speeding things up by taking codeshare Alaska Airlines flights instead, as above.

Qantas also flies from Sydney to San Francisco with onward connections to Seattle on Alaska Airlines.

Fly Virgin Australia from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Los Angeles

Transit time: Three hours or more after arriving on VA1, with the connecting flight from Los Angeles to Seattle operated by Delta Air Lines.

Business class: Across the Pacific, Virgin Australia's superb business class experience awaits – branded as The Business, guaranteeing every passenger a fully-flat bed and direct aisle access on every Sydney-LA flight.

ET review: Virgin Australia's The Business, Sydney-Los Angeles

Upsides: Beyond the business class seat, Virgin Australia's Boeing 777-300ER aircraft all feature an inflight bar and lounge for business class passengers, which attracts a more social vibe (and typically, more passengers) than Qantas' A380 inflight lounge. Virgin Australia also offers inflight WiFi.

Downsides: Other than the time consuming formalities at LAX of a morning – the same as with Qantas – Delta operates out of three terminals at LAX, and unfortunately, its Los Angeles-Seattle flights tend to depart from Terminal 3, which offers only a relatively small lounge which tends to be crowded.

Passengers with more time on their hands can take the free airside shuttle bus between T3 and Terminal 2, where Delta's Sky Club is much larger and better-equipped, but passengers taking the shortest transit are unlikely to have the time.

Fly Delta from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Los Angeles

Transit time: Connections start at 2hrs 45min, flying Delta Air Lines the whole way.

Business class: Delta arguably offers the best business class seats across the Pacific, flying its flagship Delta One Suites on the Sydney-Los Angeles leg, giving each passengers a level of privacy previously found only in first class, with closing doors at each seat.

ET review: Delta One Suites, Sydney-Los Angeles

On the three-hour flight from LA up to Seattle, expect a more typical domestic-style reclining seat in business class, with flights operated by Boeing 737s.

Upsides: Whether you want to eat, sleep, work or relax on board, your space is entirely your own: close the door to your Delta One Suite and you're in a world of your own. Delta also offers free messaging via WiFi to all passengers, with broader Internet access available for purchase.

Downsides: As with Qantas and Virgin Australia, arriving in Los Angeles in the mornings generally means long lines at the border, and having to collect and re-check your bags, even if they've been tagged to your onward destination.

Fly United Airlines from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: San Francisco

Transit time: From 2hrs 10min, depending on flight schedule.

Business class: United usually flies Boeing 787s with 2-2-2 seating in business class between Sydney and San Francisco, but from early December 2019 to late March 2020, that's swapped for a Boeing 777-300ER, bringing with it the airline's newest Polaris seating:

On the three-hour domestic flight, expect a more typical reclining seat.

Upsides: When departing San Francisco on the flight home, business class flyers have access to United's Polaris Lounge, offering an experience closer to first class with perks like a la carte dining. United offers this in Los Angeles too where you can also connect, although San Francisco is more efficient.

Downsides: Outside of the few months where United is running its upgraded Polaris-equipped planes to Sydney, flights throughout the rest of the year feature a much less impressive – and less private – business class seat. You'll still get Polaris Lounge access, however.

Fly Japan Airlines from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Tokyo

Transit time: A brisk 60 minutes at Narita Airport, unless you stay overnight.

Business class: With both the Sydney-Tokyo and Tokyo-Seattle legs operated by JAL's Boeing 787 aircraft, you'll travel all the way from Australia to the US in the airline's Sky Suite business class.

ET review: Japan Airlines' Sky Suites, Sydney-Tokyo

Although technically arranged in a 2-2-2 layout, these seats offer direct aisle access for every passenger as those seated against the windows have a dedicated path to the aisle which doesn't impede on the passenger next to them. These window seats are also the most private in the cabin.

Upsides: Interestingly, compared to the more typical transit points of Los Angeles and San Francisco, flying from Sydney to Seattle via Tokyo takes just two hours more, and gives you JAL's flagship business class seat for the entire journey.

Downsides: With a quick hour-long transit in Tokyo, you'll be hard-pressed for any lounge time between hopping off your inbound flight, clearing security and making it to your onward departure gate before the door closes. Anything longer requires an overnight stay.

Fly ANA from Sydney to Seattle

Transit city: Tokyo

Transit time: 13 hours. You'll arrive into Haneda Airport at 5am, flying onwards to Seattle at Narita Airport just after 6pm.

Business class: You'll travel on ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Sydney to Haneda and then from Narita to Seattle, offering fully-flat seating in a 1-2-1 layout on both flights:

ET review: ANA Boeing 787 business class, Sydney-Tokyo

Upsides: Passengers who prefer to sleep in the sky and work on the ground will enjoy the timing of these flights, with Sydney-Haneda a 9.5-hour overnight hop, and Narita-Seattle another 9-hour overnight flight.

Downsides: As you're arriving into one airport and departing from another, you'll have no choice but to collect any checked baggage in transit and make your own way between Haneda and Narita.

That's less of an issue for passengers intending to spend the business day in downtown Tokyo – who'd have made the trip into the city and back out to an airport on the same day anyway – but as Narita Airport is further from the city than Haneda, allow plenty of extra time to get there and complete check-in formalities again.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

LostInTransit

LostInTransit

11 Sep 2015

Total posts 3

Shhhhh! Don't tell everybody about Hawaiian Airlines and the Honolulu holiday en route, this is how I fly to Seattle 3-4 times a year and I don't want everybody else doing it too! But, seriously, this is THE best way to do Sydney-Seattle in my book, at least if you want a few days off. I've never actually done it 'non-stop' so was surprised to hear it's actually the fastest way there!

Gold4Life

Gold4Life

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 12

A really great wrap up of the options, Chris. I used to always do QF via LAX but the last leg up to Seattle was always a pain, I'd be so jet-lagged and sitting around the crappy LAX lounges for hours didn't help. It's better now that you can use the Qantas LAX lounge ahead of an American Airlines flight to Seattle but the layover is too long to make sense. On my last trip I flew with Cathay Pacific, it's definitely the long way there but I set my own travel schedule and it's a great balance to fly SYD-HKG, have a break at a great lounge and then fly HKG-SEA, each leg is long enough to have a decent sleep if you want, plus you get a great business class product all the way and there's no rechecking my luggage at LAX.

nix584

nix584

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 243

Plus EK via DXB, KE/OZ via ICN and BR via TPE (from BNE).

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

Hi nix584, we didn't list Emirates here as that journey is upwards of 33 hours at its shortest, while in Seoul, the onward Korean Air and Asiana flights to Seattle both depart an hour before the inbound flight lands from Sydney, requiring a ~23 hour overnight transit, rather than something that's possible same-day. Both are options to consider if you need to visit that transit city anyway, of course.

CBR boy

CBR boy

12 Feb 2015

Total posts 85

I really love Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific and particularly the HKG First lounges, but right now I'd be wary about your option of '8 hours to leave the airport and enjoy dinner in downtown Hong Kong'. Things have been a bit chaotic, demonstrators have trashed MTR stations, and friends have encountered teargas in the MTR system recently. There is a risk that transport back to the airport may be disrupted.

AsiaBizTraveller

AsiaBizTraveller

20 Nov 2015

Total posts 59

I would avoid a visit to Hong Kong on the weekends, but weekdays it's fine. However, I wouldn't see much sense in just going into HK for dinner unless it was dinner with a local client or a prospective client.

Anna80

Anna80

09 Mar 2015

Total posts 20

Staff in our Tokyo office fly JAL to Seattle, I never thought about JAL from Sydney but it seems to make sense! I usually fly Qantas via LAX but JAL would certainly be a good option now that I've re-qualified for QFF Platinum.

Bhoyinoz

Bhoyinoz

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Dec 2016

Total posts 4

I've just booked SYD/HKG/SEA.Was looking at the qantas points calculator and according to my reading of it we are not entitled to any SC's on the HKG/SEA segment,is this correct?. TIA.

fnorman

fnorman

07 May 2016

Total posts 6

I am biased as my home airport is Vancouver, but I think that travelling SYD-SEA via YVR has to be one of the best options for a few reasons:

- Due to the frequency and shortness of YVR-SEA flights, you are not going to be stuck with long waits or next-day connections at YVR, even if the long-haul SYD-YVR segment is delayed.

- The flight connection takes place close to the destination giving a better chance for uninterrupted sleep on the long-haul than some of the other options. The overall duration is one of the shorter ones.

- Due to the relatively short distance between YVR and SEA, there are alternative options to flying. For example if you were planning to hire a car in Seattle you may be better off renting one at YVR and driving two and a half hours directly to your destination in the Seattle area, taking no longer than flying if you count the delays associated with security, immigration and customs, waiting at the gate or in the lounge at YVR, baggage claim wait and getting out from SEA. Also there are buses and train alternatives (slower) if airport departures are shut down for any reason.

- YVR is generally a lot easier airport to transit than LAX.

The thought of SEA & YVR reminds me of the time I booked two 1-way tickets to travel YVR-SEA-YVR-LHR because the total cost was less than a 1 way ticket YVR-LHR. Came home to YVR without a detour to SEA and back though.

oxy

oxy

03 May 2017

Total posts 18

Any reason flying QF via SFO doesn't get a mention?

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

San Francisco was mentioned for Qantas in the same section as Los Angeles, but Los Angeles is a bigger port for Qantas than SFO.

Madhatter49

Madhatter49

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 41

@Oxy: It does under the Qantas write up.

521303

521303

03 Jan 2012

Total posts 85

I've been doing Perth to Seattle for 3 years now 2-3 times per year. Hope these thoughts help West Coasters. AMEX Platinum seems to offer some great deals flying Perth - HK - Tokyo - Seattle as a One World codeshare. Done that twice now. I got one-way for under $4,000 in September. JAL is excellent in J. Food is great! But JAL lounge in Tokyo is hopeless and can never get a shower. The longer walk to and from the QF lounge guarentees a shower is available. I've done the Hawaii flight via Honalulu using Qantas and Hawaii airlines. It's OK. Lounges are rubbish. Hawaiian plane J class is an odd seat. But OK. Seattle Arrival Customs is terrible and actually worse than LA. Last week they had +300 people in arrivals and only 2 people checking passports. The auto machines were not being used. So very frustrating arrival into USA compared to Australia entry which is now a breeze. Leaving from Vancouver on QF is cheaper than any USA West coast airport. And it's cheaper to take the float plane from Seattle CBD and arrive in Vancouver CBD than going via carriers to the main airport. More fun too. You can even pay for a seat to take a big suitcase and its still cheaper! Best option I've found is using QF points and going the "wrong way round" in Emirate First class. Seattle - Dubai - Perth (or Melbourne or Sydney). Its +30 hours but a really nice treat in First Class and about 180,000 FF points + $1,000 for tax. Way to go!

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2330

Great tips for our West Coast readers, thanks for sharing . It sounds like Emirates is a little bit like the Cathay Pacific option if you're flying out of Perth - the long way around but as long as you'e not pressed for time (especially if you can run your own timetable eg self-employed, a consultant or manager) you get a proper business class seat from A to B plus some nice lounging in between.

AfricaTraveller

AfricaTraveller

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

20 Jan 2018

Total posts 33

For me Emirates is the best option. F suites, F lounge in DXB, one stop with good connections. Yes it's roughly 2 x 14 hour hops, but I can sleep all the way. It also avoids LAX and SFO with their crowds and slow immigration, which plague passengers on mean little Qantas. So I return by the same route via DXB.

And the Emirates service is exceptional!

QFP1

QFP1

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 52

I find the Qantas route via LAX more bearable now that LAX has been made over a few years back and if you break the journey in the Qantas LAX lounges, but I think you can only do that on AA flights not Alaska Airlines, and as noted in the article there's a big gap between QF and AA flights, and the Alaskan lounge if that;s your alternative is pretty dire.

Becky1

Becky1

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 May 2018

Total posts 5

Last year i flew QF/AS SYD to SEA via SFO. From memory, it was about 2.5 hours between scheduled arrival and scheduled departure in SFO, the QF flight from SYD arrived about 20 minutes early, and they had started boarding the AS flight to SEA about 10 min prior to my arrival at the gate so i walked straight onto the plane. The immigration line in SFO wasn't awfully long, but painfully slow.

Goode

Goode

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Jun 2019

Total posts 3

We did this trip a few months ago. VA/DEL via LAX of course.

Agree on the crowded and slow going through US customs etc. we made the sea flight but only just. Less than 10 minutes to door closed. My wife and was really stressed. No time for lounge. Article is correct that the Delta lounge in that terminal is very ordinary. We have been in on a previous trip.

We flew comfort+ on that domestic leg.

It was okay.

OttoV

OttoV

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 44

Okay, so I am a little obsessed about Status Credits, hence I checked out the Cathay Pacific flight via Hong Kong to Seattle, but the Q calculator failed to find Seattle as a destination. Anyone with a G status tried to calculate this recommended route and return trip? Information would be appreciated.

Bhoyinoz

Bhoyinoz

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Dec 2016

Total posts 4

I'm platinum and I couldn't get Seattle recognised either.


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