Present criteria for donor-lung selection exclude more than 85% of lungs. We aimed to establish if potentially suitable lungs are rejected for transplantation. We obtained 29 pairs of rejected lungs and assessed them by physiological, microbiological, and histological methods. Most donor lungs had no or mild pulmonary oedema (24/29 [83%]), intact alveolar fluid clearance (17/23 [74%]), and normal or mildly abnormal histological findings (18/29 [62%]). When all factors were considered, including microbiological and non-lung donor factors, 12 (41%) of 29 pairs of rejected lungs would have been potentially suitable for transplantation. Our findings emphasise the urgent need for prospective scientific assessment of selection of donors for lung transplantation.