The early phase of influenza infection occurs in the upper respiratory tract and the trachea, but little is known about the initial events of virus recognition and control of viral dissemination by the immune system. Here, we report that inflammatory dendritic cells (IDCs) are recruited to the trachea shortly after influenza infection through type I interferon-mediated production of the chemokine CCL2. We further show that recruited IDCs express the C-type lectin receptor SIGN-R1, which mediates direct recognition of the virus by interacting with N-linked glycans present in glycoproteins of the virion envelope. Activation of IDCs via SIGN-R1 triggers the production of the chemokines CCL5, CXCL9 and CXCL10, which initiate the recruitment of protective natural killer (NK) cells in the infected trachea. In the absence of SIGN-R1, the recruitment and activation of NK cells is impaired, leading to uncontrolled viral proliferation. In sum, our results provide insight into the orchestration of the early cellular and molecular events involved in immune protection against influenza.