The culture of human airway epithelial cells has played an important role in advancing our understanding of the metabolic and molecular mechanisms underlying normal function and disease pathology of airway epithelial cells. Recent advances in culturing primary epithelial cells and the development of transformed airway epithelial cell lines have been particularly important in enhancing our understanding of the pathology associated with cystic fibrosis and lung cancer. The establishment of conditions that enhance the proliferative capacity of airway epithelial cells in primary culture was the first technical hurdle overcome in the development of in vitro culture systems. Research is now being geared toward the development of cell culture conditions that facilitate the expression in culture of the differentiated characteristics found in the native epithelium. Aside from the advances that have been made in defining the growth media and extracellular matrixes that enhance the expression of differentiated features, the use of an air-liquid interface has been a significant advance in the culture of airway epithelial cells. The implementation of the in vitro cell culture systems that have now been established and the research into optimizing the conditions for the growth of airway epithelial cells have been and will continue to be essential in the development of therapies for airway disease.