Background: The survival of patients with malignant central airway obstruction is very limited. Although airway stenting results in significant palliation of symptoms, data regarding improved survival after stenting for advanced thoracic cancer with central airway obstruction are lacking. Methods: Fifty patients received a total of 72 airway stents for malignant central airway obstruction over a two-year period at a single institution. The Medical Research Council (MRC) dyspnea scale and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status were used to divide patients into a poor performance group (MRC = 5, ECOG = 4) and an intermediate performance group (MRC ≤4, ECOG ≤3). The SPSS version 16.0 (SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL) and Microsoft Excel (Microsoft, Redmond, WA) were used to analyze the data. Survival curves were constructed using the Kaplan-Meier survival analysis method and a log-rank test was used to compare the survival distributions among different groups. Results: Successful patency of the airway was achieved in all patients with no procedure-related mortality. Stenting resulted in significant improvement in MRC and ECOG performance scores (p < 0.01). Significantly improved survival was observed only in patients in the intermediate performance group compared with patients in the poor performance group (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Airway stenting resulted in significant palliation of symptoms in both groups as evaluated by MRC dyspnea scale and ECOG performance status. Compared with historic controls, a significant survival advantage was seen only in the intermediate performance group. We postulate that timely stenting of the airway, before the morbid complications of malignant central airway obstruction have set in, results in improved survival.