Human airway epithelial cells cultured in vitro at air-liquid interface (ALI) form a pseudostratified epithelium that forms tight junctions and cilia, and produces mucin, and are widely used as a model of differentiation, injury, and repair. To assess how closely the transcriptome of ALI epithelium matches that of in vivo airway epithelial cells, we used microarrays to compare the transcriptome of human large airway epithelial cells cultured at ALI with the transcriptome of large airway epithelium obtained via bronchoscopy and brushing. Gene expression profiling showed global gene expression correlated well between ALI cells and brushed cells, but there were some differences. Gene expression patterns mirrored differences in proportions of cell types (ALI have higher percentages of basal cells, brushed cells have higher percentages of ciliated cells), with ALI cells expressing higher levels of basal cell-related genes and brushed cells expressing higher levels of cilia-related genes. Pathway analysis showed ALI cells had increased expression of cell cycle and proliferation genes, while brushed cells had increased expression of cytoskeletal organization and humoral immune response genes. Overall, ALI cells are a good representation of the in vivo airway epithelial transcriptome, but for some biologic questions, the differences in the in vitro vs in vivo environments need to be considered.