Tracheal intubation with the intubating laryngeal mask airway or the Bonfils intubation fibrescope was performed in 80 patients with predicted difficult airways. Mallampati score, thyromental distance, mouth opening and mobility of the atlanto-occipital joint were used to predict difficult airways. The overall success rate, time to the first adequate lung ventilation and time taken for the successful placement of the tracheal tube were recorded, as well as a subjective assessment of the handling of the device and the incidence of postoperative sore throat and hoarseness. The median [range] time to the first adequate ventilation was significantly shorter with the intubating laryngeal mask airway than with the Bonfils intubation fibrescope (28 [6–85] s vs. 40 [23–77] s, p < 0.005). Tracheal intubation was significantly slower with the intubating laryngeal mask airway than with the Bonfils intubation fibrescope (76 [45–155] s vs. 40 [23–77] s, p < 0.0001. Patients in the Bonfils group suffered less sore throat and hoarseness than those in the other group.