Background Providing a secured airway is of paramount importance in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Although intubating the trachea is yet seen as gold standard, this technique is still reserved to experienced healthcare professionals. Compared to bag-valve facemask ventilation, however, the insertion of a laryngeal mask airway offers the opportunity to ventilate the patient effectively and can also be placed easily by lay responders. Obviously, it might be inserted without detailed background knowledge. The purpose of the study was to investigate the intuitive use of airway devices by first-year medical students as well as the effect of a simple, but well-directed training programme. Retention of skills was re-evaluated six months thereafter. Methods The insertion of a LMA-Classic and a LMA-Fastrach performed by inexperienced medical students was compared in an airway model. The improvement on their performance after a training programme of overall two hours was examined afterwards. Results Prior to any instruction, mean time to correct placement was 55.5 ± 29.6 s for the LMA-Classic and 38.1 ± 24.9 s for the LMA-Fastrach. Following training, time to correct placement decreased significantly with 22.9 ± 13.5 s for the LMA-Classic and 22.9 ± 19.0 s for the LMA-Fastrach, respectively (p < 0.05). After six months, the results are comparable prior (55.6 ± 29.9 vs 43.1 ± 34.7 s) and after a further training period (23.5 ± 13.2 vs 26.6 ± 21.6, p < 0.05). Conclusion Untrained laypersons are able to use different airway devices in a manikin and may therefore provide a secured airway even without having any detailed background knowledge about the tool. Minimal theoretical instruction and practical skill training can improve their performance significantly. However, refreshment of knowledge seems justified after six months.