The paper presents a hybrid Cartesian grid and gridless approach to solve unsteady moving boundary flow problems. Unlike the Chimera clouds of points approach, the hybrid approach uses a Cartesian grid to cover most of the computational domain and a gridless method to calculate a relatively small region adjacent to the body surface, making use of the flexibility of the gridless method in handling surface grid with complicated geometry and the computational efficiency of the Cartesian grid. Four cases were conducted to examine the applicability, accuracy and robustness of the hybrid approach. Steady flows over a single NACA0012 airfoil and dual NACA0012 airfoils at different Mach numbers and angles of attack were simulated. Moreover, by implementing a dynamic hole cutting, node identification and information communication between the Cartesian grid and the gridless regions, unsteady flows over a pitching NACA0012 airfoil (small displacement) and two-dimensional airfoil/store separation (large displacement) were performed. The computational results were found to agree well with earlier experimental data as well as computational results. Shock waves were accurately captured. The computational results show that the hybrid approach is of potential to solve the moving boundary flow problems. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.