Ambient ionization methods are an important research area in mass spectrometry (MS) analysis. Under ambient conditions, the gas flow and atmospheric pressure significantly affect the transfer and focusing of ions. The design and implementation of air flow assisted ionization (AFAI) as a novel and effective, remote sampling method for ambient mass spectrometry are described herein. AFAI benefits from a high extracting air flow rate. A systematic investigation of the extracting air flow in the AFAI system has been carried out, and it has been demonstrated not only that it plays a role in the effective capture and remote transport of charged droplets, but also that it promotes desolvation and ion formation, and even prevents ion fragmentation during the ionization process. Moreover, the sensitivity of remote sampling ambient MS analysis was improved significantly by the AFAI method. Highly polar and nonpolar molecules, including dyes, pharmaceutical samples, explosives, drugs of abuse, protein and volatile compounds, have been successfully analyzed using AFAI-MS. The successful application of the technique to residue detection on fingers, large object analysis and remote monitoring in real time indicates its potential for the analysis of a variety of samples, especially large objects. The ability to couple this technique with most commercially available MS instruments with an API interface further enhances its broad applicability. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.