Assessment of quality of the sterile male insects that are being mass-reared for release in area-wide integrated pest management programmes that include a sterile insect technique component is crucial for the success of these programmes. Routine monitoring of sterile male quality needs to be carried out both in the mass-rearing facility and in the field. Simple bioassays that can be conducted in the laboratory and that would be surrogates for laborious field tests would be a very cost-effective way of monitoring sterile male field performance. Simple flight cylinders were used to assess whether these could detect differences in quality of male codling moth Cydia pomonella. The number of male and female codling moths that flew out of the cylinders was influenced by cylinder diameter, cylinder height and number of hours following the initiation of the test. The flight cylinder bioassay was capable of detecting differences in quality of codling moths induced by irradiation when moths were shipped, but no differences were found in flight ability when the moths were not transported. The tests also confirmed that handling and shipment reduced quality more for irradiated than for non-treated codling moth, and that insect quality was significantly influenced by larval rearing protocols. The flight cylinder bioassay was therefore successful in detecting differences in codling moth quality induced by various treatments that had been identified previously by more complex laboratory bioassays and field trials. Treatment differences were most likely detected when flight cylinders were 16 cm high.