Allergic respiratory diseases, such as allergic dermatitis, food allergy, allergic rhino conjunctivitis and allergic asthma, are chronic inflammatory diseases with increasing prevalence. Symptoms include such as watery or itchy itching of the mouth, skin, or the eyes, swelling of the face or throat, sneezing, congestion or vomiting, wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. For allergic asthma, additional symptoms include tightness of chest, cough, wheezing, and reversible airflow limitation. These symptoms can be triggered by inhalation of allergens such as food allergens or airborne allergens such as those from tree- or grass pollen and house dust mites. Pharmacological intervention in allergic disease includes the use of antihistamines, immune suppressive drugs and in case of asthma, the use of (long acting) beta-agonists for relaxation of the constricted airways. These treatment options merely suppress symptoms and do not cure the disease. Allergen immunotherapy (AIT), in contrast, has the capacity of inducing long-term tolerance, with symptom relief persisting decennia after discontinuation of treatment, despite recurrent re-exposure to the allergen. However, AIT is not effective for all allergic disorders, and treatment for several years is required to obtain long-term protection. Moreover, some forms of AIT have safety concerns, with risk of mild to severe allergic reactions. To improve safety and efficacy of AIT, the underlying mechanisms have been studied extensively in the clinic as well as in experimental models of allergic airway inflammation. Despite more than a century of clinical experience and a vast body of experimental and translational studies into the immunological and cellular mechanisms underpinning its therapeutic potential, AIT is still not implemented in routine clinical care for allergic asthma. This review provides an overview of the substantial developments that contribute to our knowledge of the pathogenesis of allergic airway diseases, the mechanism of action of AIT, its treatment routes and schedules, the standardization of extracts and use of adjuvantia. Moreover, the main conclusions from experimental models of AIT with regard to the safety and effectiveness of the treatment are summarized, and future directions for further improvements are outlined. AIT urgently requires further improvements in order to increase its efficiency and shorten the treatment duration while remaining safe and cost-effective.