In this paper, an analytical two-dimensional model is presented for the acousto-elastic behaviour of double-wall panels with a thin viscothermal air layer. The model for the air is based on the low reduced frequency solution as introduced by Beltman (1998 Ph.D. Thesis, University of Twente; 1999 Journal of Sound and Vibration227, (Part I), 555–586;227 (Part II), 587–609; Beltman et al., 1997 Journal of Sound and Vibration206 , 217–241; 1998 Journal of Sound and Vibration216, 159–185) [1–5] and includes, apart from inertia and compressibility, the effects of viscosity and thermal conductivity. With the analytical model eigenfrequencies were determined and response and transmission calculations were performed. It is shown that high damping coefficients for double-wall panels can be obtained by using the viscous characteristics of the fluid layer. The model makes it possible to conduct parameter analyses very easily and efficiently, which is important for design studies. Furthermore, the model gives exact results for both the vibrational behaviour and the sound transmission characteristics of double-wall panels which can be used to validate numerical codes.