In gas diffusion layers (GDLs) of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), effective permeability is a key parameter to be determined and engineered. In this study, through-plane (TP) and in-plane (IP) flow behaviors of GDLs are investigated analytically based on a scaling estimate method. The TP permeability and IP permeability of unidirectional fibers are determined first, based on that the minimum distance and the inscribed radius between fibers are adopted as the characteristic lengths for normal and parallel flows, respectively. The permeabilities of two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) GDLs are estimated by a proper mixture of the local TP and IP permeabilities of fiber alignments. Themechanisticmodel agrees closely with experimental and numerical results over a wide porosity range. With the new model, the influences of porosity and fiber orientation on flow behaviors are analyzed.