Within the framework of IAGOS-ERI (In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System – European Research Infrastructure), a cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS)-based measurement system for the autonomous measurement of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) CO2 and CH4, as well as CO and water vapour was designed, tested and qualified for deployment on commercial airliners. The design meets requirements regarding physical dimensions (size, weight), performance (long-term stability, low maintenance, robustness, full automation) and safety issues (fire-prevention regulations). The system uses components of a commercially available CRDS instrument (G2401-m, Picarro Inc.) mounted into a frame suitable for integration in the avionics bay of the Airbus A330 and A340 series. To enable robust and automated operation of the IAGOS-core GHG package over 6-month deployment periods, numerous technical issues had to be addressed. An inlet system was designed to eliminate sampling of larger aerosols, ice particles and water droplets, and to provide additional positive ram-pressure to ensure operation throughout an aircraft altitude operating range up to 12.5 km without an upstream sampling pump. Furthermore, no sample drying is required as the simultaneously measured water vapour mole fraction is used to correct for dilution and spectroscopic effects. This also enables measurements of water vapour throughout the atmosphere. To allow for trace gas measurements to be fully traceable to World Meteorological Organization scales, a two-standard calibration system has been designed and tested, which periodically provides calibration gas to the instrument during flight and on ground for each 6-month deployment period. The first of the IAGOS-core GHG packages is scheduled for integration in 2015. The aim is to have five systems operational within 4 yr, providing regular, long-term GHG observations covering major parts of the globe. This paper presents results from recent test flights and laboratory tests that document the performance for CO2, CH4, CO and water vapour measurements.