Airflow REST API: The Ultimate Guide for 2024


Airflow REST API FI | Hevo Data

Airflow is a task automation tool. It helps organizations to schedule their tasks so that they are executed when the right time comes. This relieves the employees from doing tasks repetitively. When using Airflow, you will want to access it and perform some tasks from other tools. This means that you will need a way to connect to Airflow from other tools. The best way to achieve this is by the use of the Airflow REST API. It will allow you to do a lot in Airflow from other apps.

There are many tasks that need to be done in every organization. The frequency with which the tasks require to be done varies from one task to another. Some tasks require to be done several times in a day, others once in a day, others once after some days, and so on. To save employees from doing repetitive tasks, organizations should consider automating some of their tasks. An automated solution can be used to schedule tasks so that they are executed at the right time without intervention by employees. The employees can then spend that time doing something else. Using this Airflow REST API, you can overcome this issue and save time.

In this article, you will be introduced to Airflow and its features. You will learn about Airflow REST API in detail. You will get to know about the working of Airflow REST API elaborately.

Table of contents


This is what you need for this article:

  • An Airflow Account.
  • Docker and Docker Compose. 

What is Airflow?

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Airflow is a platform that enables its users to automate scripts for performing tasks. It comes with a scheduler that executes tasks on an array of workers while following a set of defined dependencies. Airflow also comes with rich command-line utilities that make it easy for its users to work with directed acyclic graphs (DAGs). The DAGs simplify the process of ordering and managing tasks for companies. 

Airflow also has a rich user interface that makes it easy to monitor progress, visualize pipelines running in production, and troubleshoot issues when necessary. 

The following are the key features of Apache Airflow:

  • Dynamic: The Airflow pipelines are configurations of code written in Python, which allows for dynamic pipeline generation. 
  • Extensible: You can easily define your own executors, and operators, and extend the library to fit the level of abstraction that is suitable for your environment. 
  • Elegant: Airflow has lean and explicit pipelines. Its Jinja templating engine makes it easy for you to parameterize your scripts.

Key Features of Airflow

  • Easy to Use: If you are already familiar with standard Python scripts, you know how to use Apache Airflow. It’s as simple as that.
  • Open Source: Apache Airflow is open-source, which means it’s available for free and has an active community of contributors. 
  • Dynamic:  Airflow pipelines are defined in Python and can be used to generate dynamic pipelines. This allows for the development of code that dynamically instantiates with your data pipelines.
  • Extensible: You can easily define your own operators and extend libraries to fit the level of abstraction that works best for your environment.
  • Elegant: Airflow pipelines are simple and to the point. To parameterize your scripts Jinja templating engine is used.
  • Scalable: Airflow has a modular architecture and uses a message queue to orchestrate an arbitrary number of workers. You can expand Airflow indefinitely.
  • Robust Integrations: Airflow can readily integrate with your commonly used services like Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and many other third-party services.

Uses of Airflow

 Some of the uses of Airflow include:

  • Scheduling and running data pipelines and jobs. 
  • Ordering jobs correctly based on dependencies. 
  • Managing the allocation of scarce resources. 
  • Tracking the state of jobs and recovering from failures. 

What are REST APIs?

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By offering publicly available codes and information pipelines, an Application Programming Interface (API) establishes a connection between computers or between computer programs (applications). It’s a form of software interface that acts as a middleman between different pieces of software to help them communicate more efficiently. Different types of APIs (such as Program, Local, Web, or REST API) aid developers in constructing powerful digital solutions due to varying application designs.

REST APIs are a lightweight and flexible way to integrate computer applications. REST APIs are a straightforward and standardized method of communication, which means you don’t have to worry about how to format your data because it’s all standardized. REST APIs are also scalable, so you won’t have to worry about increasing complexity as your service grows. You may quickly make changes to your data and track them across Clients and Servers. They support caching, which helps to assure excellent performance

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What is Airflow REST API?

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Apache Airflow has an API interface that can help you to perform tasks like getting information about tasks and DAGs, getting Airflow configuration, updating DAGs, listing users, and adding and deleting connections. 

The Airflow REST API facilitates management by providing a number of REST API endpoints across its objects. Most of these endpoints accept input in a JSON format and return the output in a JSON format. You interact with the API by using the endpoint that will help you to accomplish the task that you need to accomplish. 

How to Work with Airflow REST API?

To start using the Airflow REST API, you should know a configuration setting known as AUTH_BACKEND. This configuration setting defines how to authenticate the API users. By default, its value is set to “airflow.api.auth.backend.deny_all”, meaning that all requests are denied. Note that users of Airflow versions below 1.10.11 may have security issues since all API requests are permitted without authentication before version 1.10.11. 

There are different backends that you can use to authenticate with the REST API:

  • Kerberos authentication- When using Kerberos, your API backend should be set to “airlfow.api.auth.backend.kerberos_auth”.  Additionally, there are other parameters that you should define too. 
  • Basic username/password authentication- This works with users created via LDAP or within the Airflow DB. The value of auth_backend parameter should be set to “airflow.api.auth.backend.basic_auth”. Both the username and the password must also be base64 encoded and sent via the HTTP header. 
  • Your API authentication- You can also create your own backend. Airflow allows you to customize it the way you want.

Sending the First Request from the Airflow REST API

Before sending the request, ensure that the auth_backend setting has been set to “airflow.api.auth.backend.basic_auth”. Note that with the official docker-compose file of Airflow, a user named admin with the password admin is created by default. Once Airflow is started, issue the following request with curl:

curl --verbose 'http://localhost:8080/api/v1/dags' -H 'content-type: application/json' --user "airflow:airflow"

The request should return all the DAGs and the returned output should be in a JSON format:

"dags": [
"dag_id": "bash_operator",
"description": null,
"file_token": ".eFw8yjEOgCAMAMC_kEsHE79DClYgFttQEuX3boyXiIMijQBtv1he8CxJGbG0DmKPLs_iOqgTTHdmMlWpQ-rMoUTsy1EtBJEqeOQ7nW6H6ZgI_x.PjpiEYEF1Ph3O5aZCIvOz5qAOMC",
"fileloc": "/home/airflow/.local/lib/python3.6/site-packages/airflow/example_dags/",
"is_paused": true,
"is_subdag": false,
"owners": [
"root_dag_id": null,
"schedule_interval": {
"__type": "CronExpression",
"value": "0 0 * * *"
"tags": [
"name": "example1"
"name": "example2"

Note that it is possible to specify a limit on the number of items that are returned. You simply have to specify the limit in the request. The default value for this is 100. You can change it via the maximum_page_limit parameter of Airflow configuration settings. This parameter will save you from requests that may overload the server and cause instability. The right value will depend on the type and number of requests that you make. 

Triggering a DAG from the Airflow REST API

The API comes with a resource named dagRuns to help you interact with your DAGs. 

To start a new DAG run, issue the following request:

curl -X POST -d '{"execution_date": "2021-10-09T20:00:00Z", "conf": {}}' 'http://localhost:8080/api/v1/dags/bash_operator/dagRuns' -H 'content-type: application/json' --user "airflow:airflow"

Note that you can’t trigger a DAG more than once on the same execution date. To do this, you should first delete the DAG run and trigger it again. A DAG run can be deleted using the following request:

curl -X DELETE 'http://localhost:8080/api/v1/dags/bash_operator/dagRuns/manual__2021-10-09T22:00:00+00:00' -H 'content-type: application/json' --user "airflow:airflow"

If the request runs successfully, you will only get code 204 as the output. If you need to delete the DAG from the Airflow REST API, use the following request:

curl -X PATCH -d '{"is_paused": true}' 'http://localhost:8080/api/v1/dags/bash_operator?update_mask=is_paused' -H 'content-type: application/json' --user "airflow:airflow"

Note that the new Airflow API doesn’t have endpoints like the experimental API. You have to “patch” the DAG so as to pause or unpause it. 

How to delete a DAG from the API?

You can’t do it. That’s all there is to it. It’s understandable that you can’t delete a DAG from the API. The API’s purpose is to represent what a typical user can do. Deleting a DAG is a critical operation that should not be performed simply by submitting a request. However, you can pause your DAG to prevent it from being triggered in the future. You can do so by making the following request:

curl -X PATCH -d '{"is_paused": true}' 'http://localhost:8080/api/v1/dags/example_bash_operator?update_mask=is_paused' -H 'content-type: application/json' --user "airflow:airflow"

The new Airflow REST API, unlike the experimental API, does not have any specific endpoints. You can pause or unpause the DAG by “patching” it here.

How to monitor your Airflow instance?

I believe you agree with me that keeping an eye on your Airflow instance is critical. Before triggering a DAG, you might want to double-check that your Airflow scheduler is in good working order. You can do so by submitting the following request:

curl --verbose 'http://localhost:8080/api/v1/health' -H 'content-type: application/json' --user "airflow:airflow"

This request will be fulfilled if both the metadatabase and the scheduler are in good working order. If they’re “on,” that is. Keep in mind that this request won’t tell you if they’re under a lot of stress or if they’re using too much CPU or memory. In conclusion, you can use that request as a preliminary check, but you should always rely on a real monitoring system, as described here.

You can also use the following request to see if your DAGs have any import issues:

curl --verbose 'http://localhost:8080/api/v1/importErrors' -H 'content-type: application/json' --user "airflow:airflow"


From this article, you were introduced to Airflow and its features. You have learned about Airflow REST API in detail. You will have complete knowledge about the working of Airflow REST API.

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Share your Working with Airflow REST API in the comments below!

Nicholas Samuel
Technical Content Writer, Hevo Data

Skilled in freelance writing within the data industry, Nicholas is passionate about unraveling the complexities of data integration and data analysis through informative content for those delving deeper into these subjects. He has written more than 150+ blogs on databases, processes, and tutorials that help data practitioners solve their day-to-day problems.

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